As with data on comparative incarceration rates, the data on resisting arrest in police stops is skewed by race. New York public radio station WNYC compiled data which show that black defendants are significantly more likely than white defendants to be charged with resisting arrest when arrested for the most common criminal charges.
The data reveal that in cases of misdemeanor drug possession, white defendants are charged with resisting arrest in 1.7% of the cases while black defendants are charged with resisting arrest in 3.1% of cases. In arrests for petty theft, blacks are likely to charged with resisting 109.4% more often than whites, and in arrests for disorderly conduct, blacks are charged with resisting arrest 64.9% more often.
Similar data obtain for San Diego and numerous other U.S. urban centers.
As with incarceration rates, the issue of resisting arrest and race also seems to boil down to a chicken-or-egg question. The WNYC analysis concludes that “some criminal justice experts attribute [this disparity] to more aggressive policing in minority communities.” But that conclusion overlooks the reality that resisting arrest takes multiple forms. A study by the U.S. Department of Justice found that while the type of resistance most commonly reported, actively resisting — putting up a struggle — occurred in 36% of cases, assaulting the officer occurred in 25% of cases, while 21% of the time suspects attempted to escape or flee the scene (resisting arrest by flight).
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The aggressive policing theory, moreover, has not held up to scrutiny in the era of body cams and, to a lesser degree, dash cams, which record all interaction between the police and a suspect. In the case of Rayshard Brooks, who was shot and killed in Atlanta in June after grabbing an officer’s Taser and fleeing the scene, the complete body cam video shows that police were respectful for the duration of their interrogation. Bystander footage of the confrontation between police and Jacob Blake, the story at the top of the current news cycle, shows Blake brazenly walking toward the driver’s seat of his car even as police had their service weapons drawn and pointed at him, urging him to “freeze.”
A YouGov poll from March of this year finds 63% of black Americans fear that police will use deadly force on them or a family member. While those fears are belied by the data, they also seem non-existent in “victims” like Jacob Blake, who might be at home today with his family if he had simply cooperated with police this past Sunday.