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Wednesday, September 3, 2014

Do white police officers shoot black suspects more than others?

Turns out we don't know, or at least says an article in the New York Times.

Here is how the article begins:

"IF anything good has come out of this month’s fatal shooting of Michael Brown in Ferguson, Mo., it is that the death of the black teenager shined a spotlight on the plague of shootings of black men by white police officers. And maybe now, the nation will begin to address the racism behind it.

"That is the conventional wisdom, anyway, and maybe it is true. Only a fool would deny that racial bias still pervades aspects of American society. The evidence is clear that some police law-enforcement tactics — traffic stops, to cite one example — disproportionately target African-Americans. And few doubt that blacks are more likely than whites to die in police shootings; in most cities, the percentage almost certainly exceeds the African-American share of the population.

"Such arguments suggest that the use of deadly force by police officers unfairly targets blacks. All that is needed are the numbers to prove it.

"But those numbers do not exist. And because of that, the current national debate over the role of race in police killings is being conducted more or less in a vacuum."

And that is a good start. 

But within the article is information that allows us to draw some tentative conclusions. For example:

Here is a study:

"A more comprehensive analysis exists: Dr. Klinger and Dr. Rosenfeld, among others, examined all 230 instances over 10 years in which officers of the St. Louis police fired their weapons (the city’s police, in contrast to the police in Ferguson involved in Mr. Brown’s shooting).

"Their conclusions, presented last November at the American Society of Criminology’s annual meeting, were striking. Officers hit their targets in about half of the 230 incidents; in about one-sixth, suspects died. Of the 360 suspects whose race could be identified — some fled before being seen clearly — more than 90 percent were African-American.

"But most interesting, perhaps, was the race of the officers who fired their weapons. About two-thirds were white, and one-third black — effectively identical to the racial composition of the St. Louis Police Department as a whole. In this study, at least, firing at a black suspect was an equal-opportunity decision."

Other findings, inconsistent with this one, are mentioned in the article.

Left out are facts identified in the media book:

1) When people think of crime, they tend to think of violent street crime committed by blacks.
2) When people hear news about crime when the suspect's race is not identified, they tend to assumed it is black person.
3) Fear is higher of blacks than whites.

etc. etc. etc.

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