Across the thin blue line: police officers and racial bias in the decision to shoot

J Pers Soc Psychol. 2007 Jun;92(6):1006-23. doi: 10.1037/0022-3514.92.6.1006.


Police officers were compared with community members in terms of the speed and accuracy with which they made simulated decisions to shoot (or not shoot) Black and White targets. Both samples exhibited robust racial bias in response speed. Officers outperformed community members on a number of measures, including overall speed and accuracy. Moreover, although community respondents set the decision criterion lower for Black targets than for White targets (indicating bias), police officers did not. The authors suggest that training may not affect the speed with which stereotype-incongruent targets are processed but that it does affect the ultimate decision (particularly the placement of the decision criterion). Findings from a study in which a college sample received training support this conclusion.

Publication types

  • Research Support, N.I.H., Extramural
  • Research Support, Non-U.S. Gov't

MeSH terms

  • Adult
  • Attitude*
  • Bias
  • Decision Making*
  • Ethnic Groups*
  • Female
  • Humans
  • Male
  • Police*
  • Reaction Time
  • Signal Detection, Psychological
  • Wounds, Gunshot / ethnology*