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USAFacts: Racial Disparities in Policing

A look at biases in police-related outcomes across the country, including arrests and incarceration rates, as well as crime rates by state.



The data

Data on crimes and arrests com from the FBI's Uniform Crime Reporting and was accessed through the interactive Crime Data Explorer. We included population data is from the Census and American Community Survey,  The FBI disaggregates arrest data by race, but not crime data. 

The visualization

These two dashboards show, respectively, arrest rates per 100,000 people, and crime rates across geographies. While there is much focus on crime rates, we felt it important to show both, as arrest rates tell the story of what actions law enforcement spends its time on and which communities and groups of people are pulled into the criminal justice system through an arrest.

The historical context

The data in the dashboard clearly shows that Black Americans are arrested at much higher rates than Whites. It's important recognize how biases in policing and policies that have concentrated Black people in overpoliced neighborhoods have produced these disparities. (Explore the FBI's suggestions for considerations when working with this data.)

The current implications

Simply being arrested entangles an individual into the criminal justice system, from mandatory fees, to in some cases, incarceration. All of this can adversely affect an individual’s life, and departments need to use data to assess how racism factors into who they disproportionately involve in this process.


Data Deep-Dive

Key takeaways to guide analysis

Disparities in drug arrests

Law enforcement has considerable discretion over drug arrests—and this is where some of the largest racial disparities show up

Insights into youth arrest data

Post-arrest, Black youth are far more likely to be tried as adults and given harsher sentences than White youth

Racial bias trends over time

Black arrest rates are declining since 2000, but American Indian arrest rates have slightly increased