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Berkeley/NYU: Police officers need ‘sensitivity training’

Baton Rouge police respond to active shooter near Hammond Aire Shopping Center in Baton Rouge, Sunday, July, 17, 2016. Multiple law enforcement officers were killed and wounded Sunday morning in a shooting near a gas station in Baton Rouge, less than two weeks after a black man was shot and killed by police here, sparking nightly protests across the city. (Scott Clause/The Daily Advertiser via AP)

(Scott Clause/The Daily Advertiser via AP)

A new study suggests that police undergo “sensitivity and bias training” after finding racial disparities in the use of police force.

Professors from the University of California, Berkeley and New York University conducted a study that was released last week by the Center for Police Equity that looked into data from 12 police departments across the United States to see if racial disparities exist in police use of force.

The CPE’s study looked at 19,269 incidents reported by the 12 departments between 2010 and 2015 and found that officers are 2.5 times more likely to use force on black residents compared to the average civilian, and 3.6 times more likely to use force on black residents than on white residents.

The results of the CPE’s study contradict a study by the National Bureau of Economic Research (NBER) and led by an African-American professor at Harvard that found no evidence of racial bias in police shootings, despite allegations that unjustified shootings of black civilians by police are an epidemic.

One reason why the results of the CPE’s study differ from the NBER’s study results is due to the definition of use of force that each study used when collecting their data.

Berkeley Police Review Commission Chairman George Perezvelez told the Daily Californian that use of force is broadly defined as “the involvement of physical restraint from a member of law enforcement to gain control of an unruly person or situation” and can range from straightforward arrests to discharging a firearm.

The authors of the study caution people against “overgeneralizing” their findings due to the fact that they did not investigate many police departments and the study did not look into what residents did during their interactions with the police that caused the interaction to be classified as “forceful.”

Despite the broad definition of force used by the CPE, Perezvelez believes that police departments need to focus on sensitivity training, bias training, and community outreach to reduce policing bias. Perezvelez says that police departments also need to emphasize to their officers their “obligation” to fill out use-of-force reports for every incident, regardless of the severity.


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