2022 MSS Annual Meeting

Program Plenary Events



Bad Apples come from Rotten Trees: Pursuing Racial Equity in Policing

Dr. Rashawn Ray
Professor of Sociology, University of Maryland
Senior Fellow, The Brookings Institution


George Floyd’s death significantly shifted public opinion as 76% of Americans (including 71% of Whites) agreed that incidents such as the killing of Floyd are signs of racism within law enforcement. This racial awakening and acknowledgement of racism is further confirmed by police brutality inflicted onto protestors and highlighted in the killing of Breonna Taylor and the shooting of Jacob Blake. While the public outcry often includes the views of the general public, missing, especially in the academic literature, are police officers themselves as well as a proper evaluation of use of force and proposed reforms (such as defund the police). Over the past several years, Ray, along with colleagues in The Lab for Applied Social Science Research, collected interview, survey, social media, and virtual reality data with police officers, activists, and civilians. His findings show how “structural implicit bias” contributes to racial disparities in policing vis-à-vis the organizational embeddedness of racism within the origins and functions of law enforcement. Ray’s research indicates that police reforms focused on implicit bias trainings and body-worn cameras fall short because they do not address how the structural, cultural, and organizational components of policing obstruct accountability and contribute to over-policing, racial profiling, and racial disparities in policing killings. Ray concludes by discussing how a series of evidence-based policy prescriptions that focus on reallocating and shifting funding within police department budgets and innovative trainings using virtual reality technology can help transform policing in America.


Dr. Rashawn Ray is a David M. Rubenstein Fellow at The Brookings Institution and Professor of Sociology and Executive Director of the Lab for Applied Social Science Research (LASSR) at the University of Maryland, College Park. He is also one of the co-editors of Contexts Magazine: Sociology for the Public. Formerly, he was a Robert Wood Johnson Foundation Health Policy Research Scholar at the University of California, Berkeley. 

Ray’s research addresses the mechanisms that manufacture and maintain racial and social inequality with a particular focus on police-civilian relations and men’s treatment of women. His work also speaks to ways that inequality may be attenuated through racial uplift activism and social policy. Ray has published over 50 books, articles, and book chapters, and roughly 50 op-eds. His articles have appeared in the American Journal of Sociology, Science Advances, Social Science Research, Ethnic and Racial Studies, Du Bois Review, and the Annual Review of Public Health. Recently, Ray published the book How Families Matter: Simply Complicated Intersections of Race, Gender, and Work (with Pamela Braboy Jackson) and another edition of Race and Ethnic Relations in the 21st Century: History, Theory, Institutions, and Policy, which has been adopted nearly 40 times in college courses. 

Ray has written for New York Times, Washington Post, Newsweek, Business Insider, The Guardian, Huffington Post, NBC News, The Conversation, and Public Radio International. Selected as 40 Under 40 Prince George's County and awarded the 2016 UMD Research Communicator Award, Ray has appeared on CNN, BBC, CBS, C-Span, MSNBC, HLN, Al Jazeera, and NPR. He regularly testifies before Congress and at the state level on legislation related to policies on race, policing and criminal justice reform, health, and family.