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Study: White Dallas Police Officers Don't Use Force Disproportionately Against Minorities

Elizabeth Myong
KERA News special contributor
Dallas police officers sit on their motorcycles outside the Morton H. Meyerson Symphony Center on July 12, 2016 during a memorial service for five officers killed in the Dallas police ambush days earlier.

Researchers in Texas and Florida have released a study on use-of-force incidents within the Dallas Police Department, and they found that white police officers in Dallas do not use force disproportionately against minorities.

The study examined 5,630 use-of-force reports from the Dallas Police Department in 2014 and 2015.

Alex Piquero is a criminology professor with the University of Texas at Dallas. He co-authored the study published in the “American Journal of Public Health.” 

Interview Highlights: Alex Piquero…

On defining use of force: “It goes from, basically, verbal commands to soft hand control to hard control to some sort of immediate weapon use, like a Taser. We did not look at deadly force shootings in these data — because they’re very rare in the Dallas Police Department.”

On studying the Dallas Police Department, specifically: “One of the great things about the Dallas Police Department is that they are not only willing to share their data, but they also collect a level of data that makes things that haven’t been permissible in the past to study. For example, most people who study use of force focus on white and black. Fortunately in Dallas, we had information as well on Hispanic ethnicity.”

…On one key finding: “The narrative of white officers and minority citizens is not the norm. In fact, when you take into consideration other kinds of variables, most of those relationships actually fall apart. At least in the two-year period that we had access to, that’s excluding deadly force and police shootings, the data we had access to showed no clear pattern that white officers were targeting minorities.”

…On the public’s perception of police: “A lot of people’s information and their opinions are influenced by these horrific events that we see on cell phone videos. And that’s not to downplay or dismiss the really unfortunate events and the lives that have been lost, with respect to those incidences. But, that kind of information does fuel people’s opinions about what kinds of relationships and interactions police and citizens have.”  

Alex Piquero is a criminology professor with the University of Texas at Dallas.

Justin Martin is KERA’s local host of All Things Considered, anchoring afternoon newscasts for KERA 90.1. Justin grew up in Mannheim, Germany, and avidly listened to the Voice of America and National Public Radio whenever stateside. He graduated from the American Broadcasting School, and further polished his skills with radio veteran Kris Anderson of the Mighty 690 fame, a 50,000 watt border-blaster operating out of Tijuana, Mexico. Justin has worked as holiday anchor for the USA Radio Network, serving the U.S. Armed Forces Network. He’s also hosted, produced, and engineered several shows, including the Southern Gospel Jubilee on 660 KSKY.