Thursday, September 4, 2014
Interesting study of racial disparities in shootings
Participants in an innovative Washington State University study of deadly force were more likely to feel threatened in scenarios involving black people. But when it came time to shoot, participants were biased in favor of black suspects, taking longer to pull the trigger against them than against armed white or Hispanic suspects. The last comprehensive look at the racial makeup of justifiable and non-justifiable shootings was a 2001 study using more than two decades of U.S. Bureau of Justice data. And while statistics show that black suspects are shot at more frequently than white suspects, the 2001 study also found that black suspects were also as likely to shoot at police as be shot at. The new study is a follow-up to one in which researchers found that active police officers, military personnel and the general public took longer to shoot black suspects than white or Hispanic suspects. Participants were also more likely to shoot unarmed white suspects than black or Hispanic ones and more likely to fail to fire at armed black suspects. In other words, there was a significant bias favoring blacks where decisions to shoot were concerned. When confronted by an armed white person, participants took an average of 1.37 seconds to fire back. Confronted by an armed black person, they took 1.61 seconds to fire and were less likely to fire in error. The 240-millisecond difference may seem small, but it’s enough to be fatal in a shooting.