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Police Response to Crime Suspects' Appearance: Results from an Observational Study

Thu, Nov 16, 12:30 to 1:50pm, Marriott, Franklin 4, 4th Floor


The study draws upon data gathered through systematic observation of police officer decision-making during nearly 1000 ride-along sessions. Using a structured code sheet designed to measure a range of suspect appearance traits (race, grooming, age, gender, attire, etc.), demeanor, suspected offense details, characteristics of the community in which the suspected offense took place, and officer-specific factors, the authors find that racialized appearance has an effect of police decisions to arrest. This effect persists in multivariate analyses when holding constant key variables known to predict police behavior, such as suspect demeanor, department priorities, and the officers' perceived seriousness of the offense. Implications for police-community relations are discussed.