This symposium essay constructs a theory of police racial violence that is based upon the social psychology of contemporary bias. Our examination of this violence through the lens of the mind sciences reveals that it is an inevitable and foreseeable consequence of current policing strategies and culture, even in the absence of institutional and individual racial animus. These practices, such as stops and frisks, create an environment that nurtures the unconscious racial biases and self-threats that can lead even consciously egalitarian officers to be more likely to use force disproportionately against Black suspects relative to suspects of other races. This Essay argues that if the state is to take seriously the project of protecting citizens from violence, then it must contend with the role of both unconscious racial biases and self-threats in producing racially disparate violence. Although one way to achieve this is to change existing legal doctrines to account for the pernicious effects of these psychological processes, our focus is examining ways to transform current policing strategies to better protect citizens from racial violence.


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