There it is again. A video – often graphic – showing a police officer shooting and killing a man or holding him down while his colleagues in blue look on. And often, the man who dies is black. It is painful to watch, and it cannot help but raise questions in the mind of the viewer. Every week, it seems, a new one appears on the evening news, followed by protests in the town or city where it was filmed, and expressions of outrage from public officials and, often enough, the end of careers and even criminal charges against the officers.
But there is so much more. No doubt, Minneapolis Police Officer Derek Chauvin acted egregiously and likely criminally when he put his knee on George Floyd’s neck until the man died. But in so many other of these cases, from Michael Brown to the recent police shooting of Ricardo Munoz in Lancaster to even – deep breath – Breonna Taylor, there is so much the viewer does not see, and so little understanding of what the officers are doing and why they are doing it. There are rational, justified reasons the grand jury chose not to indict two officers in Taylor’s shooting. Today’s journalism, for all its benefits, is not informed by hands-on knowledge of how law enforcement professionals do their jobs, nor of the training they receive, nor of the harrowing experience of having to make life-and-death decisions in a split second. And so, the reporters, confronted by an admittedly troubling series of images, jump to conclusions.
We are retired law enforcement professionals with a combined 57 years of service, and we want to help balance the equation. We’re not saying all cops are good – though to be 100% transparent, we believe the vast, vast majority are – but we are saying that there are just too few voices in the media providing a clear-eyed interpretation of these traumatic events from a law enforcement perspective. Ours is a voice that needs to be heard in these discussions, so readers and viewers can have all the facts and make up their minds.
We believe the current reporting on the cases of black men killed by white officers is skewed. There is not some kind of compact among white officers around the nation that they want to kill black men. Statistics have been taken out of context or used to make points that, frankly, are erroneous. Hear us out. We know this is not a popular stance in the eyes of many.
Let us give you one example.
It has been reported that Blacks are killed in encounters with the police at a higher rate than white men. While police shot and killed more white men, the proportion of blacks was much higher because black people make up just 13% of the population. According to an analysis by The Washington Post, they are 2.5 times as likely as white Americans to be shot and killed by police officers when you take this into account. But here’s another number: Of those offenders who shot and killed police officers in 2019, according to FBI statistics, 31% were black – meaning that, as a percentage of the population, black people are more than twice as likely to kill police officers than white people.
We are just trying to make a point. We know that a simple statistic doesn’t prove that black people are out to get police officers; to say so would be outrageous and offensive. But by that same standard, is not the first statistic, that they are more likely to get shot by police officers, also questionable? There are just so many variables, so many nuances, so many backstories of training and experience that must inform our interpretation of these incidents. Through systemic failures in our society going back hundreds of years, many minority neighborhoods are also low-income neighborhoods, places far more likely to experience crime. And so, police officers are more likely to respond to crimes in these areas. And therefore, both the statistics listed above become, sadly, true. But race is not the guiding factor in either case.
Statistics clearly show how crime is concentrated in these low-income areas, and that as a result Black men and women make up an extraordinarily high percentage of murder victims in the United States. As we said, Blacks/African Americans make up 13% of the population. But in 2018, for example, they made up a staggering 52% of all murder victims, or 7,407 of 14,123.
Let that sink in: 13% of the population suffers 52% of the homicides. Why is there no outrage about that stunning fact?
Very few journalists have had earlier careers in law enforcement. Scrolling through NYTimes.com, for example, we see that Adam Liptak, who covers the Supreme Court, graduated Yale Law School, and practiced law for 14 years. And we see that John Ismay, who covers armed conflict, served as the gunnery officer aboard a destroyer before becoming a Navy special operations officer.
We think it makes perfect sense that an accomplished lawyer covers the Supreme Court and that an accomplished Navy man covers the military. But does The Times have any former police officers covering the police? One certainly wouldn’t hurt.
For now, let us try and bring some balance to the discussion. We decided to put this living document1 together after friends and family members asked us questions about police shootings of unarmed Black men and the narrative that Blacks are killed by police at disproportionately higher rates and police are not held accountable.
As a main focus of this paper, we are going to pick apart a story in The Washington Post that suggested that race was the major factor in the deaths of 142 unarmed Black men shot and killed by police officers in 2019. We are not singling out the Washington Post, a great newspaper in many ways, for any particular reason. Let this story stand as a proxy for all the journalism we see out there about this topic – journalism that, for reasons both innocent and deliberate, we believe to be skewed.
Police officers, and law enforcement professionals like us, have seen policing evolve over time for the better. We personally believe that police have always, willingly, welcomed dialogue. We were encouraged by law enforcements support of the provisions in Senator Tim Scott’s JUSTICE Act bill that would improve and reform police practices, accountability, and transparency. We also find hope in organizations like Project 21 who offer informed dialogue about race and reform, not to mention the grass roots type organizations that take responsibility for their communities.
But any meaningful discussion of policing in America today must address some tough issues, beginning with the high rate of homicides in the Black community. If all of the money and programs we have implemented since the 1960’s, to include community policing, hasn’t worked, then by all means, please tell us what will work? We are police officers because we want to help people. And yet – policing today involves so much more than policing. Think about the mental health aspect related to crime. How did the Cook County (IL) jail, third largest in the country, become the largest mental health facility in IL? Well, we know our lane, and will leave that discussion to the professionals trained in that field.
The data we draw upon are sources that we are familiar with and able to understand based on our law enforcement experiences. We did our best to cite our sources and unless otherwise noted, the data is presented “as is” by the respective sources. One area we all seem to agree upon is the need to improve upon data collection repositories.
This is an emotional issue. And while emotions are real, they are not truth, and to solve a problem, you first need to understand what the problem is.
As we said, we’re going to focus on a single story in The Washington Post because it goes to the heart of the manner in which so much of this information is released. Think of it as a proxy for many other stories out there.
The story states that black Americans are killed at a much higher rate than white Americans: “Although half of the people shot and killed by police are white, black Americans are shot at a disproportionate rate. They account for less than 13% of the US population but are killed by police at more than twice the rate of White Americans.”
Per WaPo: https://www.washingtonpost.com/graphics/investigations/police-shootings-database/
- Black – 42 million (US Pop), 1,295 killed (total) = 31 per million
- Hispanic – 39 million (US Pop), 900 killed (total) = 23 per million
- White – 197 million (US Pop), 2,471 killed (total) = 13 per million
- Other – 49 million (US Pop), 219 killed (total) = 4 per million
On its face, the data is shocking and the methodology of coming up with this breakdown seems to make sense. And so, the next question — What valid reason could there be for this significant disparity in rate of killings? Many immediately conclude that the disparity is because of race, a conclusion that has contributed to recent episodes of rioting, looting, and killing. This pre-supposes that people were shot because of their race. If this conclusion is in fact true, then the problem that needs to be addressed is racism — as we have heard from voices ranging from politicians to preachers.
But what if the person’s race is an important factor to consider in these police shooting incidents, but not the sole reason for them? Then the crux of the problem is not so easy to identify or solve. The question then becomes one of trying to understand what the actual problem is.
The fallacy – even the danger – of simply concluding that race is responsible for this disparity can be clearly understood by identifying other statistics related to police shooting fatalities and constructing an equation in which we blame those factors. This quickly becomes absurd.
Back to the statistic from The Washington Post. If in fact race is the underlying problem, then we should expect an analysis of the incidents to show that the only outlier (or most significant outlier) when looking at demographics is race.
But it’s not. Look at the male-female demographic. Males account for 49.2% of the U.S. population. Of the 5,424 people shot and killed by police, 5,184 were male or 96%, [WaPo (6/24/20)]. The data shows that not only are males disproportionately represented, the disparity is actually higher than the disparity we see when considering race. One could argue therefore that sexism rather than race is the underlying problem. But if we know this to be false by applying logic, it could therefore mean something else – that using total population of the United States is the wrong denominator in the race equation as well.
When the data is parsed according to age of the individual, we see that while those ages, <18-44, account for 61% of the U.S. Population; (2010 Census; https://www.census.gov/prod/cen2010/briefs/c2010br-03.pdf), they account for 70% of the individuals killed by police.
WaPo data (6/24/2020)
Of the 5,424 people shot and killed by police since Jan. 1, 2015
Sex: Male, 5,184 of 5,424 or 96%
Age: <18 – 44 of 5,424 or 70%
Race: White, 2,478 of 5,424 or 46%
Black, 1,298 of 5,424 or 24%
Hispanic, 904 of 5,424 or 17%
Census data (2010)
US Population, 308,758,105
Sex: Male, 49.2%
Age: <18-44, 60.5%
Race: White (alone), 76.5%
With this data, and using just this data, we could argue that either police as a whole are sexist, ageist, and a little racist, or that using the U.S. Population as the basis for comparison is invalid. For our part, naturally, we conclude that the use of the U.S. Population is invalid. Those who choose otherwise need to explain the sex and age disparity before any valid claims to racism can be made. If we cannot use the U.S. total population as the basis for our analysis, we need to look to other population groups for a valid data-driven assessment.
Heather Mac Donald, author of “The War on Cops” (Encounter Books; 2016), comes from a conservative background and is generally pro-law enforcement. She is the Thomas W. Smith Fellow at the Manhattan Institute and a contributing editor of City Journal. That said, we think any reader will agree that she raised some valid points when she addressed this issue in an Opinion article published in The Washington Post on July 18, 2016. She proposed an alternative population. In the article, Ms. Mac Donald wrote:
“Does the actual distribution of police victims confirm the Black Lives Matter (BLM) allegation that policing is lethally biased? That depends on the benchmark chosen for assessing police actions. Typically, activists and the media measure police actions against population ratios. Given that blacks are 13 percent of the nation’s population, a 26 to 28 percent black share of police gun fatalities looks disproportionate. But policing should be measured against crime rates, not population percentages, because law enforcement today is data-driven. Officers are deployed to where people are most being victimized, and that is primarily in minority neighborhoods.”
MacDonald’s article is from 2016, and came in the wake of attention given to police shootings after Michael Brown’s death in Ferguson, MO in 2014. Yet we believe it’s still relevant now. In 2020, we are literally having the exact same discussion and debate over policing, black/African American crime, and race as we did in 2014 post-Ferguson. As an aside, but an important one, we’d like to point out that the narrative of this important touchstone in the public discussion of police use of force was skewed at the time and is still misunderstood by many today. We recommend that anyone who is not familiar with the Department of Justice’s report on what actually happened in the Michael Brown case, (vs. the false narrative of “Hands Up Don’t Shoot”), to read the department’s stunning report.
Back to the Washington Post, which says: “Despite the unpredictable events that lead to fatal shootings, police nationwide have shot and killed almost the same number of people annually — nearly 1,000 — since The Post began its project. Probability theory may offer an explanation. It holds that the quantity of rare events in huge populations tends to remain stable absent major societal changes, such as a fundamental shift in police culture or extreme restrictions on gun ownership.”
People killed by Police: https://www.washingtonpost.com/graphics/investigations/police-shootings-database/
The Washington Post only documents shootings in which a police officer, in the line of duty, shot and killed a civilian. Since Jan. 1, 2015 – 5,424 people shot and killed by police.3
NOTE: When we searched the Washington Post’s database for ANNUAL data, the percentage result provided for that respective year was based on the total number of people shot/killed since Jan. 1, 2015. We specifically searched the database for White, Black and Hispanic. Also, a Weapon is listed as a Gun, Knife, Vehicle, Toy Weapon, Other, Unarmed, and Unknown.
But the numbers can’t be the only judge. The details of the specific incidents must be considered. In the unarmed cases, The Washington Post does not include information about the event or the circumstances that led to the shooting of the unarmed individual. This creates an image in the reader’s head of a simple encounter in which an officer shoots someone with no motivation. Also, this graphic does not address whether or not the police officers in the unarmed shootings were disciplined, whereas three were. By not mentioning it, the paper gives the impression that they were not. Indeed, it is an ongoing narrative that police officers are never charged when they take a life, and this is simply not true. We looked up news articles/video footage about each of the 2019, 14 black unarmed cases. Synopsis as follows:
Of the 145 cases in 2019 where unarmed blacks were killed, fives cases involved attacks/fight/struggle with the officer prior to the shooting, one was a domestic/standoff/threats to kill the police; one was a drug search warrant; one was an arrest warrant for an armed robbery, one involved a vehicle as a weapon, and one case, in which the suspect was not able to be verified as an unarmed black but still included, was a police chase of a car identified in a shooting the prior weekend. In three of the 14 cases, officers were charged. Also, even though they are listed as unarmed, at least two of the shooting victims had loaded weapons in their vehicles; we’d contend that, therefore, they should have been considered armed. Synopses as follows:
- Jimmy Atchinson, was shot/killed by Atlanta, GA Police Officer Sung Kim (M/Asian). On 1/22/2019, Officer Sung, was part of an FBI task force, serving a warrant for Atchinson who was wanted for an armed robbery. Atchinson fled from the officers on foot and hid in another building/apartment. As Atchinson was emerging from the closet Officer Sung claimed he thought Atchison was holding a weapon and shot Atchinson. Officer Sung retired from the PD 11/2019.
- Gregory Griffin, was shot and killed by Officer Jovanny Crespo (M/W) during a car chase in Newark, N.J. On 1/28/2019, Griffin fled from a traffic stop after another officer reported seeing a gun in the car. Officer Crespo claimed Griffin tried to run him over and he saw one of the 2 men in the car point a gun at him. Later, a gun was found inside the vehicle, but Officer Crespo was indicted/charge/arrested with Aggravated Manslaughter.6
- Kevin B. Mason, was shot/killed by Baltimore PD officer John Johnson. On 3/24/19, Officers (1 Black, 1 White) responded to a 911 domestic call by a female who said, “he beat me up, he choked me in the house.” A standoff ensued, with Mason barricaded inside the residence. While Mason did not have a gun, he claimed to have a gun, threatened to kill the police on his property. Mason had a previous shooting encounter w/police years before. https://foxbaltimore.com/news/local/city-police-release-body-camera-footage-in-police-involved-shooting
- Marzues Scott, shot/killed by Officer LeAnn Norman (F/W). On 4/7/2019, in Blytheville, AR, Scott assaulted a shop employee. Officer arrived on scene, gave orders for Scott to get into police car, Scott charged Officer Norman, knocked her to the ground; Scott was shot/killed, all on bodycam, Officer Norman not charged. https://www.wmcactionnews5.com/2019/05/02/blytheville-police-releasing-details-officer-involved-shooting-investigation/
- Marcus McVae, shot/killed by Texas DPS Trooper (Unidentified). On 4/11/2019, in Boerne, TX, Trooper conducted a traffic stop of McVae & female passenger. McVae had past criminal history, Agg Robbery Conviction, and an outstanding warrant for drug dealing. McVae fled on foot into a wooded creek bed, a struggle ensued w/TX DPS Trooper, and TX DPS Trooper shot/killed McVae during struggle, TX State Trooper not charged. https://www.chron.com/news/local/crime/article/Texas-DPS-identifies-man-killed-by-trooper-after-13769197.php
- Isaiah Lewis, tasered/shot/killed, by 2 Edmond, OK police officers. On 4/29/19, 911 calls about a potential domestic violence and neighborhood disturbance by Lewis. As police arrived, Lewis had fled, stripped his clothes off, ran through the neighborhood, and broke into a house. The police tased Lewis, but Lewis kept attacking; police shot him. Neither officer was charged.
- Kevin Pudlik, was shot killed by Detroit Police Officers. (Listed as M/B, but we are unable to verify if Pudlik was Black.) On 6/3/19, Pudlik was a passenger in a vehicle that was involved in a shooting the weekend prior in Detroit, MI. Police attempted to pull over the car, which was driven by Christopher Cavin (M/W), when the car fled and a chase ensued. Police spun the vehicle out twice, but as officers attempted to arrest Cavin, Cavin tried to pin an officer between the car and a concrete wall and then tried to speed off. Officers shot at the car. Two loaded guns were recovered on the front passenger floorboard of the car, along w/cocaine and ecstasy. One of the guns was connected to the shooting the weekend prior. Cavin was charged w/ second degree murder for Pudlik’s death.7
- Ryan Twyman, shot/killed by 2 Los Angeles County Deputies. On 6/6/2020, 2 Los Angeles County Deputies went to Twyman’s resident to find him, saw Twyman in vehicle and approached the vehicle on foot, Twyman backed his car into a Deputy, both Deputies fired on the vehicle, shot/killed Twyman, neither Deputy charged. Twyman was a convicted felon, on probation and wanted for illegal possession of guns. https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=91scf0vNs-k
- Josef Richardson, was shot/killed by West Baton Rough Parish Sheriff’s Deputy Vance Matranga (M/W) in Port Allen, LA. On 7/25/2019, Deputy Matranga was part of a task force executing a no-knock search warrant for drugs at a local motel where an informant had purchased drugs and seen Richardson w/a weapon. After entry, Richardson did not comply w/police commands and when Richardson jerked his hand from his waistband turning toward another Deputy, Deputy Matranga thought he saw a gun and shot Richardson. After an investigation, Matranga was not charged. https://www.wafb.com/2020/03/24/josef-richardson-killing-wbr-deputy-wont-be-charged/
- Channara Tom Pheap, shot/killed by Officer Dylan Williams (M/W). On 8/26/2019, in Knoxville, TN, Pheap attacked/choked, Officer Williams, used the officer’s taser on the officer, 5 corroborating witnesses, Officer Williams not charged. https://www.knoxnews.com/story/news/crime/2019/11/07/knoxville-police-officer-justified-killing-philly-pheap-da-says/2518165001/
- Melvin Watkins, shot/killed by East Baton Rouge, LA Deputy James Hammet (M/W). On 9/14/2019, family members called police to escort Watkins from a family party after Watkins had an argument w/another man at the party. As Deputy Hammet arrived, Watkins was attempting to leave and allegedly drove at Deputy Hammet at a high rate of speed. Deputy Hammet shot at the car and killed Watkins. Watkins death ruled homicide. Deputy later resigned. https://www.theadvocate.com/baton_rouge/news/crime_police/article_29fd8e80-d8d8-11e9-bfbf-5f5fe12b2d13.html
- Atatiana Jefferson, shot/killed by a Ft. Worth Deputy, Aaron Dean (M/W). On 10/12/2019, a neighbor called a non-emergency number after seeing Jefferson’s door open, thinking something might be wrong. Police arrived, Jefferson, while holding a gun, saw the police approach from the window. According to bodycam footage, Deputy Dean shot Jefferson through the window w/in seconds. On 12/20/19, Deputy Dean was indicted for murder. https://www.star-telegram.com/news/local/fort-worth/article238589998.html
- Christopher Whitfield was shot and killed by Deputy Glen Simms (M/B) in Ethyl, LA. On 10/14/2019, 2 Deputies responded to a burglar alarm at a gas station, an employee alleged that Whitfield was trying to steal raw chicken & eggs from an outdoor cooler. Deputy Simms said his weapon discharged accidentally while grappling with Whitfield. Deputy Simms faced a grand jury, but was not charged. https://www.wbrz.com/news/grand-jury-clears-east-feliciana-deputy-who-shot-and-killed-fleeing-thief/
- Michael Dean was shot and killed by Temple, TX Officer Carmen DeCruz (M/W). On 12/2/2019, during a traffic stop for a minor violation, Officer DeCruz reached into Dean’s vehicle with his left hand to gain control of Dean’s car keys, when Officer DeCruz’s right hand, finger on the trigger, discharged, killing Dean. Officer DeCruz was charged/arrested/indicted for Manslaughter. https://www.kcentv.com/article/news/local/temple-officer-charged-with-manslaughter-in-michael-dean-death/500-e304f89f-f5df-48ff-ba2c-4adf8ae86746
The data for this section, Murder and Crime, nationwide, was derived from FBI Uniform Crime Reporting (UCR).
MURDER VICTIMS BY GENDER AND RACE
2018, FBI UCR, (Most recent)
- Total Murder Victims, 14,123
- GENDER: Males, 10,914 (77%), Females, 3,180 (23%)
- Whites, 6,088 (43%). White males, 4,255 (30%).
- Black/African Americans, 7,407 (52%). Black/African American males, 6,237 (44%).
Therefore, for what it’s worth, for every one unarmed, Black/African American shot to death by police in 2019, more than 617 were murdered by someone else, (using Washington Post data and 2018 FBI UCR murder victim data, 128 X 617 = 7,404).
For every one unarmed Black/African American shot to death by police in 2018, more than 320 were murdered by someone else (using Washington Post data and 2018 FBI UCR murder victim data, 23 X 320 = 7,360).
CRIMES COMMITTED BY GENDER AND RACE
2018, FBI UCR, (Most recent)
- Nationwide, Law Enforcement made an estimated 10,310,960 arrests
- GENDER: Based on total arrests of 7,811,085 reported (offense was charged)
- Male – 5,684,385 (72.8%)
- Female – 2,126,700 (27.2%)
- RACE: Based on total arrests of 7,710,900 reported (offense was charged)
- White – 5,319,654 = 69% of total arrests
- Black/African American – 2,115,381 = 27.4% of total arrests
- GENDER: Based on total arrests of 7,811,085 reported (offense was charged)
- Of adults arrested for murder, 53% were black, 44.4% were white
NOTE: Blacks make up 13% of the population, Whites (not-Hispanic/Latino) make up 61% of the population; https://www.census.gov/quickfacts/fact/table/US/PST045219
COMBINED STATE & FEDERAL IMPRISONMENT, 2008-2018
USDOJ, Office of Justice Programs, Bureau of Justice Statistics;
- In 2018, the combined state and federal imprisonment rate (431 sentenced prisoners per 100,000 U.S. residents) was the lowest since 1996.
- The total imprisonment rate fell 15% from 2008 to 2018.
- From 2008 to 2018, the imprisonment rate dropped 28% among black residents, 21% among Hispanic residents, and 13% among white residents.
- In 2018, the imprisonment rate of black residents was the lowest since 1989.
POLICE OFFICERS KILLED IN THE LINE OF DUTY
2019, FBI Uniform Crime Reporting (UCR), (Most recent), https://ucr.fbi.gov/leoka/2019
- 48 officers feloniously killed in the line of duty, 44 of which were killed w/firearms & 4 w/vehicles.
- 40 white
- 7 black
- 1 Asian
- Of the 49 offenders identified in killing the 48 officers
- 28 of the offenders were white (58% – 28/48)
- 15 offenders were black/African American (31% – 15/48)
- 48 officers killed in the line of duty is more than the number of unarmed white males (25) and unarmed blacks (14) shot/killed by police combined (39).
- In 2019, a police officer is more likely to be killed by a male black than an unarmed male black is to be killed by a police officer; 48 divided by 250 blacks shot/killed by police (Washington Post) = 19%. Again, we cite this data to prove a point: numbers don’t tell the whole story. Just as the number of black men shot and killed by police does not prove that all police officers are out to kill black men, so too does this statistic not prove or even suggest that all black men are out to kill police officers. But a disingenuous advocate or reporter could use these numbers to support that argument.
CONTACTS BETWEEN POLICE AND THE PUBLIC, 2015 (Most recent)
USDOJ, Office of Justice Programs, Bureau of Justice Statistics; http://www.bjs.gov/index.cfm?ty=pbdetail&iid=6406
- The portion of U.S. residents age 16 or older who had contact with the police in the preceding 12 months declined from 26% in 2011 to 21% in 2015, a drop of more than 9 million people (from 62.9 million to 53.5 million).
- The number of persons experiencing police-initiated contact fell by 8 million (down 23%), the number of persons who initiated contact with the police fell by 6 million (down 19%), and the number experiencing contact from traffic accidents did not change significantly.
- Whites (23%) were more likely than blacks (20%) or Hispanics (17%) to have contact with police.
- Police were equally likely to initiate contact with blacks and whites (11% each) but were less likely to initiate contact with Hispanics (9%).
- NOTE: Contacts between public and police, estimated at 50 million per year. The portion of U.S. residents age 16 or older who had contact with the police: http://www.bjs.gov/index.cfm?ty=pbdetail&iid=6406
As we researched information for this paper, we found an Editorial article on police and race that we had saved from 2018. The article, “Fighting Anti-Police Propaganda,” written by Jeffrey Higgins, is still relevant today.
In the Higgins article was a link to a 2016 study by Harvard Professor of Economics, Roland G. Fryer. In addition to the 2016 study, Fryer also wrote a second paper about race and police shootings and we list the links to both papers here:
- Roland G. Fryer, An Empirical Analysis of Racial Differences in Use of Force. Journal of Political Economy. Forthcoming. Published 2016;
“This paper explores racial diﬀerences in police use of force. On non-lethal uses of force, blacks and Hispanics are more than ﬁfty percent more likely to experience some form of force in interactions with police. Adding controls that account for important context and civilian behavior reduces, but cannot fully explain, these disparities. On the most extreme use of force – oﬃcer-involved shootings – we ﬁnd no racial diﬀerences in either the raw data or when contextual factors are taken into account. We argue that the patterns in the data are consistent with a model in which police oﬃcers are utility maximizers, a fraction of which have a preference for discrimination, who incur relatively high expected costs of oﬃcer-involved shootings.”
2. Roland G. Fryer, Reconciling Results on Racial Differences in Police Shootings. American Economic Review (Papers and Proceedings) Forthcoming. Dated May 2018;
“The time has come for a national reckoning on race and policing in America. But the issues are thorny, and the conclusions one can draw about racial bias are fraught with difficulty. The most granular data suggest that there is no bias in police shootings (Fryer (forthcoming)), but these data are far from a representative sample of police departments and do not contain any experimental variation. We cannot rest. We need more and better data. With the advances in natural language processing and the increased willingness of police departments to share sensitive data, we can make progress. For those of us who desire a more perfect union, police use of force has become our Gettysburg. Of course, black lives matter as much as any other lives. Yet, we do this principle a disservice if we do not adhere to strict standards of evidence and take at face value descriptive statistics that are consistent with our preconceived ideas. ‘Stay Woke’ – but critically so.”
3. Barry Latzer, emeritus professor, John Jay College of Criminal Justice, CUNY, The Need to Discuss Black on Black Crime, Dated December 2019.
4. Glenn Loury, Merton P. Stoltz Professor of the Social Sciences and Professor of Economics, Brown University, sat down w/Peter Winkler, U.S. Correspondent for the Swiss daily newspaper; “Turmoil in the United States over police violence is the result of a distorted representation of the problem, says Brown University economist Glenn C. Loury. According to Loury, an African-American, the “empty thesis of racism” distracts us from the real problems of black Americans,” dated June 11, 2020.
CONCLUSION: Data can lie, or at least it can mislead. To take a single number – the proportion of unarmed African American men shot and killed by police officers as a percentage of the population – is to do a serious issue a big disservice. Yet this number sparks outrage. Where is the outrage at the outrageously high percentage of African Americans who are killed in crimes overall? In addition, the national media has accepted the assumption the police are never prosecuted in these incidents, when in fact they often are. We believe we have shown in this paper that we need more data, and that the data must always be reviewed in context. For example, “no knock” search warrants. It is our experience that they are used infrequently, but the data to prove or disprove that is not available. If a high percentage of crimes occur in minority neighborhoods, and thus a high percentage of police calls are directed to these neighborhoods, it stands to reason that those involved in encounters with officers will skew minority. We need to address the tragic underpinnings in our society that result in these facts, not defund and punish those officers who try to protect the people who live in these areas, too often with their lives.
Since we wrote this paper, we have received and located updated articles that have been written relevant to this subject matter;
- Coleman Hughes, dated June 14, 2020; Stories on Data. Reflections on Race, Riots and Police
- Roland G. Fryer, dated June 22, 2020; What the Data say about Police. There are racial differences in nonlethal force, but not in officer-involved shootings.
- Interview with Coleman Hughes; dated June 30, 2020; INTERVIEW: Coleman Hughes on Police Reform, BLM, And Why Data Matters.
- Heather Mac Donald, dated July 3, updated July 6, 2020; There is no epidemic of fatal police shootings against unarmed Black Americans (+ link to a new academic Devi/Fryer working paper in the article).
- Jeffrey Higgins, dated June 26, 2020; Enough of the lying – just look at the data. There’s no epidemic of racist police officers killing Black Americans.
Since we have both worked in Chicago, we thought it would be interesting to demonstrate how the data from Chicago mirrors that of the national data.
In addition, we took the Chicago data from 2011 and compared it to the 2018 data to show that the numbers are exactly the same and haven’t changed in 7 years. Why? Not enough money, not enough programs? Policing has changed during that time because overall crime has gone down nationwide. It’s also gone down in part due to law enforcement being proactive. In 2018, the imprisonment rate of black residents was the lowest since 1989. And yet the numbers of Black-on-Black crime remains the same. Why?
CHICAGO HOMICIDES/MURDERS AS A MICROCOSM
2018, FBI UCR, (Most recent), Crime in US by Metropolitan Statistical Area; https://ucr.fbi.gov/crime-in-the-u.s/2018/crime-in-the-u.s.-2018/topic-pages/tables/table-6 *2018/City of Chicago, IL – 563 murders, Population 2,719,151
The last Chicago Police Department (CPD) Murder Analysis Report available on the CPD website is 2011; https://home.chicagopolice.org/wp-content/uploads/2014/12/2011-Murder-Report.pdf
- In 2011, 433 homicides, there were 128 (29%) corresponding prosecutions.
- Victims: 83.4% of deaths were from shootings, 6.7% stabbings, and 6.5% assaults.
- Of the 362 firearm homicides, 351 (97%) were from handguns.
- Victims Gender:
- 390 Males (90%)
- 43 Females (10%)
- Victims by Age, 17-35: 310 (72%)
- Ages 17-25, 196 (45%), Ages 26-35, 114 (26 %)
- Victims by Race: Black – 326 (75.3% of total homicides), Hispanic – 82 (18.9%), White – 20 (4.6%)
- 2010 Census, Chicago Demographics; Black/African American 30%, Hispanic/Latino 29%, White alone 49.4%; https://www.census.gov/quickfacts/fact/table/chicagocityillinois/POP010210
- Victims: 83.4% of deaths were from shootings, 6.7% stabbings, and 6.5% assaults.
- Total number of Offenders: 173
- Offenders by Gender: 153 Male (88%)
- Offenders by Age, 17-35: 136 (79% of 173 total Offenders)
- Ages 17-25, 91 (53%), Ages 26-35, 45 (26%)
- Offenders by Race: Black – 122 (71% of 173 Offenders), Hispanic – 42 (24%), White – 6 (3%)
In 2011, 75% of the 433 murders in Chicago, the Victims were Black.
In 2011, those that committed the 433 murders, 71% were Black.
In 2011, the predominant Age group of Victims, ages 17-35, is also notable at 72%.
In 2011, the predominant Gender group were Male victims at 90%.
In 2011, 77% of all homicide victims had a prior arrest history.
In 2011, 87% of all homicide offenders had a prior arrest history.
CHICAGO HOMICIDES/MURDERS AS A MICROCOSM (CONTINUED)
The latest CPD Annual Report available on the CPD website is 2018; https://home.chicagopolice.org/statistics-data/statistical-reports/annual-reports/
- In 2018, 565 homicides, (pg. 49-56), corresponding prosecutions not located w/in the report, however there were a reported 326 arrests for murder in 2018.
- Victims: 84% of deaths were from shootings, 8.5% stabbings, and 4.95% assaults/blunt force injury
- Victims by Gender:
- 485 Males (86%); Black – 392 (80% of total males), Hispanic – 67 (14%), White – 23 (5%)
- 77 Females (13.7%); Black – 57 (74% of total females), Hispanic – 10 (13%), White – 9 (12%)
- Victims by Age: ages 18-40, 409 (72%). Average Age is 32, Most Common Age is 26.
- 18-21; 78 (13.81%), 22-30; 190 (33.63%), 31-40; 141 (23.19%)
- Victims by Race: Black – 449 (79.89% of total homicides), Hispanic – 77 (13.7%), White – 32 (5.69 %)
- 2019 Census, Chicago Demographics; Black/African American 30%, Hispanic/Latino; 29%, White alone 49.4%; https://www.census.gov/quickfacts/chicagocityillinois
- Total number of Identified Offenders: 159
- Offenders by Gender: unable to locate this data w/in this report as related to homicides
- Identified Offenders by Age: ages 18-40: 118 (84% of 159 total Identified Offenders)
- 18-21; 18 (11.32%), 22-30; 66 (41.51%), 31-40; 34 (21.38%)
- Offenders by Race: unable to locate this data w/in this report as related to homicides
In 2018, 79.89% of the 565 homicides in Chicago, the Victims were Black.
In 2018, those that committed the 565 murders, XX% were Black. (Unable to locate data w/in the report)
In 2018, the predominant Age group of Victims, ages 18-40 is also notable at 84%.
In 2018, the predominant Gender group were Male victims at 86%.
In 2018, 80.88% of homicide victims had prior criminal records, and 19.12% of homicide victims had no prior criminal record.
In 2018, 92.45% of homicide offenders had prior criminal records, and 7.55% of homicide offenders had no prior criminal records.
Maps for Homicide (Murder) and Shooting Incidents by Police District, pages 54 & 58 reflect violence concentration in poor/minority communities.
NOTE: We also reference data below from a website called HeyJackass.com. HeyJackass provides real time crime data in Chicago. Chicago Mayor Lori Lightfoot also referenced HeyJackass data in a podcast interview with Chicago Tribune Reporter, John Kass, The Chicago Way, Ep. 191 (37:30), posted May 31, 2019, “…they do a really good job and have accurate information…”
- 2020 – 309 homicides, year to date (6/24/2020)
- 1 person is shot every 2 hours 37 minutes.
- 1 person is murdered every 13 hours 38 minutes
- 2019 – 519 (or 514) homicides
- 461 by gunshot (89%)
- 452 were males (87%)
- 468, age <12-54 (90%)
- 415 Black Victims (80%), 36 Black Assailants*
- 73 Hispanic (14%), 9 Hispanic Assailants*
- 25 White/Other (5%), 6 White Assailants*
*Race of assailant unknown until arrest (Note Homicide Clearance Rate below.)
2019 Census, Chicago Demographics; Black/African American 30%, Hispanic/Latino; 29%, White alone 49.4%; https://www.census.gov/quickfacts/chicagocityillinois
- Homicide Clearance Rate 12.2% (See heyjackass.com for more info. about Clearance Rate.)
- 439, No Suspect charged
- 61, Suspects charged
- Violence is concentrated in the poor/minority communities, view map; https://heyjackass.com/2019-deadliest-hoods/
1Data for this paper was collected on 6/23/2020, updated 7/15/2020, reviewed/updated 12/3/2020.
2A review of the Washington Post database on 12/3/2020, reflected an updated number of 12 unarmed blacks shot after it was determined that Gregory Griffin was armed and Kevin Pudlik’s race as white, not black.
3Data for this paper was collected on 6/23/2020, updated 7/15/2020, reviewed/updated 12/3/2020.
4A review of the Washington Post database on 12/3/2020, reflected an updated number of 12 unarmed blacks shot after it was determined that Gregory Griffin was armed and Kevin Pudlik’s race as white, not black.
5A review of the Washington Post database on 12/3/2020, reflected an updated number of 12 unarmed blacks shot after it was determined that Gregory Griffin was armed and Kevin Pudlik’s race as white, not black.
6On 12/3/2020, a review of the Washington Post database now reflects Gregory Griffin as “armed” not “unarmed.”
7On 6/23/2020, we submitted a request to the Washington Post to verify the race of Kevin Pudlik. On 12/3/2020, we received an email that the item was fixed, meaning the database now reflects the race of Kevin Pudlik as white, not black. We reviewed the database and found the data had been updated accordingly.
8A review of the Washington Post database on 12/3/2020, reflected an updated number of 12 unarmed blacks shot after it was determined that Gregory Griffin was armed and Kevin Pudlik’s race as white, not black.