Police Use of Force by Ethnicity, Sex, and Socioeconomic Class

Publication Date



Objective: Disparities in police responses to Black and White people have received significant research and public attention in recent years. This study examines self-reported accounts of exposure to and perceptions of police use of force among Black and White ethnic groups by sex and income level. Method: Using bivariate and multivariate approaches, we analyzed data from the Bureau of Justice Statistics 2011 Police–Public Contact Survey, a measure administered to a nationally representative sample of U.S. residents. Participants were asked a series of questions about their most recent contact with police during a 12-month period. Our analyses were limited to Black (n = 59; mean age 28.8 years) and White (n = 366; mean age 34.6 years) participants whose most recent involuntary contact with police included a street stop. Results: For Black residents, being male and having an income under $20,000 significantly increased the risk for exposure to police use of force during a street stop. For White residents, being male, having an income under $20,000, or being age 35 or older significantly increased the risk for exposure to police use of force during a street stop. Conclusions: Future research will benefit from additional attention to the cumulative impact of police use of force and how experience with police use of force shapes U.S. residents’ understanding of and expectations for procedural justice.

Document Type



Child and Youth Development


Youth Development

Original Citation

Motley, R. O., Jr., & Joe, S. (2018). Police use of force by ethnicity, sex, and socioeconomic class. Journal of the Society for Social Work and Research, 9(1), 49–67. doi:10.1086/696355


Youth Development


youth, race, ethnicity, socioeconomic position, socioeconomic status, police, law enforcement, use of force