Protest, Policy and Racial Justice: The Impact of Black Lives Matter on Policing Reforms

Awarded Scholars:
Neal Caren, University of North Carolina, Chapel Hill
Rashawn Ray, University of Maryland, College Park
Project Date:
Mar 2021
Award Amount:

Co-funded by JPB Foundation

Beginning in 2013, high profile cases involving fatal police shootings of unarmed Black men, women and children have led to grassroots protests across the country and elevated the Black Lives Matter (BLM) movement into the national spotlight. The use of deadly police force, documented by cell phone and body cameras, and circulated via social media, propelled millions to demonstrate in thousands of jurisdictions, from small towns to large cities, including majority white places, and not just areas with high rates of police violence against Black Americans. Research has documented large and persistent racial disparities in criminal justice system contact and its impact on racial inequalities in the labor market, education, health and wellbeing, income, and wealth. But less attention has focused on whether and to what extent protests and social movements like BLM have contributed to changes in policies regulating the police. Have police policies changed in response to the BLM movement, and how have protest and activism shaped these policy responses? Sociologists Kenneth Andrews, Neal Caren, and Rashawn Ray will focus on the BLM movement and its association with changes in policing policies. The study would include an analysis of police reforms in 89 cities between 2013 and 2020, and a comparative case study of eight cities. They will use datasets on protests, scraping data from Google News and the Associated Press state and local wire service, and gathering other event archival data to construct a comprehensive dataset of BLM protests, including size, tactics, and organizational infrastructure. They will also construct city-level indicators of the type, number, and density of local activist organizations and advocacy organizations focused on African Americans.


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