Do #AllLivesMatter? An Evaluation of Race and Excessive Use of Force by Police


There is anecdotal evidence showing that African-Americans are more likely to be subjected to excessive use of force by police than are people of other races. The counterargument is that these issues are not related to race and there are other factors at work. There have been several high-profile cases, such as those in Ferguson, Cleveland, and Baton Rouge. In this study, we estimate the effect of race on excessive use of force incidents using a new dataset comprising citizen complaints against the Chicago Police Department. Our findings show that not only does race play a role in excessive use of force complaints, but also that race plays a role in which complaints are sustained. Our study also highlights the importance of having data on which to perform rigorous empirical analysis in order to inform policymakers.

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  1. 1.

    Prendergast (2007) and Dharmapala et al. (2016) develop theoretical models to explain punitive behavior in law enforcement.

  2. 2.

    The data were collected by the Invisible Institute but no effort was made to verify the accuracy of information given by the CPD.

  3. 3.

    In Table 1 in the online supplementary appendix, we show the breakdown of excessive use of force by types. In Table 2 of the same appendix, we run models looking at different types of excessive use of force complaints (on-duty vs. off-duty and injury vs. non-injury).

  4. 4.

    The marginal effects reported for the interaction terms are calculated as the difference between the expected odds of the interactive term relative to a White male. The calculation is the same for the officer characteristics. Ai and Norton (2003) develop a program to calculate marginal effects for interaction terms in non-linear models, but it is only for models with a single interaction terms. Since our model has multiple interaction terms, we follow Buis (2010) by reporting ratios relative to a baseline odds ratio.

  5. 5.

    Utah has started tracking the deployment of tactical units, while California has a database on three types of police-citizen interactions.


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Correspondence to Olugbenga Ajilore.

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Ajilore, O., Shirey, S. Do #AllLivesMatter? An Evaluation of Race and Excessive Use of Force by Police. Atl Econ J 45, 201–212 (2017).

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  • Excessive use of force
  • Race
  • Chicago police department


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