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Does Race Influence Police Disciplinary Processes?

NCJ Number
Justice Research and Policy Volume: 3 Issue: 1 Dated: Spring 2001 Pages: 97-113
Date Published
17 pages

This study examined racial parity in the formal disciplinary system of the Philadelphia, PA, Police Department.


The study linked data drawn from a random sample of 449 Philadelphia police officers to official data drawn from the police department's disciplinary database. Approximately one-third of the sample was charged with a disciplinary offense. The study examined the extent to which race influenced the various stages of the disciplinary process (charge, hearing, guilty), and failed to uncover a significant effect for race. This null effect was observed in both bivariate and multivariate settings. The study suggested that police processes other than disciplinary processes should also be assessed for racial parity, including promotion, transfer, performance review, and assignment practices. Given that certain problem officers were transferred to high-crime districts, which typically have a high concentration of minorities, it would be important to study how race affects transfer. The study suggested that efforts in this and other areas would help researchers better understand the kinds of decisions that were made out of the public eye and would help bring discretionary decision making out into the open, which was especially important in the context of race. Notes, table, figure, references

Date Published: January 1, 2001