A new report from the Proceedings of the National Academy of Sciences examined police camera footage and released data that revealed Black drivers often face harsher language and treatment when compared to white drivers. We’d like to take this moment to collectively offer our scientific assessment of the findingss by saying, “NO DUH!”
More from Science Magazine:
Now, a new study of body cam footage from Oakland, California, suggests that officers of all races consistently use less respectful language with blacks than with whites during traffic stops. The results—taken from more than 36,000 language snippets at nearly 1000 stops—could transform officer training, social scientists say.
Most data on how police communicate with citizens come from eyewitness accounts—from drivers, outside observers, and officers themselves. The new work sought to get around that subjectivity by using audio recordings. “It’s taking it from the realm of what any two of us might discuss over drinks at a bar to using the tools of modern science to get a more precise picture,” says John Rickford, a linguist at Stanford University in Palo Alto, California, who was not involved in the work.
Stanford researchers started with body cam footage from every encounter Oakland police had with black and white drivers in April 2014. They transcribed what officers said at 981 traffic stops to come up with 36,738 usable “utterances,” or conversational turns. Next, they had college students read and rate about 400 utterances for how much respect they showed, taking into account what drivers said just before officers spoke. The students, who had no knowledge of the driver’s race, rated speech toward black drivers as less respectful than speech toward white drivers overall.
They could have just conducted this study in any major city in the U.S. and asked a few people of color how interactions have gone down them compared to their white counterparts and got a similar result.
Oh and let’s not forget this little fact here.