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Annette Bernhardt / flickr (CC BY 2.0) | Remix by Max Fleishman

DOJ says black Americans more than twice as likely to experience use of nonfatal force by police

A Department of Justice study offers the only national data on nonfatal use of force.


Kate Conger


Posted on Nov 15, 2015   Updated on May 27, 2021, 3:46 pm CDT

Black Americans experience use of nonfatal force or threat of force by police at more than twice the rate of their white peers, according to a study released yesterday by the Department of Justice

The study focuses on survey data collected by the Bureau of Justice Statistics between 2002 and 2011, in which millions of Americans were polled about their interactions with police. An average of 44 million Americans per year reported having in-person contact with a police officer, and approximately 704,000 of those respondents said they experienced use of force or a threat of force during the interaction. 

Most of those who experienced force—three-fourths of the group—said they thought the force was excessive. 

When the study focused on uses of force and did not include data on threats, the racial disparities became more striking. “Blacks (4.9 percent) experienced nonfatal force during police-initiated contacts at a rate nearly three times higher than whites (1.8 percent) and nearly two times higher than Hispanics (2.5 percent),” according to the study. 

The study categorized police behavior such as shouting, cursing, pepper-spraying, or pointing a gun as a use of force. It also found that respondents who experienced force at the hands of police were more likely to have interacted with police several times before.

The Department of Justice released its findings in the wake of protests focused on the use of deadly force by police against civilians. According to data gathered by the Washington Post, 853 people have been fatally shot by police this year. However, the data compiled by the Department of Justice is the only national data focused on nonfatal police force. 

H/T Washington Post | Photo via Annette Bernhardt / Flickr (CC BY 2.0) | Remix by Max Fleishman

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*First Published: Nov 15, 2015, 5:40 pm CST