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TIME Features Wu Research: Police Chiefs & Fatal Shootings


TIME magazine featured Professor of Economics Stephen Wu's research on the relationship between police force leadership and fatal shootings in an article titled Leadership Matters.’ Researcher Says Rate of Fatal Police Shootings Is Lower in Cities with Black Police Chiefs. Among Wu’s significant findings published in the June 26 article are these:

  • The per capita rate of fatal shootings by officers is approximately 65% lower in African-American-led police forces than for White-led police forces in the 60 largest cities in the United States. For a city of 1 million people, this would roughly translate to the equivalent of the difference between having 21 deadly shootings in a five-year period vs. 35 shootings in that same period.
  • The rate for Hispanic-led police forces is also lower than for White-led police forces.
  •  For the 20 cities with the highest rates of fatal police shootings, 15 have police departments led by Whites, while for the 20 cities with the lowest rates, 13 have police departments led by Blacks.

“A lot of people will talk about training and the racial makeup of officers,” Wu explains in the article. “It’s not just about the overall police force. Leadership matters.”

According to the article, Wu’s research does not include data on police killings that weren’t gun deaths, but it suggests diversifying the highest levels of leadership may be a logical way forward in at least reducing fatal police shootings.

In his research, Wu found that these differences in rates of deadly shootings continue to hold after accounting for difference in crime rates across cities. Although racial makeup of a police department is also a significant predictor of shootings (departments with more Black officers have fewer deadly shootings), the impact of high-level leadership remains even after accounting for the differences in the overall diversity of a city’s police force.

Wu used several sources of data for his analysis. To determine rates of fatal shootings in different cities between January 1, 2015, and June 1, 2020, he used the Washington Post’s Fatal Force Database, considered one of the most comprehensive databases of lethal shootings by law enforcement officers.  He also used United States Census Bureau data and the Federal Bureau of Investigation’s 2017 Uniform Crime Report, among other sources.

Wu's research was also included in a Wall Street Journal article titled In Diverse North Charleston, Where Most Police Officers are White, A Black Chief Tries to Bridge the Divide, and in The Hill and The Daily Mail (UK).

TIME also featured the article in its weekly newsletter

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