Explaining the Representation of African American Police Officers

Document Type


Conference Title

American Society of Criminology


San Francisco, CA

Conference Dates

November 19-22, 2014

Date of Presentation



Studies consistently demonstrate that African Americans report less favorable opinions of the police than do whites (Mbuba, 2010; Shuck & Rosenbaum, 2005; Tuch and Weitzer, 1997). Although police-minority relations are likely to be improved with an increased presence of minority police officers (Tuch and Weitzer, 1998), numerous studies show that African Americans are consistently underrepresented in police departments nationwide (Hochstedler and Conley, 1986; Kaminski, 1993; Lewis, 1989; Zhao, He and Lovrich, 2005). While some suspect that this underrepresentation may be due to hiring and department discrimination (Shulman and Shelley, 1997), others contend that African Americans simply may not be as interested in pursuing careers as police officers as are persons of other races (Hochstedler and Conley, 1986). This study examines the employment of African American police officers in 91 different cities across the United States using data from the National Neighborhood Crime Study (NNCS). Factors such as education, joblessness, racial antagonism, regional location, the size of the African American population, as well as others are used to explain variation in the employment of African American police officers.

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