Complaining While Black: Racial Disparities in the Adjudication of Complaints Against the Police

Jacob William Faber, Jessica Rose Kalbfeld

Research output: Contribution to journalArticlepeer-review


Reports of citizen complaints of police misconduct often note that officers are rarely disciplined for alleged misconduct. The perception of little officer accountability contributes to widespread distrust of law enforcement in communities of color. This project investigates how race and segregation shape the outcomes of allegations made against the Chicago Police Department (CPD) between 2011 and 2014. We find that complaints by black and Latino citizens and against white officers are less likely to be sustained. We show neighborhood context interacts with complainant characteristics: Incidents alleged by white citizens in high-crime and predominantly black neighborhoods are more likely to be sustained. These findings provide context for understanding tensions between communities of color and the CPD. These results are consistent with theories that individual and institutional actors prioritize white victimhood and reflect the neighborhood effects literature stressing the interaction between individual and contextual factors in shaping outcomes.

Original languageEnglish (US)
Pages (from-to)1028-1067
Number of pages40
JournalCity and Community
Issue number3
StatePublished - Sep 1 2019

ASJC Scopus subject areas

  • Urban Studies


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