Analyzing the data on 10,077 citizen complaints lodged against the Chicago Police Department between 2011 and 2014, a pair of New York University researchers has found that just 2 percent of allegations made by black Chicagoans resulted in a recommendation for sanction against an officer, compared to 20 percent for white complainants and 7 percent for Latino complainants.
The study by Jacob W. Faber, assistant professor at NYU’s Robert F. Wagner Graduate School of Public Service, and Jessica Kalbfeld, doctoral candidate in NYU’s Sociology Department, underscores the impact and implications of racial distrust in a highly segregated city.
“We have shown that not only are officers rarely disciplined for alleged misconduct, but that there are significant racial disparities in the outcomes of a process ostensibly designed to provide accountability in a highly segregated city,” writes Faber and Kalbfeld in the article for the June issue of City and Community, a journal of the American Sociological Association.
“Although we are unable to prove explicit racial discrimination, the inequalities created and/or perpetuated by this process are still of great import to the policed communities, the CPD [Chicago Police Department] and criminologists. Perceptions about (or the reality of) the unfairness of the disciplinary process may reduce trust in law enforcement and exacerbate tensions between communities of color and the police,” the authors wrote.
The paper also shows that racial disparities in the adjudication of citizen allegations of police misconduct are further shaped by the race of the officer involved and neighborhood context: incidents alleged by white citizens in high-crime and predominantly black neighborhoods are more likely to result in a recommendation that the officer be punished, as are incidents involving a black officer.