Brief Enquiries

Is There a Connection Between Prejudice Against Black People and Police Violence, Mr Calanchini?

“Black man shot by police during traffic control in US” – reports like this always cause dismay around the world. It seems likely that racism could be the reason for police violence but, so far, no-one has published any scientific studies on the issue. The most recent research findings of social psychologist Jimmy Calanchini are now delivering the first empirical indications.

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  • By Kristina Vaillant
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Dr Jimmy Calanchini has been a Humboldt Research Fellow at the University of Freiburg since 2016.

He and his colleagues discovered that the risk of black people being killed by police in areas with high levels of racial prejudice is greater than elsewhere. Because there are no reliable official statistics on police violence in the United States, the researchers used data collected by the British daily The Guardian. The Guardian’s database chronicles how many people of each ethnicity are killed by police in each region. In 2015, for example, 1,146 people died because of police use of lethal force. Calanchini and his colleagues compared these figures with data generated by two million US citizens in response to a worldwide online survey on implicit bias – and uncovered a clear statistical correlation. In areas where the white population had stronger biases against black people, a disproportionate number of black people died as a result of police violence, even after accounting for alternative explanations such as regional crime rates.

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 “Did the police use lethal force because they share the prejudice of the local population? Or are the local population’s prejudices against black people fuelled by local media reporting on such incidents? Both are possible, so further research is necessary,” Calanchini emphasises.


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