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Police-on-Police Shootings and the Puzzle of Unconscious Racial Bias - NIJ Research for the Real World Seminar

NCJ Number
Date Published
June 2010
12 pages
This transcript and video cover the task force report on mistaken-identity police-on-police shootings, as presented by the chair of the task force (Chris Stone) at the National Institute of Justice's (NIJ's) Real World Seminar Series.
Although the task force was empanelled by the Governor of New York State, it conducted a nationwide study of the 28 fatal police-on-police shootings that occurred nationwide between 1981 and 2009. Stone's presentation focuses on the task force's examination of the widely held suspicion that race was a significant factor in these police-on police confrontations and shootings. A particular concern of the task force was the shootings that occurred between on-duty and off-duty officers as well as between uniformed and undercover officers. Attention was given to those incidents in which the shooter and the victim were officers of different races, nationalities, or ethnicities. The task force found that 9 of the 13 officers of color were killed while taking law enforcement actions off duty; however, almost none of the White officers who were killed were off duty at the time (only 1 out of 15). The task force concluded that this is not chance variation. Every officer of color interviewed and most of the White officers acknowledged that racial stereotypes play a significant role when police are identifying threats. Relevant studies have also shown a significant amount of unconscious racial bias in officer assessments of threats. Officer training must address this issue in that instant decision about whether to shoot in an interaction. In reducing the likelihood of a police-on-police mistaken-identity shooting, officer training must address identification procedures to be followed by both on-duty and off-duty officers as well as undercover and uniformed officers. Task force training suggestions are outlined.

Date Published: June 1, 2010