Police are evil racist Nazi pigs.
According to certain fringe groups, that is. But I’d suggest the majority of Americans are pretty sick and tired of this narrative.
Put on the news and what do you see? Stories about police-involved shootings. And riots, of course. Because the two go hand in hand.
Let’s talk about police use of force. It’s time to systematically destroy the argument that cops are racist killers. And I’ll break this down pretty simply so everyone can understand.
- The U.S. population is about 314,000,000 people.
- There are approximately 670,439 police officers.
- That means there are less than 2.2 police officers per 1,000, or 2,133 officers per million.
- Police officers are less than .22 % of population.
- Officers come into contact with 17% of the population annually.
- That means 53,380,000 contacts …
- Which led to 26,000 excessive force complaints against officers.
- That’s 0.049% of contacts.
- Only 8% of those complaints were sustained.
- That’s 2,080 out of 53,380,000 contacts, or .0039%
A good friend of mine who is a Chief of Police put that into perspective:
- You are seven times more likely to be murdered …
- 15 times more likely to be killed in a traffic accident …
- 42 times more likely to be raped …
… than to have a police officer use excessive force on you.
But we’re just warming up. Let’s look at 2015 police shootings – a time during which some argue police “brutality” spiked.
990 people were shot by police in 2015. Here’s the demographic breakdown of those “victims”:
- White — 494, 50%
- Black — 258, 26%
- Hispanic – 172, 17%
- Other — 66, 7%
- Mental illness played a role in 25%.
- 25% involved fleeing suspects.
- In 75% of the incidents, the officer was under attack or defending someone that was.
- Indictments of police officers tripled from previous years.
Listen. I’m not suggesting racism doesn’t exist in law enforcement. It exists everywhere – that’s the sad truth of it.
And yes, black people in the United States are more likely to be victims of violent confrontations with police officers (per capita) than their white counterparts. But let’s dive deeper into why this is.
Statistically, minorities come to police attention far more than their population would suggest.
- Black Americans make up about 13% of the population.
- But according to the FBI, they account for about 50% of murders, and about 38% of all violent crime overall.
Chicago gives us some great examples. And let’s not forget the insanely strict gun laws there, by the way. For example, during the first eight months of 2016 (the most recent period for which the numbers are available), 2,818 people were shot — only 12 by police. (That’s one-half of 1 percent).
In cities with large black populations, homicide rates have skyrocketed during that same period:
- In Washington D.C., homicides are up 54%. In Cleveland, up 90%. Overall, homicide is up 17%.
- The U.S. Department of Justice says that Black people make up 15% of the population in the 75 largest counties in the United States, yet account for 62% of all robberies, 57% of murders, 45% of all assaults.
So what’s going on here? Are we confusing the color of one’s skin with poverty or inequality? It’s a fair argument. Black people tend to be greater offenders, statistically speaking, because they tend to be more disadvantaged, living in poorer urban areas with less access to public services.
Then of course there’s the argument about the “violent subculture theory.” This is the idea that some black communities have developed cultural values that are more tolerant of crime and violence.
I want to leave you with a few recent studies.
First, a 2016 study by Roland G. Fryer Jr., who is an economics professor at Harvard. He found that no racial bias could be detected in police shootings, in either the raw data or when accounting for controls. He also found racial bias was detected in lesser use of police force, but not deadly encounters. His recommendation?
“Black Lives Matter should seek solutions within their own communities rather than changing the behaviors of police and other external forces.”
Second, there were 6,095 black homicide deaths in 2014 according to FBI Data — the most recent year for which such data are available — compared with 5,397 homicide deaths for whites and Hispanics combined. Almost all of those black homicide victims had black killers.
Finally, police officers — of all races — are also disproportionately endangered by black assailants. Over the past decade, according to FBI data, 40% of cop killers have been black. Officers are killed by blacks at a rate 2.5 times higher than the rate at which blacks are killed by police.
Seems to me like the real problem here is socioeconomic disparities along with a public perception issue thanks to biased reporting. And let’s not forget the huge role that social media plays in disseminating false narratives and creating emotional, knee-jerk reactions.
It’s important to have very real conversations about racism in America and accountability among those who hold the thin blue line. Let’s just make sure we’re basing those conversations on facts and not feelings.