Higgins: Enough of the lying – just look at the data. There’s no epidemic of racist police officers killing black Americans.

 

 

 

By Jeffrey James Higgins

Stop the Lying

Anti-police rhetoric is spreading across the country faster than the coronavirus, because disinformation about racist police shootings fuels its transmission.

Last month, the horrific murder of George Floyd ignited protests across the country, and despite the involved officers being charged and most Americans agreeing racism and police brutality are wrong, public outrage soon expanded to condemn all police.

The shootings of Breonna Taylor, Tony McDade, and Rayshard Brooks have become symbols of racist police killings, regardless of the facts. The false narrative surrounding police shootings has caused law enforcement officers to be demonized, assaulted, and murdered.

The data is clear: There is no epidemic of racist police officers shooting and killing black Americans.

While every life is valuable, the number of blacks unjustifiably shot and killed by police is microscopic. Numerous scientific studies have proven that when behavioral, demographic, and other contextual factors are controlled, the racial disparity in police shootings disappears.

Despite these facts, politicians, activists, and the media continue to misrepresent the facts.  

It’s time to stop the lying and set the record straight. 

The Numbers

It’s rare for police to kill anyone. A black man is more likely to be killed by lightning than by a police officer. In 2019, police shot and killed 1,003 people in the US, according to the Washington Post’s Fatal Force database. Of those, 250 were black and 405 white. Police shot and killed 55 unarmed suspects, including 25 whites and 14 blacks.

Shooting an unarmed suspect can be justified if a suspect makes a furtive movement, attacks an officer, or tries to take the officer’s firearm.

Of the 14 incidents of unarmed black men shot and killed by police in 2019, several involved high-speed car chases, fights with officers, or had weapons recovered at the scene.

Every shooting needs to be evaluated on its own merits, and only one of the involved officers has been charged with murder, but for this analysis, assume all involved excessive use of force.

According to the FBI’s Uniform Crime Reporting (UCR), there were 686,665 sworn police officers in the United States in 2018. That’s one unarmed black male shot and killed for every 49,047 sworn police officers.

In 2018, police made 10,310,960 arrests, according to the FBI, and the race was known for 5.6 million offenders.

Of them, 1,548,690 (27.4%) were black. There were 229 black males shot and killed by police that year, according to the Washington Post, for a ratio of one out of every 6,762 black offenders. The ratio of unarmed black men shot and killed (23) in 2018 was one out of 67,334 black men arrested.

In 2015, about 53.5 million people had at least one contact with police, and 95% of those contacts involved traffic stops, according to the Bureau of Justice Statistics (BJS).

According to a BJS special report, 91% of whites and 85% of blacks contacted by police during traffic stops said police behaved properly. Of citizens contacted during street stops, 81% said police acted properly.  Only 2% of all citizens contacted by police experienced force, or the threat of force.

After the Ahmoud Arbery murder in Georgia, LeBron James tweeted:

“We’re literally hunted EVERYDAY/EVERYTIME we step foot outside the comfort of our homes!”

That sentiment has been repeated during the recent protests, but does it reflect reality?

According to the US census, in July 2019, an estimated 328,239,523 people resided in the US. Blacks comprise 13.4%, or 43,984,096 people. That means police shot and killed one unarmed black male out of every 3,141,721 black Americans. Does that sound like an epidemic of police murders?

The numbers of unarmed blacks shot and killed by police are so low, most Americans recognize their names. Comparatively, every year police kill a larger number of unarmed whites, but almost no one knows their names.

Why does the media ignore these shootings?

It’s true the relative percentage of blacks killed is higher than with whites, but the press does not cover the shooting of whites to the same extent, probably because it contradicts the narrative of racist police. Shootings later determined to be justified are still trumpeted as proof of racism—as with the 2014 death of Michael Brown in Ferguson, Missouri.

Even in bad shootings, there is often scant evidence of racism, because it’s difficult to determine internal motivations. It’s bad science to assume racism based solely on the disparate numbers between racial populations.

For example, a study of police shootings in 2015 showed suicidal whites were more likely to be killed by police. Are police racists against whites? Of course not.

Of the 250 blacks shot and killed by police in 2019, only six were female.

Can one assume misandry is to blame for the gender disparity? Other variables need to be considered when determining causation, such as the fact men commit most violent crime.

The media correctly report descriptive statistics showing the disparity between the percentages of blacks and whites shot and killed by police, but journalists err in their statistical analysis by ignoring confounding variables and assuming causation.

Confounding Variables

A 2019 National Academy of Sciences study found that “people of color face a higher likelihood of being killed by police than do white men and women, that risk peaks in young adulthood, and that men of color face a nontrivial lifetime risk of being killed by police.” 

The study concluded that blacks are 2.5 times more likely to be killed by police than whites, but the study’s findings do not tell the whole story, because it fails to account for confounding variables.

If any group engages in more violent crime, they will have more contact with police and a higher chance of being shot, and the black population in the US has a higher crime rate than the white population.

It’s important to note than metadata for populations does not apply to individuals within that group and can only analyze populations as a whole.

According to the FBI UCR, there were 1,186,742 incidents of violent crime in 2018, and of them, 14,123 were homicide victims.

Blacks comprised 54.9% of all homicide offenders, compared to 42.4% for whites. Blacks are 13.4% of the US population, yet they accounted for more than half of all homicides.

According to the FBI’s National Incident-Based Reporting System, 61.5% of all offenders were male, and according to the FBI UCR for 2018, 87.7% of murder offenders were male. That means approximately 6% (black males) of the population committed approximately half of the murders.

Homicide is not the only crime where the black population offends at higher rates.

According to the FBI UCR, of 7,710,00 arrests reported in 2018, blacks comprised 27.4%. Approximately 28.6% of people arrested for rape were black, 54.2% of robbery arrests, 33.7% of aggravated assault arrests, 29.4% of burglary arrests, and 30% of arrests for larceny-theft.

Black arrest rates for violent crimes are also correlated with victim descriptions of offender race. Higher crime rates within the black population increases contact with police and therefore the chance of police shootings within that community.

Median age is another confounding variable. Young men commit the vast majority of crimes.

According to the FBI UR, in 2018, people under the age of 25 accounted for large percentages of those arrested for murder (42.8%), rape (38.6%), robbery (53%), and aggravated assault (27.8). The black population in the US is younger than the white population.

According to Pew Research, in 2018, the median age for whites was 44 and the median age for blacks was 34. The most common age (mode) for whites was 58 and 27 for blacks.

Poverty is also correlated with crime. In 2018, 11.8% of US was in poverty, according to the US Census. The real median household income in 2018 was $63,179, but $70,642 for whites and $41,361 for blacks.

Another variable to consider when assessing racial disparities is single-parent homes. In 2017, 65% of black households had a single parent, compared to 24% of white households.

The more interaction a child has with a father, the less likely they are to commit a crime, according to the Minnesota Psychological Association. Children from single-parent homes are four times more likely to be in poverty and three times more likely to end up in jail by age 30.

One must also consider urban versus rural populations. Cities have significantly more crime than rural areas, with urban crime rates as much as 74% higher. According to Black Demographics, relying on 2013-2017 US Census data, most cities have black populations higher than 13.4%. Considering police concentrate in high-crime areas, the higher percentage of blacks living there may affect the rate of blacks shot by police.

Interracial crime

While blacks commit the majority of homicides, they are also the group with the highest percentage of homicide victims. According  to the 2018 FBI UCR, there were 6,460 known-race homicide victims, of which 3,315 were white and 2,925 were black.

Whites were 51% of known race homicide victims and 76.5% of the total US population, while blacks were 45% of known race homicide victims, but only 13.4% of the US. That means the homicide rate for blacks was 3.35 times their percentage of the US population, making them over five times as likely to be homicide victims.

And who is mostly responsible for murdering these high percentages of blacks? It’s not police—it’s other blacks. Most crime is intraracial, where both victims and offenders share the same race, but when violent crime is interracial, blacks commit a far higher percentage than whites.

According to a Bureau of Justice Statistics 2018 study, 15.3% of crimes against whites were committed by blacks for a total of 547,948 crimes. In contrast, whites committed 10.6% of crimes against blacks for a total of 59,777 crimes.

Despite being 13.4% of the population, blacks committed nine times more interracial crimes against whites than whites committed against blacks. If racism is the cause of interracial violence, white cops are not the problem.

Scientific Studies

A 2019 research article, published by the Proceedings of the National Academy of Sciences, detailed the findings of a study by David J. Johnson. The study analyzed fatal police shootings in 2015 and confirmed blacks, which were 12% of the population, accounted for 26% of those shot and killed by police.

But when violent crime was used as a benchmark, the anti-black disparity disappeared. The study found officers were more likely to shoot suspects of the same race, and more importantly, the number of police shootings could be predicted by race-specific violent crime rates.

The Collaborative Reform Initiative studied deadly force used by the Philadelphia Police Department from 2007 through 2013. The study determined 59% of officers involved in shootings were white and 34% were black.

In these shootings, 80% of suspects were black, and the majority were young males. Unarmed suspects were 15.4% of all people shot by police, but 25% of white suspects and 15.8% of black suspects were unarmed.

The study found the shooting of unarmed suspects was most often caused by threat perception failures or physical altercations. With black suspects, white officers had a 6.8% threat perception failure and the rate for black officers was 11.6%. The study found no significant threat perception failures among different suspect racial groups.   

A 2016 National Bureau of Economic Research study by Harvard Economics Professor Roland Fryer, analyzed racial differences in police use of force. It concluded that blacks and Hispanics were 50% more likely to experience non-lethal police use of force, but when controlling for contextual factors, the study found no racial disparity in the use of deadly force in police shootings.

The study also debunked prior claims that implicit bias affected shooting decisions.

A 2014 study in the Journal of Experimental Criminology, by Dr. Lois James, used laboratory simulations to test racial and ethnic bias in police shootings. Previous research had suggested blacks were more likely to be perceived as having weapons.

This study flashed images of people and objects, and test subjects were required to decide whether to shoot. Out of 827 scenarios, 588 of which required deadly force, unarmed subjects were shot 47 times.

Unarmed white suspects were shot 46 times and unarmed blacks were shot only once. Subjects also waited longer to shoot black suspects. The study found that “subconscious associations between race and threat exhibited by participants are not linked to shooting behavior.”

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Murdered officer's grave desecrated before headstone even placed

Unintended Outcomes

The myth of racist police shootings has many unintended outcomes. Hundreds of police officers have been injured or and killed, and many more have expressed their desire to quit.

This negative environment will likely lower the number of applicants to police academies and degrade the quality of applicants, which could result in higher levels of police criminality. Police may become less proactive, creating the “Ferguson effect.” A 2020 study questioned this theory, but that was before the recent protests and riots.

If the Ferguson effect is sustained, it will disproportionately affect minority neighborhoods.

The portrayal of police as racist thugs has increased racial tensions and distrust. The breakdown of the rule of law may lead to vigilantism, and if civil unrest continues, businesses and residents may leave cities.

Rioting in the 1960s is largely believed to have caused the phenomenon known as “white flight” from urban areas. The Kerner Commission Report, which analyzed urban riots from 1965 to 1968, warned of racial polarization. If businesses abandon urban areas, the resulting economic hardship will disproportionally damage minority communities.

The widely believed lies about racist police have also fueled an effort to defund or abolish police departments, despite only 16% of Americans agreeing with cutting financial support for police.

Many politicians define the “defund movement” as reallocating police funding to other social services, but US Representative Ilhan Omar tweeted about disbanding the Minneapolis Police Department, and Representative Alexandria Ocasio-Cortez suggested “decarceration & prison abolishment.” The Minneapolis City Council has vowed to dismantle and abolish the city police.

Conclusion

Everyone agrees excessive use of force should be eliminated On June 6, 2020, Congress introduced H.R. 7120– Justice in Policing Act of 2020 to deal with police misconduct.

The bill lowers the standard to convict police officers for misconduct, limits qualified immunity against civil action, provides addition tools to investigate patterns of discrimination, creates a national misconduct registry, and creates a framework to prohibit racial profiling at all levels.

Other constructive solutions include: Improving officer training and standards, increasing transparency and the timely release of information, enhancing shooting investigations, reevaluating carotid restraint standards, and studying the effects of both public sector unions and civilian review boards. Since each shooting must be evaluated on its own merits, the mandatory use of body cameras could provide valuable evidence.


The views and opinions expressed in this commentary are those of the author and do not necessarily reflect the official position of Citizens Journal.

The media and protesters claim the violent actions of a few rioters do not represent most of the peaceful group, yet they argue the actions of one bad officer represents the whole. This faulty reasoning needs to stop. People need to forgo emotional arguments for rational analysis, stop confusing correlation with causation, and understand the impact of confounding variables.

For too long, the demonstrably false narrative about racially motivated police shootings has been propagated by politicians, activist groups, the media, and Hollywood. The data proves when contextual variables are considered, the racial disparity in police shootings disappears. It’s time for the public to overcome their cognitive dissonance and discover the truth.

Republished with permission from the Source

Jeffrey James Higgins is a retired DEA supervisory special agent and former Hillsborough County Sheriff’s Office deputy, with 25 years of law enforcement experience. He has a Master of Science in Criminal Justice with a focus on research. Read his articles at http://JeffreyJamesHiggins.com.

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Osman

I couldn’t get very far through this article because Higgins doesn’t understand math. The very source he links about lightning deaths does NOT show that a black man is more likely to die from a lightning strike than being shot by a police officer. It’s so astronomically the other way around.

Often times his own numbers work against him. 250 blacks killed in a year and 405 white. Did you forget that black people are the minority in this country? Given that they make up no more than 15% of the total population, that’s a MASSIVE disparity. It shows blacks are indeed more likely to be shot by police than whites.

You say: “Numerous scientific studies have proven that when behavioral, demographic, and other contextual factors are controlled, the racial disparity in police shootings disappears.”

That’s flat out false. However there is a mountain of data that proves black people are being shot and killed at a disproportionate rate. Why that is the case is not so simple. It’s not necessarily straight up racist, bad cops.

https://spssi.onlinelibrary.wiley.com/doi/am-pdf/10.1111/josi.12243

Here kiddo. Take just one example of what a real, unbiased study can show us. It gives insight into some reasons the numbers are what they are, but the root cause is still difficult to pinpoint. Spoiler though: It shows black people are fucking dying from cops at worrying levels. Sheesh.

Jake Dupree

I couldn’t get far through your comment because you completely missed the point lol stay willfully ignorant sir. You cherry pick one thing you don’t like/misinterpret so you don’t have to continue reading ideas that conflict with your whimsical emotion based beliefs. Unarmed Black men are more likely to be struck by lightning that shot by a cop is clearly true if you kept reading the article. 10 times as likely to murder a white man than the other way around. And over 4 times as likely to commit murder in general. And the most damning stat of all: a 6.5% demographic of this country is commuting more than half the murders. WOW. Something needs to change. Makes me cringe hearing so many people going to such lengths to avoid the truth.

Osman

I mean, I just showed you links to actual data instead of quoting numbers that came out of my ass like you did. That is what is willfully ignorant.

And drop the “lol” shit when you hate reply. It’s juvenile. We all know people like you aren’t laughing. You’re fuming and impotent.

Tom Canales

The statement “A black man is more likely to be killed by lightning than by a police officer.” is patently false. Do your research! https://www.weather.gov/safety/lightning-fatalities19

Citizen Reporter

He should have said unarmed black man, which is what the statistics support.

leslie landberg

The number one cause of death of young blacks is abortion, followed by murder. The number one cause of death in young whites is slip and fall accidents in the home.

Mary Grace

I am confused. In your “Do the math” introduction, you wrote, “In 2019, police shot and killed 1,003 people in the US, according to the Washington Post’s Fatal Force database. Of those, 250 were black and 405 white”. I did the math: 250 + 405 = 655, not 1,003. Also, since 13% of the population is black and 250 of those killed by police are black, that means fully 25% of those killed by police are black, a 2.8 times ratio.
I sometimes wonder what would have happened if, after the end of the (un)Civil War, the newly freed people had been welcomed and really integrated lovingly into the broader society. How might that have changed life as we know it?
One might ask black men if they’d rather take their chances with lightening than with the police; certainly there are times when a shooting may be justified, but at least the lightening is never acting with malice.

cjk

You should be forced to live in the hood and send your children to school there, hypocrite.

WiserWords2

How did so many Black people end up living in the “hood”? Whites spent over 75% of this country’s history implementing, enforcing and benefiting from anti-Black racist laws and policies which oppressed Black Americans socially, educationally, financially and psychologically for generations. If whites were so superior, why did they spend so much time and energy oppressing others and now pretend those practices had NO consequences?

leslie landberg

For the past 50 years, since the passage of sweeping reforms in lending, employment and education, the biggest systematically racist program has been welfare. This has relegated the black man superfluous as a father and bread winner. This decimated the black family and caused generational poverty and crime in the black community. All things being equal, get rid of welfare and we will see a return in one generation to the glory and vitality of previous eras, where black businesses flourished and blacks amassed real wealth. The crime rate would plummet within one generation if we abolished welfare.

WiserWords2

Why did Black families need welfare if everything was going so well?

Trace Dunaway

Because democrats convinced them they did, to keep them on the plantation.

Shorty

Do you honestly think only black people and white people live in America? You know we have like hundreds of different cultures in this country right? Maybe even a thousand cultures. Some of them have different skin colors.

WiserWords2

You seem confused. The majority of people in this country were white, and Black people made up the second largest group. The dominant culture in this country was created by the racist policies and practices of white people for over 400 years.

John

I believe your disparity question in the numbers would account for deaths of other non white/non black people.

WJC

“Mary” obviously doesn’t consider Asians, Latinos, South Pacific Islanders, etc. to be people. Tsk, tsk, Mary. Lies of omission are as harmful as lies in fact.

WiserWords2

Excellent question. What WOULD have happened after emancipation, if Black Americans were allowed to live freely like whites, rather than spend the next century restricted by racist laws and polices?

One thing the author DIDN’T do, was address the disparity of unarmed Black and white people killed because the officer THOUGHT the suspect had a gun. How many white people have been shot holding a wallet or a cellphone?

Tommy

Too many.

Michael A....

Two generations. That’s all it SHOULD have taken. The fact that these problems still exists indicates two things: A purposeful desire to keep the victim narrative going (for political gain) and/or a lack of general intelligence.

WiserWords2

WHAT should have taken 2 generations? It’s only been 50 years since the Civil Rights Act was signed. Did the racist white people in power, suddenly become anti-racist the day after the act was signed? Did whites who benefitted from racist laws and policies for 75% of this country’s history, suddenly stop benefitting? Were Black Americans, the day after the act was signed, magically free from the effects of being forced into inferior schools, housing and low wage jobs for their 400 years in this country?

It would be interesting to hear your explanation on WHAT you feel should have only taken two generations and WHY. But, I have a feeling you can’t, due to your OWN lack of general intelligence.

Tommy

Also consider the millions upon millions of people who, like me, had ancestors from countries where slavery was never practiced, came into regions of the US where slavery was never practiced and arrived decades after the abolishment of slavery in the US.

leslie landberg

Stop mythologizing. It’s 2021 and we’ve had 50 plus years of Great Society innovations. Ninety percent of my family was wiped out in concentration camps. Chinese were murdered en masse after building the railroad so they didn’t have to be paid. Millions of white Europeans were enslaved for hundreds of years ( that’s where we get the word “slave” from!). You are NOT exceptional. Stop with the martyrdom already, it’s not a good look on anyone. People who make constant excuses never succeed. it’s that simple.

Barbara Dalto
Jeff Matthews

72, retired and lived in S. California all my life. Before and after the Watts riots, people told us that they could fix racism. They say the same things with fingers pointed away from the problem. To quote a very famous person “Can’t we just all get along”.

Carl Schreffler

Brother I born and raised in Southern California the intercity of Los Angeles I’m 48 We GENERATION x did kill racism in the city We are all Brothers We traded that bullshit for BROTHERHOOD I was born in TORRANCE and lived many years in Projects Harbor Hills in Lomita I have many BROTHER’S from every colors of Mother’s!

Mike Smith

“Before and after the Watts riots, people told us that they could fix racism.”

People told you they could ‘fix’ racism because they were liberals and leftists. Racism is like poverty: it cannot be erased, only minimized. It exists to whatever extent the people of the community allow it to.

“They say the same things with fingers pointed away from the problem.”

Of course! Because they are the source of the problem. No stirred-up racism, nothing to bitch about; nothing to bitch about, no victims. No victims, no ‘need’ for big government to come in and ‘help’ the victimized.

Shorty

which people?
White liberals? White conservatives? Black liberals? Black conservatives?
Politicians looking for votes?
In any case, they were probably right. We probably COULD fix racism, if we all worked together.
We dont all work together.
The Irish and the English are basically the same people and they dont get along.

Susan
Eugene

Susan, let me guess. You are a white female, 20s’, and live in an upper-middle-class neighborhood? Have you ever lived in a predominately Black community? Better yet, even considered living in such a neighborhood? I doubt it. Yet, you want to throw numbers out there like it’s the Gospel. There are numbers and then there’s reality. Being a Black male, 61 years old, having worked in law enforcement for 25+ years, and knowing the difference, until you live in a neighborhood that has drug-dealing and shootings that DON’T involve the police, I would suggest you keep your opinion to yourself…

Jesse

So your opinion is warranted because you have expertise on the issue, but Susan should keep her opinions to herself because she knows less than the expert?

If that’s how CJ worked this would be a very, very quiet message board.

Can’t have it both ways, Eugene.

Terry Dumerauf

That 13% is also doing the higher percent of crime. Now figure that in to your bias conclusion

George Johnson

Your statement “A black man is more likely to be killed by lightning than by a police officer.” is absolutely false. In 2019 only 20 people were killed by lightning according to the National Weather Service. Your article states “In 2019, police shot and killed 1,003 people in the US, according to the Washington Post’s Fatal Force database. Of those, 250 were black..”

Citizen Reporter

I think the author should have said that an UNARMED black man is more likely to be killed by lightning than by acop.

Per WIKI:
According to the NOAA, over the last 20 years, the United States averaged 51 annual lightning strike fatalities, placing it in the second position, just behind floods for deadly weather. In the US, between 9% and 10% of those struck die, with an annual average of 25 deaths in the 2010s decade (16 in 2017).

Steve Ebling

Excellent, comprehensive presentation!

John Gleason

Very well written, I am sharing this as much as I can. Truth telling is a great thing brother
Retired Ar.my 1SG

Mike Smith

The data here is for conservatives’ benefit, not leftists or liberals.

People on the Left are persuadable only through humiliation or aggression. This is the sad truth of the reality. It has always been this way.

Those who destructively act on the lie that law enforcement is a dangerous, racist institution will stop only when they are >made< to stop. This is the lesson of the 2020 riots.

Matison

What happened was inexcusable, but it was about a few bad cops. The reaction that happened then, would likely never have occurred without the help (push) of some powerful politicians and the media who write basically whatever those people desire. This was about power. About causing a great disturbance prior to an upcoming election. They were waiting for just the right excuse to incite a large untapped voter base. In several careful steps, they caused a great racial divide in our country, all in the name of gaining and maintaining power. It was about the left making sure that they would not lose in the upcoming elections, and they played most of our country in order to achieve their goals.

They tore apart decades of racial relations. We were closer than ever to achieving Dr kings dream, but they tore it apart in the pursuit of power. and they aren’t looking back. I swear: This is the truth, whether you want to believe it or not

leslie landberg

So true. It didn’t just happen, it was orchestrated for years. Whipped up. Most of those BLM saints were in fact career criminals behaving violently. Michael Brown was no gentle giant , just walking down the street peacefully, but reached in without provocation and sucker punched a cop, then tried to take his gun; Trayvon Martin wasn’t a cute, skittle-popping kid, but a thug who followed Zimmerman back to his car and attacked him and was in the process of beating him to death. This is why those guys were acquitted. The press kept the facts out of the papers on purpose. Good solid analysis. Thanks.

ann

Factual. Not emotional. Well written.

ann

Great information, thank you.