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Can Black Women Police Chiefs Decrease Urban Violence in Certain Situations?

Cities with Black Women Police Chiefs Experienced Significantly Lower Levels of Violence, Researchers Found

By , Lecturer at the Graduate School of Management, University of California, Davis, and , Associate Professor of Management and Human Resources,

Black Lives Matter protests in cities with Black women police chiefs experienced significantly lower levels of violence 鈥 from both police and protesters 鈥 than cities with police chiefs of other racial backgrounds and gender, according to our newly published paper.

Our study also raises questions about how these findings about Black women at a time of Black protest might be applied to other civic leaders鈥 handling of demonstrations from different types of social movements.

After on May 25, 2020, the Black Lives Matter movement surged. Advocating for social justice, the movement galvanized across thousands of cities in all 50 states. Most demonstrations were peaceful, but others were not, and city police chiefs had the job of dealing with street violence. In some communities, they engaged in dialogue with protesters; in others, .

Our research included analyzing 11,540 protests that occurred between May 25 and Aug. 29, 2020, in 3,338 cities, spanning 1,481 counties and all 50 states. To ensure robustness and eliminate bias, we measured violence based on an independent categorization of violence, protest event descriptions, numbers of arrests and severity of the charges. We also researched the gender and racial background of the local police chief.

Our analysis, published in the Journal of Management, found that tended to be relatively peaceful.

Consider, for instance, Black female Chief Catrina Thompson in Winston-Salem, North Carolina, who chose dialogue over force. She with the Black Lives Matter cause and affirmed that peaceful protests could spur change without destroying the city.

By contrast, a protest in Lincoln, Nebraska, in late May 2020 saw a group of protesters , which resulted in police officers 鈥 in a department led by white male Chief Jeff Bliemeister 鈥 firing pepper spray, tear gas and rubber bullets.

This and other research has found that through their personal and professional experience as they rise through the ranks of a traditionally male, white profession, Black women tend to develop a strong understanding of racial dynamics and use their knowledge to devise flexible strategies.

Of course, not all Black women lead in exactly the same ways, but they tend to share similar experiences that can help foster peaceful outcomes in times of social unrest.

Why it matters

Amid a backdrop of widespread protests and calls for social justice, between police and demonstrators.

The study highlights the significance of having diverse leadership voices and the importance of recognizing and elevating individual identities. Despite a rise in the appointment of Black police chiefs over the past decade, in law enforcement leadership positions. This research highlights the value to society of including diverse perspectives and leadership approaches informed by the intersections of people鈥檚 identities.

What still isn鈥檛 known

Despite these insights, several questions remain unanswered. We do not yet know the specific way in which the leadership of Black women police chiefs translates into lower violence levels. We suggest the mechanism is a complex result of their communication strategies, community engagement practices and decision-making processes 鈥 but we do not know which has the most influence.

Our study also raises questions about how these findings about Black women at a time of Black protest might be applied to other civic leaders鈥 handling of demonstrations from different types of social movements.

What鈥檚 next

The study paves the way for more in-depth research into how 鈥 affect leadership approaches and outcomes across various professions, not just law enforcement.

Ongoing research efforts 鈥 our own and others鈥 鈥 are directed at better understanding how people鈥檚 identities inform their leadership styles and how they handle conflict. Future studies are also needed to explore how organizations and communities can better support Black women and promote them into leadership roles, ensuring their perspectives and skills benefit society as a whole.

The is a short take on interesting academic work.

This article is republished from under a Creative Commons license. Read the .

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