FSU Study on Racial Bias in Police Decision

A controversial study out of Florida State University examines if race is a factor in a police officer's decision to shoot or not shoot a suspect.

An area police captain says race isn't a factor at all. Research conducted by FSU psychology professor Ashby Plant finds police officers more likely to mistakenly shoot an unarmed black suspect than an unarmed white suspect.

Results, she says, are linked to images on television.

Dr. Ashby Plant says, "We see these responses in African-American as well as European-Americans. By being exposed to our culture we develop these expectations."

Following the initial study, Plant says the participants were not told their results.

"We purposely don't say to the officers, wow, you made a lot of racist responses."

After learning of the research we asked Tallahassee Police CAPT Kelly Burke if he thinks race is a factor in an officer's decision to use force.

"No sir, no I do not,” he said.

Burke explains that fallen TPD SGT Dale Green played by the rules when he was approached and later shot by Coy Evans, an armed African-American.

Burke says, "And SGT Green could not shoot anything that came out of that door. He had to know who it was, what it was, and was it a threat to him. Coy Evans didn't play by those rules."

Burke says it's not a black or white decision and that there are many variables an officer considers before using force. CAPT Burke says similar training is conducted at the Pat Thomas Law Enforcement Academy, giving trainees a split second to either shoot or not shoot pictures of moving targets both armed and not armed.