Police Violence and Black Communities: Analyzing the Trust Deficit

Activist movements like Black Lives Matter have helped focus attention on police violence against unarmed black men. Camera phones allow abuses to be broadcast around the world instantly. But how does excessive police force affect black communities? New research suggests the violence undermines government authority and is even associated with a rise in crime.

Matthew Desmond of Harvard University and his colleagues at Yale and Oxford build on previous studies that show black males disproportionately subject to excessive and deadly police force. They set out to determine how black communities’ relations with police are impacted by this violence.

The authors look at emergency 911 calls in Milwaukee before and after the widely publicized beating of an unarmed black man, Frank Jude, by white police officers on October 23, 2004. Calling 911 to report a crime is “foundational to public safety, being the first and among the most important acts of cooperation with the police,” they reason.

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