Black troops more likely to be punished, says study

Racial disparities may play out in military discipline, according to a study that finds that black U.S.
By Jason Spencer | Jun 09, 2017
Racial disparities may play out in military discipline, according to a study that finds that black U.S. service members face punishments at up to twice the rate of their white peers. The study found the Marines to have the widest disparities, and that the disparities had increased in recent years, but it concluded that black personnel in every branch of the armed forces were subject to punishments at lopsided rates of occurrence.

The Pentagon has promised to review the report, which was released by Protect Our Defenders, a military-justice advocacy group. The group based its study on analyses of Pentagon data spanning 2006 to 2015. The data indicated that on average, black Marines were 2.6 times more likely than whites to incur a "guilty" verdict at a general court martial.

Black Air Force personnel are also being disproportionately punished at increasing rates, the study found: Black Air Force personnel were 71% more likely than their white peers to face court-martial or nonjudicial punishments.

"From the findings of the study, race appears like it plays a big role, which is disheartening," Don Christensen, president of the group and a former top prosecutor for the Air Force, said in an interview. "It seems to have a sizable role in determining if somebody's going to go to court or receive non-judicial punishment."

Christensen added that he does not know what may be fueling the disparities. But he noted a lack of diversity in military leadership ranks and suggested that it may be a factor: In 2016, only 8% of military officers were black.

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