Professor of Criminal Justice, University of Texas at San Antonio
- White, Black, and Asian civilians were overrepresented as subjects of force, and Hispanic civilians were underrepresented.
- Nearly 5,000 force actions were used against more than 1,600 civilians in more than 1,350 incidents during the study period.
- Black civilians experienced more severe force, higher average levels of force, and more total force than did White civilians.
In the article, “Race and the Use of Force by Police Revisited: Post-Ferguson Findings from a Large County Police Agency,” Michael R. Smith examines racial and ethnic disparities in the use of force by the Fairfax County, Va., Police Department (FCPD). Smith and his co-authors used data from the FCPD collected in 2016-2018, which is considered the post-Ferguson period because of changes in training and policies that occurred after Michael Brown was killed by police in Ferguson, Mo., in 2014. In total, almost 5,000 force actions were used against more than 1,600 civilians in more than 1,350 incidents during the study period. White civilians were overrepresented as subjects of force compared to the benchmarks, while Hispanics were underrepresented, the study found. Black and Asian civilians also were overrepresented as subjects of force using some benchmarks. Moreover, Black civilians experienced more severe force, higher average levels of force, and more total force than did White civilians. The historical and contemporary experience of non-White groups with use of force by the police continues to be an area of concern and in need of attention. Police agencies can take steps to address this issue, including providing de-escalation training, increasing the amount and frequency of training, and refining or developing policies that require officers to use only the minimum amount of force reasonably required to overcome resistance and resolve encounters. They can also consider regularly rotating officers through different districts to modify their exposure to and the intensity of crime in particular areas.