Stephen Ellison

Stanford Study: Oakland Police Interactions Differ With Blacks vs. Whites

Oakland police have teamed with Stanford University researchers to gauge their interactions with a diverse community and ultimately improve the department's behavior and image.

The new partnership comes after the Stanford research team sifted through police body camera footage and found patrol officers appeared to give less respect to African-American drivers during routine stops.

The study looked at interactions between officers of all races and ages and black and white motorists. Researchers said some of the differences in conversations were like night and day.

"I think it's a learning opportunity," Deputy Chief LeRonne Armstrong said.

The Oakland Police Department said it's fixing a policing issue before it gets out of hand.

"If community members believe that if you talk to them less professional, if you talk to them in a certain way, we want to fix that," Armstrong said.

The 2014 study analyzed data from 981 traffic stops conducted by 245 Oakland officers.

The data showed officers often referred to white motorists as "Sir" or "Ma'am" and black motorists as "Bro" or by their first names.

"The language was respectful overall, but we found it was more respectful to white community members over black community members," Stanford researcher Jennifer Eberhardt said.

As part of the study, the Stanford team developed software that viewed the bodycam footage and flagged certain words. Researchers also sifted through hundreds of police reports to back up the video data.

"There was a difference people are picking up on as less respectful, even though the officer might have intended to connect with the public," Eberhardt said.

The Oakland Police Department is using the data as a training tool to ensure officers deliver equal respect to everyone.

"We want officers to be natural and comfortable out their doing their job," Armstrong said.

The Oakland Police Department insists its officers never intentionally treat people differently based on their race.

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