Racial Disparity in Police Contacts

Race Justice. 2012 Jul 1;2(3):10.1177/2153368712448063. doi: 10.1177/2153368712448063.


Criminologists agree the race disparity in arrests cannot be fully explained by differences in criminal behavior. We examine social environment factors that may lead to racial differences in police contact in early adolescence, including family, peers, school, and community. Data are from 331 8th-grade students. Blacks were almost twice as likely as Whites to report a police contact. Blacks reported more property crime but not more violent crime than Whites. Police contacts were increased by having a parent who had been arrested, a sibling involved in criminal activity, higher observed reward for negative behavior, having school disciplinary actions, and knowing adults who engaged in substance abuse or criminal behavior. Race differences in police contacts were partially attributable to more school discipline.

Keywords: Environment; Police contacts; Race disparity.