UW study: Early police contact more detrimental to Black youth than white

Black youth are more likely than their white counterparts to be treated as “usual suspects” after a first encounter with police, according to a study by University of Washington researchers, leading to more arrests over time.

Researchers said they surveyed and followed up with more than 300 young people in Seattle, about half of them Black, starting in middle school through early adulthood.

“I think that’s a really important piece of this puzzle is that it’s not an individual level behavior issue,” said researcher Annie McGlynn-Wright, in an interview with KIRO 7.

According to the findings, Black children who were stopped by police by eighth grade, for any reason, have an 11 times greater chance of reporting an arrest by 20 years old than Black respondents who did not experience the same early police contact.

Researchers said young white people did not experience the same potentially life-changing outcomes, even as “significantly” more white respondents reported engaging in “some level of criminal behavior” compared to Black youth, who face more criminal consequences.

“What it appears to be is a systemic response to Black kids that differs from the response that police have to white kids,” said McGlynn-Wright.

Western Washington Gets Real speaks to University of Washington researchers about the findings and hears from local nonprofits working to help Black youth navigate “urban landmines.”