Fairfax County police officers use force against Blacks and Whites at levels higher than expected by researchers, and African Americans are subjected to more severe forms of force than other racial or ethnic groups, a first-of-its-kind study has found.

The analysis in the D.C. area’s most populous jurisdiction also found that officers used force against Hispanics at lower than expected rates, while Asians were subjected to force at levels researchers generally expected.

The higher levels of force against Blacks were driven by a handful of stations in areas of the county with larger minority populations such as Mount Vernon, Franconia and West Springfield, the report concluded.

University of Texas at San Antonio Professor Michael R. Smith, who was the lead researcher on the study that was commissioned by Fairfax County, told a Board of Supervisors committee Tuesday that the findings were somewhat unusual.

“The White disparity finding surprised me,” Smith said. “It’s unfortunate and also not atypical at all to find overrepresentation of African Americans across a variety of analyses in police outcomes.”

The new report compared the rate of force against various racial and ethnic groups against their proportionate rate of representation as suspects and arrestees in Fairfax. Smith said such rates vary widely among the different population groups, so are a better benchmark for use of force than general population figures alone.

Under the report’s comparison, the rates of force used against minorities were lower in virtually every case than that for Whites, but both White and Black populations showed an elevated use of force compared with the benchmarks.

Fairfax officials commissioned the study because the county has seen a persistent racial disparity in police use-of-force numbers. For instance, the most recent report from 2020 showed 34 percent of people subjected to force in the county were Black, but African Americans made up only about 10 percent of the population.

Activists have frequently highlighted the numbers as cause for concern, but a review by the county’s police auditor in 2018 found no discernible difference in the use of force deployed against Blacks but recommended further study of the issue because of limitations of the analysis.

The analysis in the new report covered 1,360 use-of-force cases over a three-year period between 2016 and 2018.

Groups that track police violence against minority communities questioned the report’s methodology, saying using arrest rates as a benchmark is problematic because those often show racial disparities as well. Still, Karen Campblin, president of the Fairfax County NAACP, said the report’s findings were troubling and pointed to a lack of action.

“This report and every report continues to show Black civilians were more likely to experience force in amount as well as severity. These findings are not new,” Campblin said. “There’s still a lot that needs to be done.”

The severity of force used against Blacks was slightly higher than other racial or ethnic groups, the study found. Resistance to police officers was virtually the same among all racial and ethnic groups, it concluded.

White police officers were responsible for 69 percent of use-of-force cases, while case of force involving only male officers comprised 83 percent of use-of-force cases. In comparison, use-of-force cases only involving female officers amounted to just 3 percent of the total.

The report contained recommendations for reducing the use-of-force disparities, including implementing new de-escalation training, limiting the circumstances in which police dogs can bite people, curtailing chases of suspected felons unless they pose an imminent danger to the officer or public, and requiring officers to report a greater range of incidents of force. It also recommended rotating officers out of high-crime areas to reduce stress and implicit bias.

Fairfax County Police Chief Kevin Davis said in a statement that the department was looking at following some of the recommendations.

“This report will serve as a roadmap to help ensure that we continue to train, mentor and lead our police officers with an eye towards constitutional and community-driven policing, predicated on fairness, trust and respect,” Davis said.