As explained on the main Criminal Justice Disparities page and its references virtually all entities analyzing racial disparities in criminal justice outcomes share the mistaken belief that reducing adverse reducing adverse criminal justice outcomes (including adverse interactions with police officers) will tend to reduce, rather than increase, (a) relative racial differences in rates of experiencing the outcomes (as commonly presented in terms of the ratio of the Black rate to the white rate) and (b) the proportion Blacks make up of persons experiencing the outcomes (which is compared with the proportion Blacks make up of the population potentially experiencing the outcomes). One manifestation of the mistaken belief involves the belief that reducing the use of force by police officers by means of de-escalation training will tend to reduce (a) and (b) with regard to being subject to the use of force.
Following the aforementioned description of findings by Professor Engel, CEBCP Director Cynthia Lum noted that (Transcript at 15):
And one thing I wanted to just emphasize, Robin, that you had mentioned, is that reductions don't always mean positive. We can have reductions in numbers of use of force or other outcomes, but it doesn't always mean that disparity is reduced as well, sometimes disparity can increase. So, I think that's an important point.
Such statements as this, however, do nothing to dispel the view promoted by the title of the webinar and much of its content that generally training that generally reduces adverse outcomes will be expected to reduce relative racial differences in rates of experiencing the outcomes. In fact, statements that something does not have to happen themselves promote the view that that which does not have to happen will typically happen.
[i] I did not receive a response to a June 2, 2021 email to co-author of the study Professor Nicholas Corsaro seeking access to the underlying data in order to enable me to examine the matter more closely.
[ii] Typically, reductions in the use of force would cause a larger proportionate reduction in white rates than non-white rates, though (given the rate ranges in which one usually find rates of being subject to the use of force) the absolute reduction would be greater for non-whites than for whites. Professor Engel did not indicate whether she was meant larger proportionate reductions or larger absolute reductions. In the context, however, observers usually are referring to proportionate reductions. But, inasmuch a larger absolute reduction for whites than non-whites would necessarily also mean a larger proportionate reduction for whites than non-whites, Professor Engel’s statements mean that the relative difference between white and non-white rates increase.