Commenting the Wider View on Police Shootings:
Taking to Task the NY Times, Bettergov.org and The Chicago Police Accountability Task Force Report (Oh, and Feel Free to Comment)
An algorithmically significant public interest website has completely misleading and outright faulty police shooting stats by a factor of five since last July. The NY Times reports on a Chicago policing scandal and completely avoids the most relevant contextualization. I commented on their websites the best I could: Mathematically.
I’ll get there in a minute, but a couple things to air.
First, I’m posting this by phone late at night and this is my second Medium write-up ever. My hands hurt. Nothing special about that, but I promise to avoid polishing this article ad infinitum. My last post also touching on sensitive issues of race, police violence, statistics, and ideology I edit constantly, and I admit it’s doubled in length in the past month. Though, I think it’s worth a 20-minute perusing. Truly, some writers always add new ingredients. Sometimes, you have to bake and serve.
Second… you know? I didn’t have a second. Maybe you should know I’m more-and-more contrarian to the sweeping narrative of raging, racist police violence pervasive in this country (The United States) and my city (Chicago). Especially when they lack context. At the very least, some essential facts on the composition of violence demographically have to be considered before pulling out reflexive arguments of overwhelming institutional racism.
Chicago police took one hard hit on the chin today with a new report describing rampant violence and racism in the department. The task force was commissioned by mayor Rahm Emmanuel after the Laquan McDonald police video was released. That video and the specter of cover-ups from the police to the mayor himself caused a worldwide uproar.
I Google today:
“police killings 2015 in chicago”
Following the Chicago Tribune article that reads “Chicago police shot fewer people in 2015," I next get this “Bettergov.org” website and story written in July 2015:
Fatal Shootings By Chicago Police: Tops Among Biggest U.S. Cities
Chicago police have fatally shot 70 people over a five-year span, tops among departments in the largest U.S. cities. The…
They write the following, seemingly not realizing they’re undermining their own headline, let alone emanate a massive statistics error:
Chicago police reported killing 70 people from 2010 through 2014, the most of any department the BGA looked at, followed by Phoenix (57); Philadelphia (54); Houston (49); and Los Angeles (47), records show.
When adjusted for population, Phoenix was tops with a rate of 3.77 per 100,000 residents, followed by Philadelphia (3.48); Dallas (2.7); Chicago (2.57); and Houston (2.23). New York ranked at the bottom, though that department provided the BGA with data for only four of the five years requested. A police spokesman said 2014 figures weren’t available, though the New York Daily News reported last December that New York police had killed 13 people last year. A New York police spokesman could not confirm that figure.
And because they stupidly (sorry, no other word) calculate those per 100,000 averages using five-year totals, they quintuple the rate. Five is the magic number. One (major error in a well-hit website) is the loneliest number. Nine months of no one commenting on, or changing, the article. That tells me: No one is paying attention to key facts that may puncture some holes in the narrative framed by activists, many I consider colleagues and friends.
Because for me, it’s less about taking “sides,” and more about being honest with your statistics, arguments, and framework. And not allowing ideology to guide you. Fortunately, I know that the United States’ overall homicide rate is about 4.6 per 100,000. With police homicides being approximately 1 in 15 of the total, that makes the above numbers outrageous.
So, in a rare moment of logging into Disqus to add a comment — only once in 2 years — I write the following below in fancy Medium.com italics. And I ask for help just as I do in the text of this contrarian posting on Bettergov.org. Does anybody care to debunk these numbers? You can be anybody, but it would be great to hear from a statistician, armchair sociologist, or analytical person with time on their hands.
There is a key section here with complete garbage stats. Let’s take Chicago, my city. From 2010–14, it’s .6 per 100,000, if we’re talking 18 killings a year in a city of 2.7 million population. Not 2.57 per 100,000 listed above. Simple math. Last year’s 9 police killings makes that .3 per 100,000 and exactly the average of police killings throughout the country, despite operating in a far more violent city than the national average (Chicago’s 17.5 vs USA’s 4.6 homicides per 100,000). The average nationwide of police killings of citizenry is .3 per 100,000. Chicago cops are either “average,” or arguably spectacularly judicious by killing 4x less the national average when compared with overall killings, despite the [bad] rep[utation].
See also: The Chicago Police Accountability Task Force Report, April 13, 2016, which brings up many good points on problems in the Chicago police force; but bodies and numbers don’t lie.
This article blunders terribly, and in fact lies terribly in a key section. This is a disservice to those seeking knowledge.
Any statistician or anyone in general care to debunk this?
The comment is pending.
Yet the questions remain. Do you want to challenge these numbers? I’ll gladly myself take it on the chin, too. I wrote these with a bit of insomnia. To quote Radiohead “I Might Be Wrong.” But I don’t think so.
So back to that The Chicago Police Accountability Task Force and the NY Times coverage on it April 13, 2016.
Chicago Police Dept. Plagued by Systemic Racism, Task Force Finds
CHICAGO - Racism has contributed to a long, systemic pattern of institutional failures by this city's police department…
I had comments there, too, today. It’s not normal for me to do so outside Facebook.
And yes, the accountability for police may be be low due to the “code of silence” among other reasons by a factor of five to 10, as I’ve analyzed and attempted to bring attention to the “Thick Blue Line” on my social networks. 99% of cop shooters get off scot-free, give or take, compared to what could or should be 90–95%. I get those numbers partially because the esteemed police officer (Lorenzo Davis) fired from the Independent Police Review Authority (IPRA) for not changing his decisions to favor police said, “Up to 5% of police shootings are problematic.” And nationally, 10% of police killings in 2015 involved a victim who was unarmed with no weapon.
Yet my comments I’ll let be my final word. Found under “David” living in “Chicago” if looking on the NY Times, unless they’re not approved. Time to sleep and dream of places of sanity in a sea of ideology. [Note, 24 hours later, this “comment” below nor any other from yesterday on this Times story have been approved by reviewers. Praise the Journalism Goddess* because a new comment just did the afternoon of April 14. I have no idea as to why. It’s only slightly better, but no less controversial to some.]
There’s anecdote. There’s reality. There’s injustice. And there’s stats.
One thing I’ve noticed is that the Chicago police interact with individuals nearly to the exact % of the “Case Report,” which is the description given by a victim of crime. The “Contact Card” is the official police interaction (questioning, arrest, etc). What do we see here in this breakdown in Chicago in an article last March in Chicago’s NPR branch WBEZ News? Take in mind, as reported in this article, that of the 404 people shot by police, 74% were black.
RACE / CONTACT CARD / CASE REPORT
Race / CC / CR
White / 9% / 9%
Black / 72% / 73%
Latino / 17% / 19%
This 2013 WBEZ article shows similar #s in a predominantly white area in North Side of Chicago. There’s a actually a very tiny bias *away* from African-Americans in relation to their case (crime) reports. Do we see these stats when reports or articles like these are presented, as important as they seemingly are to the entire police violence narrative?
I lied this time. One more line to repeat: Do we see these stats in news reports on racial disparities and injustices of the Chicago police, and police shootings in general? If not, why?