Race and the Police Use of Force Encounter in the United States

Eugene A. Paoline, Jacinta M. Gau, William Terrill

    Research output: Contribution to journalReview articlepeer-review

    56 Scopus citations


    Perennial conflict between police and black citizens has led to calls for greater representation of black officers, yet the presumption that black officers deliver better treatment to - and garner positive reactions from - black citizens has not received sufficient empirical testing. The present examination focusses on the use of force incident, given the symbolism inherent in this encounter. Drawing from prior research and deference exchange theory, this study examines the effects of officer and suspect race in predicting police use of force and suspect resistance. Our findings reveal that white officers are more coercive toward black suspects, but black officers' force usage is unaffected by suspect race. Conversely, officer race does not predict resistance among white or black suspects. Results are discussed in light of implications for theory, police-black relations and police practices.

    Original languageEnglish (US)
    Pages (from-to)54-74
    Number of pages21
    JournalBritish Journal of Criminology
    Issue number1
    StatePublished - Jan 1 2018


    • citizen resistance
    • police
    • race
    • use of force

    ASJC Scopus subject areas

    • Pathology and Forensic Medicine
    • Social Psychology
    • Arts and Humanities (miscellaneous)
    • Law


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