Encyclopedia of Criminology and Criminal Justice

2014 Edition
| Editors: Gerben Bruinsma, David Weisburd

Race and the Likelihood of Arrest

  • David B. Wilson
  • Tammy Rinehart Kochel
  • Stephen D. Mastrofski
Reference work entry
DOI: https://doi.org/10.1007/978-1-4614-5690-2_245


Opinion surveys in the United States often report that citizens believe that race influences how police officers treat the public. This entry summarizes a recent meta-analysis by Kochel et al. (2011) that examined the existing empirical evidence on the relationship between race and a police officer’s decision to make an arrest. The findings support the conclusion that black suspects are more likely to be arrested than white suspects when encountering a police officer. This effect does not appear to be the result of various alternative hypotheses, such as the demeanor of the suspect or other observable legal and extralegal factors. Although the research consistently supported a racial bias hypothesis, the strength of the effect across studies did vary. Additional research is needed to better understand the factors that influence this relationship.


Harvard University Professor Henry Louis Gates, Jr., was arrested for disorderly conduct in July of 2009 (Cambridge...

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Recommended Reading and References

  1. Cambridge Review Committee (2010) Missed opportunities, shared responsibilities: final report of the Cambridge Review Committee. http://www.cambridgema.gov/
  2. Klinger DA (2004) Environment and organization: reviving a perspective on the police. Ann Am Acad Polit Soc Sci 593:119–136Google Scholar
  3. Kochel TR, Wilson DB, Mastrofski SD (2011) Effect of suspect race on officers’ arrest decisions. Criminology 49:473–512Google Scholar
  4. Mastrofski SD, Parks RB (1990) Improving observational studies of police. Criminology 28:475–496Google Scholar
  5. Mastrofski SD, Parks RB, McCluskey JD (2010) Systematic social observation in criminology. In: Piquero A, Weisburd D (eds) Handbook of quantitative criminology. Springer, New YorkGoogle Scholar
  6. Rosich KJ (2007) Race, ethnicity, and the criminal justice system. American Sociological Association, Washington, DC. http://asanet.org
  7. Skogan W, Kathleen F (eds) (2004) Fairness and effectiveness in policing: the evidence. National Research Council, Washington, DCGoogle Scholar
  8. Spano R (2007) How does reactivity affect police behavior? Describing and quantifying the impact of reactivity as behavioral change in a large-scale observational study of police. J Crim Justice 35:453–465Google Scholar
  9. Weitzer R, Tuch SA (2005) Determinants of public satisfaction with the police. Police Quart 8:279–297Google Scholar

Copyright information

© Springer Science+Business Media New York 2014

Authors and Affiliations

  • David B. Wilson
    • 1
  • Tammy Rinehart Kochel
    • 2
  • Stephen D. Mastrofski
    • 3
  1. 1.Department of Criminology, Law and SocietyGeorge Mason UniversityFairfaxUSA
  2. 2.Southern Illinois UniversityCarbondaleUSA
  3. 3.George Mason UniversityManassasUSA