Cops Show Less Respect to Black Drivers

It's the first major US study of police bodycam footage
By Michael Harthorne,  Newser Staff
Posted Jun 6, 2017 12:50 PM CDT
Cops Show More Respect to White Drivers
A new study found police officers are less respectful toward black drivers than white drivers during traffic stops.   (Jason Hoekema/The Brownsville Herald via AP)

In a conclusion that some may not consider surprising, researchers have found that police officers are more respectful to white people than black people during traffic stops, according to a study published Monday in PNAS. Ars Technica reports the data for the first major study of US bodycam footage comes from 981 traffic stops conducted by 245 Oakland, Calif., police officers in 2014. Researchers had volunteers rate comments made by officers during the traffic stops in terms of respectfulness and more, per the Los Angeles Times. The BBC reports respectful behavior by officers included apologizing, showing an interest in the person, and saying "drive safely." Disrespectful behavior included asking questions, calling the person "bro" or "man," and using words that have a negative connotation.

The study found officers were 57% more likely to use one of the most respectful phrases with white people and 61% more likely to use one of the most disrespectful phrases with black people. For example, white people were more likely to be called "sir" or "ma'am," while black people were more likely to be called by their first names. Officers were also found to be less polite, formal, friendly, and impartial with black people. The race of the officer didn't appear to change things. "These routine interactions are important," researcher Jennifer Eberhardt says, per the BBC. "They're the way most people encounter the police." And if those encounters go poorly, citizens may become less supportive or cooperative toward police. (Another study found expecting trouble from black men starts even before kindergarten.)

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