It’s a tense time for racial relations, particularly when it comes to relationships between minority communities and the police departments that patrol them. Many officers are acutely aware of the stereotype of the racist cop, and are concerned that they may be perceived as treating people differently because of the color of their skin.
It turns out that worry may inspire poorer policing, including greater use of unreasonable force. New research finds evidence of “a particularly vicious cycle of stereotype threat, police force, and public trust,” in which officers who feel their legitimacy has been questioned feel justified in resorting to coercive tactics. This was true of both black and white officers, according to the study, published in the journal Law and Human Behavior.
Trinkner and his colleagues did find that one factor mitigated officer’s feelings of illegitimacy: Older officers reported feeling more self-confidence and expressed less support for coercive policing than their younger colleagues. “This suggests that older officers may be especially well-positioned within a department to socialize younger officers to norms that are less aggressive,” said co-author Erin Kerrison of the University of California–Berkeley.
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