Officers speak to Black male drivers with less warmth, respect: research

Officers speak to Black male drivers with less warmth, respect: research
© istock

Police officers speak to Black male drivers with less warmth and respect during traffic stops, according to research published by the American Psychological Association.

The University of Michigan research team gathered 250 audio clips of officer body camera footage during traffic stops with Black men to reach its conclusions. 

The research team extracted the audio clips to 10 seconds with only the police officer’s voice being heard in the background. Their study found that those officer’s tone of voice showed "less warmth, respect, and ease” with Black driver.


The research team also conducted three experiments with 414 college students and local drivers to listen to the officers’ recordings and rate their tone of voice. 

The participants were not told of the race of the driver who was pulled over, but reported that the officers’ tone was significantly less friendly, less respectful and less at ease toward Black men. 

“Police officers are the human face of the law,” said Nicholas Campassistant professor of organizational studies at the University of Michigan. “Cues as subtle as an officer’s tone of voice can shape citizens’ trust in the police as an institution.” 

Researchers also found in two further studies that negative interactions between police officers and Black drivers can lessen people’s trust between police and their departments, according to the study. 

“Body camera footage offers a way of unpacking the differences in interactions that might look the same on paper,” Camp said.