Racial Differences in Resolving Conflicts: A Comparison Between Black and White Police Officers

Ivan Y. Sun, Old Dominion University
Brian K. Payne, Old Dominion University

ABSTRACT
This study examines the behavioral differences between African-American and white police officers in handling interpersonal conflicts. Observational and survey data from the Project on Policing Neighborhoods and the 1990 census data were used. Actions taken by officers are examined along two behavioral dimensions: coercion and support. Findings show that black officers are more coercive than their white counterparts in responding to conflicts. Black officers are also more likely than white officers to conduct supportive activities in predominately black neighborhoods, while they do not differ in initiating supportive actions in racially diverse communities. Situational characteristics play a strong role in determining police actions during conflict resolution. Implications for policy and future research are discussed.

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Updated 05/20/2006