Race, Ethnicity, and Policing: New and Essential Readings

By Stephen K. Rice; Michael D. White Roberts | Go to book overview

Chapter 16

Race, Bias, and Police Use of the TASER
Exploring the Available Evidence

Michael D. White and Jessica Saunders

Although local police forces generally regard themselves as public
servants with the responsibility of maintaining law and order, they
tend to minimize this attitude when they are patrolling areas that are
heavily populated with Negro citizens. There, they tend to view each
person on the streets as a potential criminal or enemy, and all too
often that attitude is reciprocated. Indeed, hostility between the Ne-
gro communities in our large cities and the police departments, is
the major problem of law enforcement in this decade. It has been a
major cause of all recent race riots.1

… the war model [emphasis in original] of policing encourages po-
lice violence of the type that victimized Rodney King. When any
soldiers go to war, they must have enemies. When cops go to war
against crime, their enemies are found in inner cities and among our
minority populations.2

Last year, 45 percent of the people struck with Tasers were black,
while 42 percent were white. Some call those statistics alarming,
since the 2000 U.S. Census found that blacks make up 8 percent of
the city's population while whites make up 68 percent.3


Introduction

The first two quotes above, the first from the late 1960s and the second from the mid-1990s, underscore the long history of tension and violence between police departments and minority communities in the United States. This history is perhaps best illustrated by the over-representation of blacks as victims of police use of force. For example, results from the Police-Public Contact Survey indicated that, in 2002, blacks represented 9.7 percent of persons who had contact with police, but they accounted for 26.3 percent of cases where police used force.4 Minority over-representation in use of force by police has been a long-standing and serious source of tension between many police departments and their constituents. As a result, over the last

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