Monday, October 12, 2009

Implicit racial attitudes and law enforcement shooting decisions

This article outlines a study which explores both the implicit and explicit racial attitudes that are linked with racial profiling and police shooting decisions within law enforcement. The author, Professor Katherine Tuttle summarizes a wide range of cognitive and psychological studies which all demonstrate that both White and Black individuals often associate black with negative stereotypes and white with positive stereotypes. Tuttle contests that because enforcement officers actually make shooting decisions, and undergo rigorous training on how to handle dangerous situations, it is important to study the police population separately in order to draw conclusions about variables influencing their behavior – an approach which has not been previously utilized. Therefore, Tuttle’s study compared the attitudes of college students to that of a group of police cadets who were all within 12 months of being hired (therefore, their racial attitudes couldn’t be attributed to the experiences they had working). The two groups were tested on a number of different racial dimensions and it was concluded that the police cadets not only presented much stronger negative racial biases towards Blacks than the students did, but were also more biased than a large, representative population. Tuttle concluded that while studying implicit attitudes that effect police behaviour present an exciting avenue to pursue, her research demonstrates that explicit attitudes are still very significant factors in the prediction of decisions making and should be continually examined.

Posted by Claire Doughty (Law II)

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