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.
46 Black Men And Boys Killed By Police
1. Antwon Rose Jr., 171 of 46
2. Robert Lawrence White, 412 of 46
3. Anthony Lamar Smith, 24Source:Getty 3 of 46
4. Ramarley Graham, 18Source:Getty 4 of 46
5. Manuel Loggins Jr., 31Source:Getty 5 of 46
6. Trayvon Martin, 17Source:Getty 6 of 46
7. Wendell Allen, 20Source:Getty 7 of 46
8. Kendrec McDade, 19Source:Getty 8 of 46
9. Larry Jackson Jr., 32Source:Getty 9 of 46
10. Jonathan Ferrell, 24Source:Getty 10 of 46
11. Jordan Baker, 26Source:Getty 11 of 46
12. Victor White lll, 22Source:Getty 12 of 46
13. Dontre Hamilton, 31Source:Getty 13 of 46
14. Eric Garner, 43Source:Getty 14 of 46
15. John Crawford lll, 22Source:Getty 15 of 46
16. Michael Brown, 18Source:Getty 16 of 46
17. Ezell Ford, 25Source:Getty 17 of 46
18. Dante Parker, 36Source:Getty 18 of 46
19. Kajieme Powell, 25Source:Getty 19 of 46
20. Laquan McDonald, 17Source:Getty 20 of 46
21. Akai Gurley, 28Source:Getty 21 of 46
22. Tamir Rice, 12Source:Getty 22 of 46
23. Rumain Brisbon, 34Source:Getty 23 of 46
24. Jerame Reid, 36Source:Getty 24 of 46
25. Charly Keunang, 43Source:Getty 25 of 46
26. Tony Robinson, 19Source:Getty 26 of 46
27. Walter Scott, 50Source:Getty 27 of 46
28. Freddie Gray, 25Source:Getty 28 of 46
29. Brendon Glenn, 29Source:Getty 29 of 46
30. Samuel DuBose, 43Source:Getty 30 of 46
31. Christian Taylor, 19Source:Getty 31 of 46
32. Jamar Clark, 24Source:Getty 32 of 46
33. Mario Woods, 26Source:Getty 33 of 46
34. Quintonio LeGrier, 19Source:Getty 34 of 46
35. Gregory Gunn, 58Source:Getty 35 of 46
36. Akiel Denkins, 24Source:Getty 36 of 46
37. Alton Sterling, 37Source:Getty 37 of 46
38. Philando Castile, 32Source:Getty 38 of 46
39. Terrence Sterling, 31Source:Getty 39 of 46
40. Terence Crutcher, 40Source:Getty 40 of 46
41. Keith Lamont Scott, 43Source:Getty 41 of 46
42. Alfred Olango, 38Source:Getty 42 of 46
43. Jordan Edwards, 15Source:Getty 43 of 46
44. Stephon Clark, 2244 of 46
45. Danny Ray Thomas, 3445 of 46
46. DeJuan Guillory, 2746 of 46
Perceptions About Size Matters In Policing Our Communities, Study Suggests. was originally published on newsone.com