Officers typically hesitate when shooting black suspects, according to researchers
Cops are 25 times less likely to shoot unarmed blacks than whites or Hispanics, according to a little-known study which makes the South Carolina police shooting of an unarmed, fleeing black man even more egregious than before, if that’s even possible.
The study by Washington State University-Spokane, which barely received any news coverage, found that police were more likely to hesitate when shooting a black suspect due to “real-world concern over discipline, liability or public disapproval.”
“We found that [the all-white] participants took longer to shoot black suspects than white or Hispanic suspects,” the researchers reported. “In addition, where errors were made, participants across experiments were more likely to shoot unarmed white suspects than unarmed black or Hispanic suspects, and were more likely to fail to shoot armed black suspects than armed white or Hispanic suspects.”
“In sum, this research found that participants displayed significant bias favoring black suspects in their decisions to shoot.”
The researchers gave 36 white police officers a Glock 21 modified to shoot a laser beam and had them take part in a series of 10 “highly realistic” video scenarios based on actual encounters with suspects in which police were assaulted or killed.
“Black, white and Hispanic suspects appeared in the scenarios proportional to their involvement in actual attacks on officers, as compiled in FBI statistics,” Policeone.com said about the study. “Suspects were unarmed in about a third of the scenarios.”
Not only did the officers take significantly longer to shoot black suspects, but they were also “25 times less likely to shoot unarmed black suspects than they were to shoot unarmed white suspects,” the researchers stated.
While this study shouldn’t be used to discount the numerous police shootings of non-threatening black suspects, especially after S.C. officer Michael T. Slager shot a fleeing, unarmed black man on Saturday, it does reveal that many cops fear being publicly crucified or labeled racist for justifiably shooting a suspect.
And this fear is also keeping a lot of would-be police officers from pursuing careers in law enforcement.
“I think they realize that what they do would be so scrutinized to the point it’s not worth the trouble, and it’s not worth the headache … to become involved in the field,” West Virginia sheriff Mike Rutherford told the The Charleston Gazette. “Quite often, people question you and call you everything under the sun, including a racist, simply because you make an arrest.”