A recent study published by the American Psychological Association is the latest “gotcha” moment that falls flat against the constant accusations that law enforcement is racist. If you thought you heard everything, we would not only encourage you to read the study but to notice the obvious flaw in the so called research that analyzed how police “talk” to people. That “tone of voice” according to the research “affects institutional trust of law enforcement.”
Nicholas Camp, the lead author of the study, says that it doesn’t just matter what people say, “but how they say it.” According to Camp, police tended to talk more down to black people and the interactions were considered “less friendly.”
While it shouldn’t surprise anyone that what previously may have been considered rude is now racism, we were curious to investigate this study considering these racist officers were all filming the 200 traffic stops that were used in the study.
First, the media stories discussing these “shocking” claims will fail to tell you that the difference in the “perceived” communication with different races wasn’t a one percent difference but rather much less than that. According to the study, “participants perceived officers’ prosody toward Whites as more positive (M = 3.72 [3.64, 3.81]) than their tone toward Black drivers, which was viewed as neither positive nor negative (M = 3.50 [3.41, 3.58]).”
While you will have to brush off your Research Methods Book to figure it out, let’s just say the gap is very, very small and that brings up another red flag. 200 traffic stops were used in one midwest city to determine that police communicate differently and “less friendly” to black people.
If you aren’t following the flawed logic of those that are desperate to blame cops for something else, this last point should convince you.
The study took the audio recordings of the interaction in 200 traffic stops and played the audio to volunteers and those volunteers made the determination what communication was friendly or rude and considering it was audio, they had no idea the race of the driver. That’s actually a good way of doing it but if you are studying communication, would it not be important to hear what the driver was saying to the police officer?
For instance, if a police officer’s tone changed, it would be important to hear if there was a reason that tone changed other than it was a black person?
Well, the researchers decided to mute any communication being said to the police officer and only let the volunteers hear the officer speak. While it may have been necessary to hide the race of the violator for research purposes, we obviously have technology that can transcribe what was being said to the officer.
While we appreciate any research that can help law enforcement improve and reform, we find no benefit in another study designed to tell the world how blacks are treated differently by police officers when the entire story and in this case, sound research is ignored.
Yes, racial disparities exist in blacks being arrested but those same disparities exist in the amount of crimes that blacks commit so if communication is disparity, we should know the other side of that equation and without telling us, we can only assume it didn’t tell the story that wanted to be told or would have failed to get the next research project funded.