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Higher Education in Law Enforcement and Racial Disparity in Arrests  

Thaddeus L. Johnson, Natasha N. Johnson, Sarah Sepanik, and Maria H. Lee

Raising the educational standards for police officers represents a perennial police reform theme in the United States. Among other benefits, proponents herald college degree requirements as key to improving the quality and fairness of policing outcomes, including the chief formal response to crime: arresting suspected lawbreakers. However, the evidence base regarding college education requirements’ consequences for agency arrest behaviors is formative for various reasons, namely, the absence of studies examining whether these policies contribute to racially equitable arrest outcomes. The presented data show steeper decreases in the racial gap in Black and White people arrested for degree-requiring agencies compared to nondegree-requiring agencies between 2000 and 2016. Albeit encouraging news, the disparity rate for agencies with a college standard remains relatively higher. While what is implied is that college degree requirements alone will not resolve racial disparities in police arrests, it is premature to draw concrete conclusions about this often taken-for-granted association until more rigorous research is conducted.


Measuring Homicide by Police  

Matthew Renner

When police officers end a human life, the social ramifications can be immense. Recent high-profile instances of homicide by police in the United States have served as a reminder of their potential impacts. Beyond the tragic loss of life and their acute effect on the people directly involved, these incidents have become a source of broad social conflict. At many points throughout American history, homicides by police have sparked protest and civil unrest, as well as catalyzed major social movements and countermovements that have profoundly altered the direction of the nation’s politics. Social scientists have long recognized the importance of studying homicides by police to understand their causes and consequences. Efforts to do so have historically been hampered by the poor quality of data on the phenomenon. Traditional methods of measuring homicides by police that rely on voluntary reporting by law enforcement agencies or information from death certificates have been shown to be inadequate for most empirical research applications. New and improved methods of measurement began emerging around 2010. They involve compiling information on homicides by police reported by news media and/or combining multiple sources of information to measure the phenomenon, and represent a tremendous improvement. These new methods have led to the production of data that have deepened people’s knowledge of homicide by police. Even so, these data are not perfect. Researchers should be aware of the various measurement issues that may arise when employing them. Finally, as measurement of homicide by police has improved, the ability to measure nonfatal police violence has not done so correspondingly. Poor measurement of nonfatal police violence continues to limit scientific understanding of homicide by police and police violence more generally.


Experimental Methods in Criminology  

Rylan Simpson

Experimental methods have been a hallmark of the scientific enterprise since its inception. Over time, experiments have become much more sophisticated, complex, and nuanced. Experiments have also become much more diverse, and their use within research settings has expanded from the physical sciences to the social sciences, including criminology. Within criminology, experimental methods can manifest in the form of laboratory experiments, field experiments, and quasi-experiments, each of which present their own strengths and weaknesses. Experimental methods can also be applied in the context of between-subject and within-subject paradigms, both of which exhibit unique characteristics and implications. Experimental methods—as a research method—are unique in their ability to help establish causal relationships among variables. This article introduces the topic of experimental methods in criminology, with a specific focus on the subfield of policing.