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Member Research & Reports

Member Research & Reports

BU: Police Shootings Reflect Cities’ Levels of Segregation

In the U.S., a Black person is three times more likely than a White person to be fatally shot by police, but this ratio varies across the country, with no difference in some places. The main reason that racial disparities in police shootings vary among cities is not because of individual police officers, but rather different cities’ levels of racial residential segregation, according to a new study by Boston University School of Public Health (BUSPH) researchers.

The study, published in the Journal of the National Medical Association, finds that racial residential segregation is the predominant factor that explains why some cities have greater racial disparities in fatal police shootings — even after controlling for a city’s crime rates, Black median income, racial composition of its police force, and other factors.

“Interventions such as inherent bias training aim to alter the way police officers interact with Black individuals, but our research suggests that what is needed is training that changes the way police interact with Black neighborhoods,” says study lead author Dr. Michael Siegel, professor of community health sciences at BUSPH. “Ultimately, countering structural racism itself, particularly in the form of racial segregation, is critical.”

Dr. Siegel and his colleagues previously found that states with higher degrees of residential segregation and other forms of structural racism have higher racial disparities in fatal police shootings of unarmed victims.

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