Black Americans are more than twice as likely as white Americans to experience nonfatal force or the threat of force from police, according to a new Justice Department study.
The study, which was released Saturday, found that an annual average of 44 million U.S. residents older than 16 had at least one face-to-face contact with police between 2002 and 2011. About 75 percent of those who had encountered force from the police perceived the force to be excessive.
For the purpose of the study, nonfatal force by police officers was defined as anything from shouting and cursing to using an electroshock weapon or pointing a gun. The report “looks at the characteristics of incidents involving force, including the type of contact, type of force used, and whether the contact involved a personal search.”
Of those who had any type of police-initiated contact, a higher percentage of black people than white people or Hispanics experienced the use of nonfatal force during a routine street stop or when the police were investigating a crime.
Such police-initiated stops accounted for more than half of the face-to-face contacts in the study. Among those police-initiated situations, the researchers said, being stopped on the street was more likely to lead to the use of nonlethal force than being stopped in a vehicle.
The authors of the report examined the prevalence and the circumstances of incidents in which police used nonfatal force and explored whether these factors varied across race. They used data collected by the Bureau of Justice Statistics’ Police-Public Contact Survey (PPCS) every three years during the 10-year period. The PPCS is the only national source of data on nonfatal force used by police.
The report comes on the heels of months of protests against the use of force by officers after a number of individuals across the country died as a result of encounters with police. According to a Washington Post investigation, 853 people have been fatally shot by police this year.
The study also said that blacks were more likely than whites or Hispanics to perceive the threat or use of nonfatal force as excessive. The study found that these rates remained mostly unchanged for the duration of the study.
Researchers said males and people ages 16 to 25 were more likely to experience contact with the authorities than older residents or females. Also, people in urban areas were far more likely to have had contact with police than residents of suburban or rural areas.