PALO ALTO (KRON) — A new Stanford study shows that police officers consistently speak less respectfully to black residents than to white residents.
Researchers found racial disparities in police officers’ speech after analyzing 100 hours of body camera footage from the Oakland Police Department.
The study, published Monday in Proceedings of the National Academy of Sciences, found that officers were 57 more likely to speak politely to white residents than black residents, like apologizing or saying “thank you.”
Meanwhile, black residents were 61 percent more likely to hear an officer use less respectful language, such as informalities like “dude” and “bro” and commands like “hands on the wheel.”
A team compiled from Stanford’s psychology, linguistics and computer science departments developed a new artificial intelligence technique for measuring levels of respect in officers’ language.
They then applied this technique to the transcripts from 981 traffic stops OPD made in a single month.
“Our findings highlight that, on the whole, police interactions with black community members are more fraught than their interactions with white community members,” explained Jennifer Eberhardt, co-author of the study and professor of psychology at Stanford.
“To be clear: There was no swearing,” said Dan Jurafsky, a study co-author and Stanford professor of linguistics and of computer science. “These were well-behaved officers. But the many small differences in how they spoke with community members added up to pervasive racial disparities.”
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