Does Race Influence Cop-On-Cop Shootings?

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A Governor’s Task Force in New York, formed to examine police-on-police shootings nationwide, recently issued an extensive report that claims “intrinsic” racial bias may be involved when out-of-uniform black officers are mistaken for criminals and shot dead by their colleagues.

But a Force Science Position Paper on the subject, which is attached as an appendix to the Task Force study, reaches a much different conclusion. More important than any racial considerations in these tragic events, says the Force Science analysis, are likely to be certain biological and physiological laws of human performance.

Indeed, says the Force Science paper, officers who mistakenly shoot other cops, may not even be aware of the race of their target. What commonly dominates these incidents, instead, are the ways extraordinary stress affects the perception, judgment, and reactions of challenged and challenging officers alike.

  • What role does race play in “friendly fire” confrontations?
  • What behavioral influences should investigators consider in evaluating these tragedies?
  • How do minority officers feel about the statistical odds they face when they arm themselves out of uniform?
  • What “safeguards” that officers are commonly trained in might not work in real-life situations?
  • What lessons can we learn from the field experience of the last 3 decades?
  • Is your agency prepared to handle one of these catastrophic events?

In the next edition of Force Science News, we’ll launch a 2-part series that explores the findings and speculations of the Governor’s Task Force and the Force Science perspective on these devastating shootings. Watch your inbox 2 weeks from now for Part 1.

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