Police Violence and Citizen Crime Reporting in the Black Community

October 11, 2016

In a new study, published in the current issue of the American Sociological Review, I investigate how publicized cases of police violence against unarmed black men — most prominently the 2004 beating of Frank Jude by white police officers in Milwaukee, Wisconsin — affected 911 calls in Milwaukee. Coauthored with fellow sociologists Andrew Papachristos (of Yale) and David S. Kirk (of Oxford), this study shows that such cases have a clear and significant negative impact on citizen crime reporting, particular in the black community.

The police beating of Frank Jude resulted in a net loss of approximately 22,200 911 calls reporting crime the year after Jude’s story came to light. This study also showed that it does not necessarily take a local event or an incident as brutal as Jude's beating to reduce crime reporting. Police misconduct can make cities less safe by suppressing one of the most basic forms of civic engagement: calling 911 for matters of personal and public safety. Police departments and city politicians often frame a publicized case of police violence as an “isolated incident.” The findings of this study promote a more sociological view of the issue by suggesting that no act of police violence is an isolated incident, in both cause and consequence.

This study was profiled in the New York Times, Atlantic, Milwaukee Journal Sentinel and other media outlets.