BYU Law Review


Mary D. Fan


Deaths and protests in places where predominantly-white police forces patrol majority-black communities have focused the national spotlight on concerns over unrepresentative police forces. Responding to the controversy, mayors and police chiefs in cities across the nation are announcing goals to hire more minority officers. But does police diversification actually reduce the risk of violence in police encounters? This Article addresses this timely question of legal and practical import to communities seeking to prevent violence and pursue policies that survive constitutional scrutiny.

Drawing on restricted-access Centers for Disease Control data and social-psychological insights, this Article shows that there is a good basis to hypothesize that police diversification has violenceprevention benefits, but further study is needed. This Article shows that as the nation’s police forces have grown more diverse over the decades, the large racial disparity in the risk of deaths due to law enforcement has narrowed somewhat. Smaller-scale studies evaluating whether police diversification reduces the risk of deaths due to law enforcement have yielded mixed and null results. This Article argues that the failure to detect a significant effect is not fatal; the mixed and null findings are due to data limitations that obscure many cases of relevant harm. The quantitative data available from official sources is not sufficient to draw conclusions.

This Article is the first to propose the innovation of drawing on hospitalization data to address the oft-lamented lack of information on nonfatal injuries inflicted by police, opening a fresh avenue to investigate this important hidden issue.


© 2015 Brigham Young University Law Review