[...] do racially-balanced police forces actually treat their communities any more fairly than those as skewed as Ferguson’s?
From the studies that have been done, however, there’s no conclusive evidence to show that white and black police officers treat suspects differently — if anything, some of the studies show that black officers can be harder on black criminal suspects.
In 2004, for instance, criminologists found in an analysis of observational and survey data from St. Petersburg, Fla., and Indianapolis, Ind., that in resolving conflicts, “black officers are more likely to conduct coercive actions” — which could mean anything from verbal orders to physical confinement — than white officers. A 2006 study of Cincinnati police records concluded that white officers were more likely to arrest suspects than black officers overall — but it also found that black officers were significantly more likely to make an arrest when the suspect was black.
What’s more, polls show that black communities do not necessarily trust police forces more when they are more racially representative. In Washington D.C., according to a 2011 Washington Post poll, the police department got a relatively low 60 percent rating from black residents, despite the fact that the force is highly integrated. The New York Police Department’s demographics are close to those of the rest of the city, but a Quinnipiac poll from 2014 found that only 54 percent of black residents approved of its performance. The Detroit police department is so dominated by African Americans that it’s been sued for discrimination against whites, and yet only 18 percent of black Wayne County residents approved of its work in 2009.