The moral ecology of policing

A mind science approach to race and policing in the United States

Authored by: Phillip Atiba Goff , Rachel Godsil

The Routledge Handbook of Criminal Justice Ethics

Print publication date:  July  2016
Online publication date:  July  2016

Print ISBN: 9780415708654
eBook ISBN: 9781315885933
Adobe ISBN: 9781134619450

10.4324/9781315885933.ch22

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Abstract

A casual observer of recent events in US policing would be hard pressed to conclude that race plays anything other than a central role in encounters with law enforcement. The shooting deaths of Michael Brown Jr., Walter Scott, and Tamir Rice each shocked the nation’s conscience. Eric Garner’s deaths at the hands of NYPD officers and Freddy Gray’s death in a Baltimore Police Department van have all made it seem outlandish to imagine that these are isolated cases or that the same treatment befalls most white citizens encountering police. And, in part because both lay and scholarly understandings about how race operates are so limited, this often leads to the conclusion that policing in the US is rife with racial bigotry (Gambino and Laughlin 2015). However, even if racial prejudice is appreciably elevated in police (as compared to the general population), all of the best science on the nature of racial discrimination suggests that prejudice alone is insufficient to explain observed racial disparities (Goff 2013). In other words, racial bigotry is not sufficient to explain racial discrimination.

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