Dissecting the Complexities of the Relationship Between Police Officer–Civilian Race/Ethnicity Dyads and Less-Than-Lethal Use of Force

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Objectives. To examine how sublethal use-of-force patterns vary across officer–civilian race/ethnicity while accounting for officer-, civilian-, and situational-level factors.

Methods. We extracted cross-sectional data from 5630 use-of-force reports from the Dallas Police Department in 2014 and 2015. We categorized each officer–civilian interaction into race/ethnicity dyads. We used multilevel, mixed logistic regression models to evaluate the relationship between race/ethnicity dyads and the types of use of force.

Results. Forty-eight percent of use-of-force interactions occurred between a White officer and a non-White civilian (White–non-White). In bivariate models, the odds of hard-empty hand control and intermediate weapon use were significantly higher among White–Black dyads compared with White–White dyads. The bivariate odds of intermediate weapon use were also significantly higher among Black–Black, Hispanic–White, Black–Hispanic, and Hispanic–Black dyads compared with White–White dyads. However, after we controlled for individual and situational factors, the relationship between race/ethnicity dyad and hard-empty hand control was no longer significant.

Conclusions. Although we observed significant bivariate relationships between race/ethnicity dyads and use of force, these relationships largely dissipated after we controlled for other factors.

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American Journal of Public Health, v. 107, issue 7, p. 1164-1170