Journal of African American Studies

, Volume 17, Issue 4, pp 480-505

First online:

Racism and Police Brutality in America

  • Cassandra ChaneyAffiliated withCollege of Human Sciences and Education, School of Social Work, Child and Family Studies, Louisiana State University Email author 
  • , Ray V. RobertsonAffiliated withDepartment of Sociology, Social Work and Criminal Justice, Lamar University

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What, if any, changes have occurred in the nation’s police departments 21 years after the Rodney King beating? To answer this question, this study examined findings provided by the National Police Misconduct Statistics and Reporting Project (NPMSRP). An additional goal of this study was to examine how the public generally perceive police and how race and racism shape this discourse. To answer this secondary question, we examined narratives provided by 36 contributors to the NPMSRP site. The following two questions were foundational to this study: (1) What do findings from the NPMSRP suggest about the rate of police brutality in America? (2) How do individuals perceive the police department, and what implications do these perceptions hold for Black men in America? In general, fatalities at the hands of police are higher than they are for the general public. Grounded theory analysis of the data revealed that individuals perceive members of law enforcement in the following ways: (a) contempt for law enforcement, (b) suspicion of law enforcement, (c) law enforcement as agents of brutality, and (d) respect for law enforcement. Supporting qualitative data are presented in connection with each of the aforementioned themes.


Black African-American Critical race theory Discrimination Police brutality Race Racism Rodney King