The Role of Race and Gender in Police Brutality

Published on April 16, 2024, by Forbes Law Offices | Police Brutality

 The role of race and gender in police brutality

Predictive or racial profiling for traffic, stop and frisk, and other types of policing have been strategies used by police as proposed “crime deterrents” for decades. However, in recent years, there have been an increasing number of cases of law enforcement officers taking advantage of their position of trust to do more than conduct illegal searches and seizures.

Some of those situations have made the news. They’ve used these stops and other opportunities to take advantage of individuals based on gender or their belonging to certain racial groups.

Continue reading, where we’ll discuss the role of race and gender in police brutality in West Virginia and the U.S. as a whole today.

Statistics Regarding Gender-Based and Racially-Motivated Policing

There are endless statistics that highlight how law enforcement’s treatment of individuals varies depending on their race or ethnic origin and their gender (or the intersection of these). To better understand the impact of race or gender on police brutality, consider the following data points:

  • The Law Enforcement Epidemiology Project at the School of Public Health at the University of Illinois Chicago compiles statistics regarding injuries caused by law enforcement. Their analysis of data compiled between 2001 and 2021 shed light on how Blacks and Hispanics were twice as likely to experience police brutality during a police-initiated interaction compared to any other races or ethnicities.
  • The authors of a 2021 study published by the academic journal Science focused on how Hispanic and Black police officers make fewer traffic stops, utilize less force, and arrest fewer individuals, specifically African Americans, compared to white members of law enforcement.
  • Research published in 2019 by the Proceedings of the National Academy of Sciences of the United States of America (PNAS) captured how African Americans and Alaskan Natives/American Indians of both genders and Latino men were at particularly high risk of being killed by police when compared with other genders and races.
  • Also, around 2019, the national non-profit Prison Policy Initiative published a report that outlined how Black and Latino men were much more likely to experience the use of force during a traffic stop by police compared to women or other populations.
  • Many of those earlier pieces of insight continued to hold true in 2023 when the American Journal of Public Health (AJPH) published an article that highlighted how women who are Black or are indigenous have a significantly higher risk of dying at a police officer’s hands than someone of a different race or ethnic background does. The study’s authors concluded that the risk is at least twice that which White women face.
  • One other alarming statistic forwarded by the author of a 2022 study published by the National Institutes of Health (NIH) suggests that Black or African American women are more apt to either witness or be a victim of police violence or worry about a family member facing similar ill-treatment from law enforcement compared to their female counterparts belonging to other races.

As you can likely tell from reviewing the few pieces of data shared above, race and gender greatly impact whether a person will face police brutality. It also affects potential outcomes if someone is mistreated by law enforcement.

Race and Gender Impact Police Brutality Victims’ Injury and Fatality Rates

In addition to the Law Enforcement Epidemiology Project statistics referenced above, that same analysis of 20 years’ worth of police data shows that the following is true:

  • An estimated 1 million individuals fall victim to police threats or excessive uses of force each year in the U.S. At least 75,000 are seen in hospital emergency rooms for non-fatal injuries, and as many as 600 to 1,000 of them lose their lives.
  • African Americans have five times the chance of suffering a serious enough injury that necessitates them being treated at a hospital and double the fatality risk if they’re subjected to police brutality compared to their non-Hispanic, White counterparts.

The Impact of Race and Gender on Police Brutality in West Virginia

The American Civil Liberties Union (ACLU) has long been trying to call attention to racial disparities and racial profiling problems.

One of the most notable instances they focused their advocacy work on in 2003 was that of three African American West Virginia State College students who alleged that they were stopped, forced to exit their vehicle with guns drawn, arrested, interrogated, and subjected to other excessive force by nine City of Charleston police officers.

Many other notable examples of West Virginia police officers using excessive force are tracked by the U.S. Commission on Civil Rights. One gender-based example of police brutality centers around a Raleigh County woman who was reportedly stopped along the West Virginia Turnpike by a state trooper.

That officer, along with two plainclothes individuals, apparently took her to a local park and sexually assaulted her. When filing her lawsuit, she shared that she was too intoxicated at the time to consent to such activities.

And, as far as women are concerned, if the events that a whistleblower recently reported, as shared by the Mountain State Spotlight, as occurring at the West Virginia Police Training Academy are proven, then disciplinary action, criminal charges, and civil lawsuits may be forthcoming against male instructors, troopers, and anyone else who was responsible for filming female cadets, raping them (as new reports suggest occurred), and subjecting them to other mistreatment.

While, as some sources frame it, West Virginia doesn’t see as many examples of police brutality as perhaps other states do, we see our fair share. Even one case is too many.

Determining If You May Be Eligible for Compensation as a Police Brutality Victim

West Virginia Code §61-6-21 outlines how it’s unlawful for individuals in our state to be subjected to intimidation or threats of actual violence based on, among other things, their race, ancestry, color, or sex.

Another state statute, West Virginia Code §30-29-10, spells out how racial profiling in policing is illegal. That law goes out to highlight how this practice unnecessarily alienates residents from law enforcement and discredits policing agencies, which adversely affects their ability to adequately police communities.