Why are police officers more likely to shoot unarmed Black men than men of other races? New research from the American Psychological Association says a contributing factor could be the widespread unconscious perception of Black men as larger and more threatening than White men of the same build.
That unconscious bias carries with it serious life or death consequences for Black men. And it call into question how well police officers are trained to manage their misperceptions about the Black men they encounter.
The study, released on Monday, is titled Racial Bias in Judgments of Physical Size and Formidability: From Size to Threat, which appears in the Journal of Personality and Social Psychology.
Researchers asked 950 people in the United States to determine the height, strength and muscularity of Black and White men of equal height and weight. The respondents tended to believe the Black men were larger than the same size White men.
Lead author John Paul Wilson of Montclair State University said in a statement that the “estimates were consistently biased.”
Wilson added: “Participants also believed that the Black men were more capable of causing harm in a hypothetical altercation and, troublingly, that police would be more justified in using force to subdue them, even if the men were unarmed.”
Indeed, Wilson said this bias may explain why police officers are disproportionately more likely to fatally shoot unarmed Black men. However, the study said more research in real-world scenarios are needed to draw that conclusion.
This study is one more piece to a problem we’ve know about for a long time. Under former Attorney General Eric Holder, the Justice Department launched the National Initiative for Building Community Trust and Justice. One of its core goals is to reduce bias in policing communities of color. It’s unclear if the Jeff Sessions Justice Department will continue this effort.
Following the rash of high profile police killings of unarmed Black men and boys, police departments around the nation began addressing this issue of unconscious bias. But undoing a lifetime of misperceptions about Black men is no easy task.
47 Black Men And Boys Killed By Police
1. Botham Shem Jean, 261 of 47
2. Antwon Rose Jr., 172 of 47
3. Robert Lawrence White, 413 of 47
4. Anthony Lamar Smith, 24Source:Getty 4 of 47
5. Ramarley Graham, 18Source:Getty 5 of 47
6. Manuel Loggins Jr., 31Source:Getty 6 of 47
7. Trayvon Martin, 17Source:Getty 7 of 47
8. Wendell Allen, 20Source:Getty 8 of 47
9. Kendrec McDade, 19Source:Getty 9 of 47
10. Larry Jackson Jr., 32Source:Getty 10 of 47
11. Jonathan Ferrell, 24Source:Getty 11 of 47
12. Jordan Baker, 26Source:Getty 12 of 47
13. Victor White lll, 22Source:Getty 13 of 47
14. Dontre Hamilton, 31Source:Getty 14 of 47
15. Eric Garner, 43Source:Getty 15 of 47
16. John Crawford lll, 22Source:Getty 16 of 47
17. Michael Brown, 18Source:Getty 17 of 47
18. Ezell Ford, 25Source:Getty 18 of 47
19. Dante Parker, 36Source:Getty 19 of 47
20. Kajieme Powell, 25Source:Getty 20 of 47
21. Laquan McDonald, 17Source:Getty 21 of 47
22. Akai Gurley, 28Source:Getty 22 of 47
23. Tamir Rice, 12Source:Getty 23 of 47
24. Rumain Brisbon, 34Source:Getty 24 of 47
25. Jerame Reid, 36Source:Getty 25 of 47
26. Charly Keunang, 43Source:Getty 26 of 47
27. Tony Robinson, 19Source:Getty 27 of 47
28. Walter Scott, 50Source:Getty 28 of 47
29. Freddie Gray, 25Source:Getty 29 of 47
30. Brendon Glenn, 29Source:Getty 30 of 47
31. Samuel DuBose, 43Source:Getty 31 of 47
32. Christian Taylor, 19Source:Getty 32 of 47
33. Jamar Clark, 24Source:Getty 33 of 47
34. Mario Woods, 26Source:Getty 34 of 47
35. Quintonio LeGrier, 19Source:Getty 35 of 47
36. Gregory Gunn, 58Source:Getty 36 of 47
37. Akiel Denkins, 24Source:Getty 37 of 47
38. Alton Sterling, 37Source:Getty 38 of 47
39. Philando Castile, 32Source:Getty 39 of 47
40. Terrence Sterling, 31Source:Getty 40 of 47
41. Terence Crutcher, 40Source:Getty 41 of 47
42. Keith Lamont Scott, 43Source:Getty 42 of 47
43. Alfred Olango, 38Source:Getty 43 of 47
44. Jordan Edwards, 15Source:Getty 44 of 47
45. Stephon Clark, 2245 of 47
46. Danny Ray Thomas, 3446 of 47
47. DeJuan Guillory, 2747 of 47
Physical Size Of Black Men Impacts Policing, Study was originally published on newsone.com