Racial Threat, Black Empowerment, and Civilians Killed by Police: An Analysis of the Largest US Cities in 2015

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Estimates suggest that police have killed more than 1,000 people per year for at least nearly a decade. Blacks are 3 times as likely to be killed than Whites. One potential explanation for this disparity is Blalock’s racial threat hypothesis, which posits that the dominant group in society will impose social control upon the minority group when large minority populations are perceived as threatening to the dominant group’s status. However, if a minority population is large enough, they may be empowered to counter these attempts at social control. This study examines how Black demographic and political empowerment, as well as policy comprehensiveness impact killing rates of civilians. Findings suggest that greater Black demographic and political empowerment are associated with reductions in killings rates for Blacks as well as for Whites and the total population.