Analysis Finds No Evidence of Anti-Minority Bias in Police Shootings

Ferguson police shooting

(AP Photo/Jeff Roberson)

A recently published analysis of police-involved shootings and race confirms something we’ve been saying for a long time. The facts don’t back up the narrative that cops are a bunch of racist thugs who love to shoot minorities for fun.

As we’ve written,

…calling cops white supremacists and slave patrols…does precisely nothing to improve the situation. If fact, to the extent that these charges cause officers to pull back from involvement and policing in minority majority areas (i.e., the Ferguson Effect) the people who will be most harmed will be blacks.

Now a study published in the Proceedings of the National Academy of Sciences bears that out. Just don’t expect these findings to get much press. They don’t inflame anyone or further the right narratives.

There is widespread concern about racial disparities in fatal officer-involved shootings and that these disparities reflect discrimination by White officers. Existing databases of fatal shootings lack information about officers, and past analytic approaches have made it difficult to assess the contributions of factors like crime.

We create a comprehensive database of officers involved in fatal shootings during 2015 and predict victim race from civilian, officer, and county characteristics.

We find no evidence of anti-Black or anti-Hispanic disparities across shootings, and White officers are not more likely to shoot minority civilians than non-White officers. Instead, race-specific crime strongly predicts civilian race. This suggests that increasing diversity among officers by itself is unlikely to reduce racial disparity in police shootings.

David J. JohnsonTrevor TressNicole BurkelCarley Taylor, and Joseph Cesario in Officer characteristics and racial disparities in fatal officer-involved shootings

Also . . .

Despite extensive attention to racial disparities in police shootings, two problems have hindered progress on this issue. First, databases of fatal officer-involved shootings (FOIS) lack details about officers, making it difficult to test whether racial disparities vary by officer characteristics.

Second, there are conflicting views on which benchmark should be used to determine racial disparities when the outcome is the rate at which members from racial groups are fatally shot.

We address these issues by creating a database of FOIS that includes detailed officer information. We test racial disparities using an approach that sidesteps the benchmark debate by directly predicting the race of civilians fatally shot rather than comparing the rate at which racial groups are shot to some benchmark.

We report three main findings: 1) As the proportion of Black or Hispanic officers in a FOIS increases, a person shot is more likely to be Black or Hispanic than White, a disparity explained by county demographics; 2) race-specific county-level violent crime strongly predicts the race of the civilian shot; and 3) although we find no overall evidence of anti-Black or anti-Hispanic disparities in fatal shootings, when focusing on different subtypes of shootings (e.g., unarmed shootings or “suicide by cop”), data are too uncertain to draw firm conclusions.

We highlight the need to enforce federal policies that record both officer and civilian information in FOIS.

comments

  1. avatar Global warming says:

    Get thee to a ‘memory-hole’, science! La-La-La-La-La-can’t year you-La-La-La!

  2. avatar Gov. William J Le Petomane says:

    I’m not a LEO but I can’t imagine being in a situation where I’d have to use my weapon in which I’d first consider the race of the person on the other side of the barrel.

    1. avatar Hannibal says:

      While some honestly believe that cops go around shooting black people for fun the more scholarly theory is that white cops’ latent racism makes them see threats where there are none among black suspects. So the idea is that a white cop seeing a black guy take a cell phone out of his pocket is, based on race, more likely to perceive it as a gun than if it were a white guy.

      1. avatar Gov. William J Le Petomane says:

        What you describe is not generally racism at all but it is pre-judging a person based on appearance. Is the black man reaching for his cell phone a well dressed black man in his 50s? I doubt he would be perceived as a threat by most officers. On the other hand a 22 year old white male with long unkempt hair and beard with a tattoo sleeve might be perceived as a threat as much as a 22 year old black male with dreds and rap music cranked up on the car stereo or a Hispanic male wearing a bandana and flashing gang related hand gestures. This is just common sense – if you go around looking like a thug you might want to avoid sudden motions around cops.

        1. avatar LibertyToad says:

          Very true. This is why there is a scientific, mathematical/statistical basis for “profiling”. Its science.

        2. avatar Hannibal says:

          Whether or not it is race or other factors is the question and not one that is easily answered since the variables are so difficult to parse out. I’d like to think that it’s all an artifact of sociological differences rather than race. Anecdotally I’ve known some cops that I bet would be faster to see a black guy as a threat, all else being equal. Well, former cop in at least once case.

    2. avatar Connie says:

      Waste of ink. Will not matter to those who wish to believe otherwise.

  3. avatar MarkPA says:

    “data are too uncertain to draw firm conclusions” This is the key sentence in the article.

    I suspect that we are looking in the wrong place when we study officer-involved shootings. These are pretty rare events (in comparison to the number of cop-v-customer contacts.) Moreover, we don’t really have great comprehensive data on these events; so, we can’t be confident that the data we have is representative. (The data are too uncertain.)

    Trying to compare white-cop to black-cop shootings probably doesn’t tell us much. If there were a racial bias against minority suspects that bias is apt to be just as strong in the minds of black cops as white.

    Do we really care whether there is racial bias in cops’ shoot/don’t-shoot decisions? Or, is our real concern that cops make these decisions in accordance with the law? If I were to be shot by a cop I want to be confident that it was a “good shoot”. That’s all I’m entitled to; and, that’s the standard to which I have to conform my behavior to minimize the chance of getting shot. (e.g., keep my hands on the steering wheel.)

    Let’s SUPPOSE there really IS apt to be bias in policing. Where is that bias apt to manifest? In a cop’s decision to shoot? I.e., in the decision CERTAIN to attract intense scrutiny? Or, in a less-than-lethal-force encounter where the cop is nearly certain to be granted the benefit-of-the-doubt? By concentrating on shootings we might be looking in the place LEAST likely to provide evidence of the phenomena of interest.

    The relationship between minority male youths and cops is poor. And, culpability for that relationship lies on both sides. There is no point in trying to pin-down the relative culpability as 60/40 or 40/60. Remediation of the relationship problem must be worked, independently, on EACH side.

    The human condition is fraught with the overwhelming propensity to do something that is counter-productive. What are police departments doing to promote counter-productive policies? What are parents doing to promote counter-productive behaviors by their sons?

    Mitigate these counter-productive behaviors, on each side, even by just a little, and there is apt to be some improvement in police/community relations. That’s better for society as a whole.

    Good-shoots (to say nothing of bad-shoots) are merely the tip of an iceberg. Reducing the tip by a few shoots per year isn’t the right target.

    1. avatar Southern Cross says:

      But how do you keep your hands on the wheel as instructed by officer 1 and get out of the car as instructed by officer 2? To get out of the car you will have to remove the seat belt and the latches are usually near the center console.

      Any attempt from the alleged suspect to clarify what instruction to follow is immediately responded with “Shut Up! Shut Up! Shut Up!”

      Issuing contradictory instructions is supposed to create confusion and maintain “command authority”. But also gives the officers an opportunity to shoot for perceived noncompliance.

      1. avatar EndDangerEd says:

        That’s what happens when EVERYBODY is in charge. Used to be the Senior officer was the ONLY ONE who gave commands and the Junior officer did whatever they were TOLD to do, cuff’em, cover’em, hold’em, etc. NOW they ALL want to be in charge and it’s getting people killed because the detainee CAN’T follow directions from TWO people… and then the chickenspit shoots them… P7 at work!! Don’t KNOW P7?? That’s Piss Poor Prior Planning Prevents Premium Performance. Lousy command structure results in lousy operations, and it’s showing up all over America. Which means the problem is Systemic, cops, Staties, County, all train from, the same manuals. Sort it out people. In Mpls a few years back a squad responded to a complaint, the Senior officer drives up and sees a lady, who had called in, she walks up to the squad to talk and the Doofus on the passenger side shoots PAST the drivers FACE and KILLS her. That officer should have been charged with MAN-1….. but wasn’t. His partner should have beat him near death for taking the chance of permanently blinding him and committing murder of an UNARMED woman. Insanity! There is NO WAY to excuse that kind of behavior. Chargem! But the saddest part is that some MORONIC screening “test” said that the rookie would make an acceptable officer, when he’s a COWARD, more focused on HIS safety then Serving OR protecting resulting in a dead woman who never hurt anyone.. P7

        1. avatar MaddMaxx says:

          He was charged with 3rd degree murder AND manslaughter…
          Somali-American Police Officer Sentenced to 12.5 Years in Death of Minneapolis Woman.. Mr. Noor’s case came to be seen by Somali-Americans as a sign of a double standard. Dozens gathered in the courthouse lobby Friday to voice displeasure with the length of Mr. Noor’s sentence, stating that they believed a white officer would have been treated differently. “Wrong Complexion For Blue Protection,” one man’s sign read.
          Murder 1 requires premeditation, did officer Noor go to that call with the intent to kill a woman he’d never even heard of before? Probably not.. The charges were an attempt to placate two groups which is sad, the thing that SHOULD have mattered was the unnecessary death of an innocent woman reaching out to law enforcement for help.. what it turned in to was a racially and politically charged circus with the significant Somali community wanting Noor let off and the white community wanting him hung.. the result was a compromise which did NOT placate either side and in terms of sentencing (in my opinion) fell short of the crime.. You get 12 yrs for murder but 20 years for obstruction of justice?

  4. avatar Greg says:

    Your headline implies there is bias in police shooting when the article leads to a different conclusion

  5. avatar FedUp says:

    The headline says “finds evidence” but the article says “found no evidence”?

  6. avatar WI Patriot says:

    When the minorities are committing the majority of crime(s) the use of deadly force appears to be, on the surface, disproportionate…when antifa is finally declared a terrorist organization, those “disproportionate” numbers will flatten out…

  7. avatar Dyspeptic Gunsmith says:

    The statistics in the UCR tell us the cold, hard facts that lots of black activists don’t want to hear.

    Those facts are this: The biggest threat to young black males is… other young black males. Full stop.

    Everything else is down in the noise. Studies like this are a complete distraction from the cold, hard, elephant-sized fact in the middle of the room.

    1. avatar Miner49er says:

      And the biggest threat to young white males is… young white males.

      Our society is failing to raise reasonable and mature young adults, and that’s the root of all these issues

      1. avatar Gov. William J Le Petomane says:

        Actually the biggest threat to young white males is themselves. Statistically blacks kill each other and whites kill themselves.

      2. avatar pwrserge says:

        Is that why the per-capita homicide rate between the two groups is off by an order of magnitude?

      3. avatar Dyspeptic Gunsmith says:

        Our society is failing to raise children correctly, and a large part of that is the fault of white liberals who used welfare and welfare incentives to break the black family.

        Before LBJ’s “Great Society,” out-of-wedlock births in the black community were about 26%. Today, they’re running about 70%. Daniel Patrick Moynihan, who was a researcher on policy in the LBJ administration, warned that this would happen with welfare policy as it was crafted by LBJ’s eggheads who basically gave financial rewards for getting the father out of the household.

        White OOW births were about 7% before LBJ’s Great Society nonsense. Now, the overall average of OOW births in the US is approaching 40% for all races in the US. If it approaches 50% for all races combined, American society will effectively be over.

        1. avatar Gadsden Flag says:

          A friend once told me that LBJ, when talking privately about the Great Society, “We’ll have their votes for $500 a month for the rest of their lives.” If it’s not true it ought to be.

      4. avatar MaddMaxx says:

        No, PARENTS are failing to raise responsible, respectful, goal oriented, reasonable, mature young men (and women)… It is NOT the job of SOCIETY (aka Hillarys takes a village) to raise YOUR kid.. The problem starts in the home and is further exacerbated in the schools by a bunch of liberals who call themselves teachers/educators that in reality are nothing more than mass produced bots created by a system that has been decades in the making and that has been slowly but surely revising history, changing attitudes and developing an even larger group of “social warriors” from the next generation.. hell they don’t even teach kids how to write anymore…

      5. avatar Southern Cross says:

        And the biggest threat to ANTIFA members is those in other factions of ANTIFA. When not fighting “fascists” they will be fighting each other over who has the correct ideology.

    2. avatar balais says:

      Absolutely true. and its now become ‘racist’ to point this data out, to boot.

      And of course, every police gun use is viewed in the most unfair and sinister way possible, with obvious racist motivations behind it. Never mind the fact that while there are many effed up bad shoots (which were dealt with inadequately), there were many correct, “good” shoots.

      Its almost as if you have to examine *every* case on a individual bases with nuance? who wouldve thought

    3. avatar Phil Wilson says:

      “Studies like this are a complete distraction from the cold, hard, elephant-sized fact in the middle of the room.”

      Acknowledging that fact doesn’t help anyone gain more wealth or power. And to really make things better would require solving some underlying problems Democrats have worked very hard over generations to create.

  8. avatar Wood says:

    There’s a study I probably read about here on TTAG that showed that white officers actually are less likely to shoot black suspects, or hesitate. Would be worth adding that to the author’s discussion disputing this “study”.

  9. avatar former water walker says:

    Golly we had an attempted carjacking in my neighborhood YESTERDAY. The local white cops chased the young BLACK fellow through my yard(and got him!). Later in the day my local LA Fitness became a war zone by -you guessed it! -black folks. One homicide and another shot. And a bunch of vehicles with bullet holes. I don’t blame cop’s who may have an “attitude”…after that BS video from NYC of cop’s being assaulted I wonder how ANY cop of any race wouldn’t have an “attitude”. Study or not the Po-leece are only human!

    1. avatar Craig says:

      So according to the little hogg’s mantra, YOU are a ‘survivor’…..

  10. avatar CLarson says:

    “They don’t inflame anyone or further the right narratives.” Yep, feelings don’t care about your facts.

    1. avatar Jason says:

      “…feelings don’t care about your facts.”

      I think that this is a common misunderstanding. This is not an issue of emotion overcoming rationality, or perhaps rationality failing to overcome inherent biological drives. Rather I believe it to be something of a Nietzschean “will to power”. The narrative that is intentionally pushed is the narrative that they believe will allow them to win. Objective reality has nothing to do with it. They don’t care what the “facts” are. They have simply found a way to express power, and frankly, quite an effective way.

      FWIW

  11. avatar User1 says:

    Last time I saw a study about race and police shootings the results said they didn’t see a difference between white and black deaths. What they saw was police were more likely to esclate to deadly force than to shoot more black people. In other words, both got the bullet when they didn’t need to be shot because that is what police are taught.

  12. avatar GS650G says:

    the democrats will solve the problem of large number of blacks being arrested and jailed by decriminalizing most of the behavior that lands them in jail. And then by appointing lenient judges who learned the trade in Chicago. Finally the cops will be advised to ignore property crime and other seemingly minor problems and all will be quiet on the western front.

    And they can’t understand why people tool up.

  13. avatar "keep yur paws off my dead guy" possum says:

    Bullsht, go to any municipal court room, see any suits in there other then the lawyers? . Anti minority bias my ass.

  14. avatar OBOB says:

    the next time the activists go all nuts about a ‘cop on black’ shooting and they are so wrong a blind man can see it
    when the rioting starts the whole PD should just go home and protect their own as a ‘test’…just let the city burn for a few days

    THEN when the crying for them to return to work starts…stay out 24 more hrs to PROVE a point “That you need us cops, or it all falls apart!”

    rinse-repeat till the BS ‘activism marches/riots’ stop

    1. avatar Dan W. says:

      All the police need to do is let the property owners kill the rioters enmasse.

      All the police do is prevent good people from killing bad people.

  15. avatar Auxwood_Rebel says:

    We just need to decriminalize more crimes and then cop and criminal interactions would go way down.

    1. avatar B.D. says:

      And civilian and criminal interactions would go way up.

  16. avatar B.D. says:

    That data has been there for years. They simply just choose to ignore it.

    Donut operator cover this on the YouTube video the other day. If you don’t know who donut operator is, you need to check him out.

  17. avatar Cory says:

    It’s always just been part of the race-baiting bolsheviks’ plan to cause division in predominantly white countries. It makes them easier to subvert and conquer.

  18. avatar Gadsden Flag says:

    When I was still working the streets I would use deadly force against anyone, regardless of race, creed or color, if they posed a threat of death, or serious bodily harm, to me or an innocent person. Still will. I am equal opportunity.

  19. avatar LUVITORLEEVIT says:

    Non violent protests are legal. Looters should be shot on sight!!!

  20. avatar former water walker says:

    This is for Craig…nah I’m armed to the teeth with an AR15 loaded with M855 Greentip. And more than one loaded handgun. Not a Hoggboy victim😄

  21. avatar Sxt45 says:

    TTAG you should not have touched this subject matter total click bait stick to 2a firearm topics.
    When the DOJ starts tracking all police shootings then we may know the truth about any antibias but until then stay away from possible alienation of your followers.
    Thank you

  22. avatar Punxsy says:

    How is it possible to have an “anti – bias”?

    1. avatar MaddMaxx says:

      Easy enough.. To be against (something/someone) (that/who) is against (something/someone).. Informal logic says if you are NOT not against (something/someone) then you ARE against that (something/someone).. Got it?

  23. avatar Vlad Tepes says:

    An analysis shows that more white people died at the hands of law enforcement than those of any other race in the last two years, even as the Justice Department, social-justice groups and media coverage focus on black victims of police force.

    Any “analysis” of police killings will of course show that in absolute numbers, more white people are killed in police shootings than black people, because (non-Hispanic) whites comprise a roughly five times greater share of the U.S. population (62% vs. 13%). So any “analysis” that is based on nothing more than absolute numbers and does not take demographics into account is inaccurate and misleading

    Because the federal government doesn’t keep an accurate log of police shootings, news outlets such as the Washington Post and journalists such as D. Brian Burghart have begun tracking such data independently. The Post described the statistical breakdown of fatal police shootings in 2015 thusly:

    According to the most recent census data, there are nearly 160 million more white people in America than there are black people. White people make up roughly 62 percent of the U.S. population but only about 49 percent of those who are killed by police officers. African Americans, however, account for 24 percent of those fatally shot and killed by the police despite being just 13 percent of the U.S. population. As The Post noted in a new analysis, that means black Americans are 2.5 times as likely as white Americans to be shot and killed by police officers.

    According to Fatal Encounters, the database created by former Reno News & Review editor and journalism instructor Burghart (which tracks all deaths resulting from interactions with police), a total of 1,388 people were killed by police in 2015, 318 (23%) of them black, and 560 (40%) of them white. So roughly 23 percent of those killed by any police interaction in 2015 were black and just over 40 percent were white. According to those statistics (adjusted for racial demographics), black people had a 2.7 higher likelihood of being killed by police than whites.

    The grim trend has carried over into 2016. Of the 1,034 people killed and tracked by Burghart’s Fatal Encounters database so far this year, 215 were black while 338 were white, so thus far in 2016 black Americans have been three times more likely than white people to die in interactions with police. That statistic holds for figures sent to us by Burghart compiled between Jan. 1, 2013 to Sept. 21, 2016, with suicides-by-cop removed. Burghart told us:

    I think it’s pretty obvious that black people are killed at much higher rates than white people. I’m not going to say that white people are underrepresented in these numbers, since I think all people are overrepresented in this data, but it’s clear that black people are highly overrepresented.

    PUBLISHED 22 SEPTEMBER 2016
    BY
    BETHANIA PALMA
    FILED UNDER
    POLICE SHOOTINGS

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