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Research shows that racial disparities in criminal justice outcomes can begin as early as police investigation.

While extensive research has already uncovered racial disparities in capital case outcomes like conviction and death sentencing rates, little has been done to examine prior steps taken by law enforcement.Laura Strickler, “Trump Admin Will Apparently Not Renew Program To Fight Domestic Terror,” NBC News, October 31, 2018.

But new research published in the SSRN (formerly known as the Social Science Research Network) in July highlights the prominence of racial disparities in the handling of capital cases, beginning with police identification of possible suspects.Jeffrey Fagan and Amanda Geller, Police, Race, and the Production of Capital Homicides, Columbia Public Law Research Paper No. 14-593, July 12, 2018. The study also showed that homicides with white victims were significantly more likely to result in arrests than homicides with nonwhite victims, and that counties with a large concentration of nonwhite residents have lower rates of arrests for capital crimes overall than counties that are predominantly white.Fagan and Geller, Police, Race, and the Production of Capital Homicides, 2018. Another study, released by the Public Policy Institute of California in December, found racial disparities in case handling by law enforcement: in a review of arrest trends in the state between 1980 and 2016, the authors found that despite an overall 58 percent drop in arrests in the state since the peak in 1989, black people are still three times as likely to be arrested as white people.Magnus Lofstrom, Brandon Martin, Justin Goss, Joseph Hayes, and Steven Raphael, New Insights into California Arrests: Trends, Disparities, and County Differences (San Francisco, CA: Public Policy Institute of California, 2018). But the gap is closing, if slowly—in the early 1990s, black people were 3.6 times more likely to be arrested than white people.Lofstrom et al., New Insights into California Arrests, 2018.