Police encounters with civilians that do not involve shooting or death don’t often make the news. But, they happen very regularly. And, according to Bureau of Justice Statistics (BSJ) researchers Lynn Langton and Shelley Hyland, these encounters occurred at an average of 44 million times annually between 2002 and 2011. The researchers just released a report with their findings on how many times police used non-fatal, but sometimes excessive force when interacting with civilians.

The research indicates that between 2002 and 2011, police subjected African Americans to aggression at approximately 2.5 times the rate of white individuals. Interestingly, the racial disparity existed even though police had a higher rate of contact with whites than they did with African Americans.

To finalize their report, Langton and Hyland used the Police-Public Contact Study published by the BJS. The database stores collected information about people’s most recent “face-to-face contact” with law enforcement and tracks the outcomes of such encounters. It is considered to be a comprehensive listing that includes records of interactions with state troopers, city police, university police, sheriff’s deputies and park police.  

“Use of force” or “excessive force” by police is defined as police threatening, cursing, shouting, grabbing, pepper spraying, kicking, hitting, using a taser or pointing a gun at an individual.

People who experienced multiple run-ins with law enforcement – whether as a potential suspect or even as an individual calling the police to report a possible crime – were more likely to experience police aggression. African Americans who came in contact with police a number of two times between 2002 and 2011 were met with force more often than whites.

The study shows that African Americans who are stopped in the street by police end up on the receiving end of police force or threat at a slightly higher rate than their white or Hispanic counterparts. Moreover, the non-fatal police uses of force happen most frequently in urban settings.

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