Document Type

Working Paper

Publication Date

2016

Abstract

Officer-involved killings and racial bias in policing are controversial political issues. Prior research indicates that (perceived) group threat related to political mobilization, economic competition, and the threat of black crime are is an important explanations for variations in police killings across cities in the United States. We argue that a diverse police force that proportionally represents the population it serves mitigates group threat and thereby reduces the number of officer-involved killings. Count models support our argument. They show that group threat is largely driven by the threat of black crime. Black-on-white homicides increase officer-involved killings of African Americans but black-on-black homicides and measures for political and economic threat do not. However, a diverse police force reduces the influence of group threat lowering the number and rate of officer-involved killings of African Americans. The findings represent one of the first analyseis of an highly relevant important contemporary issue based on a recent and high-quality dataset from January 2013 to June 2016. By highlighting the interaction between group threat and the proportional representation of minority groups in police departments, our research advances group conflict and threat theories with important theoretical and policy implications for law enforcement and representative bureaucracies more broadly.

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