Fatal Shooting in Chicago: Still, Chicago Police Currently Among Nation’s Least Violent
But No One Knows This — or How Police Racial Bias is Close to Nil — Because Social Justice Narratives Over Facts Persist In Media, Costing Lives
Last night in Chicago, I was watching the ABC7 Eyewitness News after the NBA Finals — a rare sports-viewing indulgence these days — expecting to perhaps learn more about the 11-year-old boy mysteriously shot in the head and killed that I had just heard on Chicago Public Radio that day. Turns out, that story was a couple days old. Instead, a new development: Police shot and killed a fleeing suspect in the back. “Oh, no,” I thought. “I’ve seen this before in my hometown of Chicago.”
I also thought: This is only the second police killing this year.
TV images flashed of citizens standing off intensely with police arguing that the young black man wasn’t armed. Tensions were high. Tears were shed. Police say he was armed with a gun, which they recovered and showed to the media. You can read about it here in the Chicago Tribune today:
Man fatally shot by police after 'armed confrontation' in Bronzeville: police
A man was shot and killed by police Wednesday night after an "armed confrontation" on the South Side, Chicago police…
The black man shot was a unique person with loved ones, and I’ll get to that in a minute. But he’s also a point on a long chain of police killings we’ve been talking about for years. I’m going to keep the facts simple today:
- Chicago police have killed 2 people so far this year.
- Police nationwide have killed 454.
- Chicago is on pace for a police killing per capita rate that’s HALF of the national average, 1 in 675,000 Chicagoans compared to 1 in 350,000 Americans.
- This should be a national headline. Or at the very least, a local one.
In fact, here’s a suggested click-bait headline:
Local Chicago Media Ignore Good News That Police Kill Residents at Half the National Rate and Possibly Lower than Anytime in the Past 50 Years
But is it click-bait? I guess if it doesn’t bleed, it never leads.
Remarkably, the only police-involved killing in more than 200 straight days was the killing of a police Commander in downtown Chicago by man with sizable criminal record and a bullet proof vest, which I wrote about contextualizing a little known fact that Chicago police get shot at quite often. In fact, The Sun Times reported that 12 officers were shot at and nine were struck in the first four months of 2016. But that’s not news that bears repeating. Just like it’s not news when police don’t pull the trigger when legally they would be within their rights for their own or others’ safety. The non-story is how many black and brown lives are not taken by police in Chicago the past few years.
Ask yourself: Do you see the images on TV when someone isn’t shot? Do relevant statistics draw eyes to a story? Or is the concept of pervasive racism and inequality sexier? Why don’t we talk about how homicides occur 60 times more often than police killings in Chicago, and 15 times more often in the U.S.?
Let’s put it another way: Since Jan. 1, 2015, we have 0% more killings by police than the national average. We have 400–600% more homicides than the national average.
It’s true there have been ZERO stories or research (hello, University of Chicago Crime Lab) about the fact that cops killed ZERO people until last week when a DEA agent in a drug sting shot and killed a suspect trying to run him over. Six months without a single death in a city of 2.7 million people while a country of 320 million had well over 400 killings by police, only 5% involving unarmed suspects, according to The Washington Post. Less than 10 total were unarmed blacks, which doesn’t indicate significant racial bias or lack of caring about human life, despite the protests and headlines. A higher total of unarmed whites have been killed the last three consecutive years, but few know their names. In fact, it should convey how professional police are. It is consistent with an audit I did of all fatal shootings in The Guardian and the Washington Post the past 3 years, where I found:
- WASHINGTON POST DATA 2015–2017 (N=2913)
2.5% of all shooting fatalities by police are unarmed black males (73 out of 2913 total). Unarmed whites males also make up 2.5% of all shooting fatalities (75).
- GUARDIAN DATA 2015–2016 (N=2239)
Unarmed white women had a higher percentage of their killings occurring while unarmed, 37% compared to 28% for black women. White women are killed more often than black women than their arrests or interactions with police would predict (3 white women killed for every 1 black woman; for arrests the ratio is 2:1). Unarmed black women are under one-third of 1% of 2239 people killed 2015–2016. Some killings used by The Guardian include car accidents and domestic homicides, too, which can actually cause large fluctuations for women. These facts put into question many of the basic argument of the #SayHerName campaign, especially when women are 26% of the people arrested in the U.S. but 5% of those killed by police.
Here’s some other facts you should ask yourself, “Why don’t I see this on CNN? Or even Fox News for pete’s sake.” What if it’s true that currently whites and Hispanics are more likely to be killed by police per arrest than blacks? These two hard-hitting stats come from my same spreadsheet (Tab: “Police Killings per Arrest in the USA”; also check out “Sophie’s Choice”):
- Blacks are killed in about 1 in 10,000 arrests [update: closer to 1 in 11,900]
- Whites and Hispanics combined are killed in about 1 in 9,000 arrests [update: closer to 1 in 10,920, making this demographic 10% more likely to be shot and killed in 2017.]
Yes, if you just look at the public data and engaging interactive tools (select “weapon,” “race” and “gender” functions), you can see we don’t have a pandemic of police killing black people without justification.
Even the isolated incidents of killings of unarmed black men like Stephon Clark in Sacramento earlier this year won’t tell you that twice he didn’t surrender to police after they gave verbal commands. Clark instead yelled “Fuck you” right before he was shot. (Yes, turn up the video and you can hear it.) International media like The Guardian will repeat the Black Lives Matter narrative he was “executed” hanging out in the back of his grandmother’s house holding a cell phone, and not tell you police were in hot pursuit by helicopter and on foot and had no idea whose house Clark was jumping fences over to get to. Clearly they thought he had a gun. Almost any cop will tell you they could see themselves making the same same mistake — making a split-second decision in the dark — and that the media narrative of “cops-don’t-care-about-black-lives” will make their jobs of protecting black communities more difficult.
Locally, the news has committed journalistic malpractice when it’s come to balanced coverage on police. In the past four years, I’ve never seen The Chicago Tribune, WGN, The Sun Times, or any other outlet point out that Chicago police are killing citizens at the same rate as police nationally. There was silence about this fact in 2016 when hostility towards police was at an all-time high, with the Chicago Police Department (CPD) making 6 times less stops and around 300 more people were murdered. Chicago police also face 4 to 6 times more homicidal violence than an average U.S. police department. Chicago’s not average. Chicago's one of the more violent cities in the country. But when it comes to police killings the CPD rate is the same as those other U.S. cops: Around 1 fatality per 300,000 citizens per year.
This is not rocket science. It is newsworthy. It’s good news, even. Any media reporter with a pen and a napkin could figure out this. You just go to the stats heavy and accurate HeyJackAss website and divide homicides by police killings, which have remained fairly low since January 2015. There’s hundreds of stories and research indicating racial disparities in outcome with police, but in nearly every one of them, ask, “Do the contextualize for criminal activity which leads to encounters with police”? In almost every case, they do not.
We suffered the same media paralysis and deceit when the U.S. Department of Justice said that use of force occurred “almost” 10 times more often for black residents than white ones, thus proving police give little regard for black lives. NPR, USA Today, The Washington Post, Vox, and The Chicago Tribune blindly repeated Attorney General Loretta Lynch’s faulty DOJ report and talking points, decimating the already tattered Chicago Police Department’s reputation. But not in a single place did the government or news mention that blacks are involved in around 9 times more arrests (27 times more for murder and 24 times more for robbery). Rates of criminality and reasons for police-citizen interaction were omitted.
I did the calculations myself and found there’s only around an 18% difference between blacks and whites in Chicago when it comes to use of force per arrest (3.33% of arrests for whites versus 3.99% for blacks). Nationally, the gap is closer to 24% — obviously worse. That small black-white gap may shrink to zero if you control for the fact blacks are arrested significantly more often for violent crime than whites (12.6% versus 7.9% nationally, which I calculated based on 2015 FBI arrest data). I may be off by a hair, as I’m not a bona fide statistician doing a multivariate Bayesian analysis, but I dare anyone to show I’m not in the right ballpark. Indeed, this wasn’t a reported headline because no one other than myself did the basic math:
Roughly 3.3% of Arrests for Whites in Chicago, and 4.0% of Arrests for Blacks, Involve Use of Force — Both Lower Percentages than Nationally (Hey, Maybe We Don’t Have an Abusive, Racist Police Problem in the Windy City)
Instead today, we get the same story of conflict between police and citizens around another so-called “unarmed black man.” This man’s name is Maurice Granton, Jr. and he has two daughters. It’s tragic, as almost any death is. These are some local headlines:
- CBS Chicago: Family Of Man Killed By Police Claim He Was Unarmed, Shot In Back
- Black Main Street: Maurice Granton, Jr: Police Say He Had a Gun; Family Says He was Unarmed and Shot in the Back
- FOX 32 Chicago: Autopsy: Man killed by Chicago police was shot in back, death ruled homicide
- WGN Chicago: Chicago police fatally shoot man after ‘armed confrontation’ in Bronzeville
“Nah, that’s not his. He doesn’t have a gun,” says Granton’s sister about the offender’s weapon police recovered on the scene, which I heard her say on the evening news last night. However, his Facebook page includes multiple photos of Granton with a gun that appears to be the same one.
In the 24 hours after this shooting, it appears that the story has yet to turn into one like Laquan McDonald in late 2015. (There’s many reasons why, including a likely one-year cover-up as well as the shocking imagery of the 2014 killing itself that led to murder charges against officer Jason Van Dyke.) And let’s hope not. Because what happened immediately after that shooting? Chicago police pulled back, coming from a combination of new ACLU reforms and frayed relations between law enforcement and the communities they serve. As a result, hundreds of more people got murdered, a 57% increase.
It’s racist to ignore this problem. Two papers show how de-policing negatively affects the lives of poor minority communities:
Ferguson Effect paper (2017):
“In this article, we examine the association between public concern over police violence and crime rates using Google search measures to estimate the former. Analyzing data on 43 large U.S. cities, we find that violent crime was higher and rose more in cities where concern about police violence was greatest. We also find that measures of social inequality predict crime rates.”
ACLU Effect paper (2018):
“Our regression equations permit quantification of the costs of the decline in stop and frisks. Because of fewer stop and frisks in 2016, it appears that (conservatively calculating) approximately 239 additional victims were killed and 1129 additional shootings occurred in that year alone. And these tremendous costs are not evenly distributed, but rather are concentrated among Chicago’s African-American and Hispanic communities.”
I even wrote about it. A lot. Because lives are on the line:
An Evidence-Based Analysis of Attorney General Jeff Sessions’ Call to Review Obama-Era U.S.
Attorney Generals Loretta Lynch and Eric Holder Missed the Mark and The Evidence Clearly Shows: There’s No Systemic…
I don’t want to write about it again. I want the media to do their job. But I have a feeling they’re afraid. As we all are nowadays. Afraid of the truth. Afraid to say the “wrong” narrative. Afraid to seem unsympathetic. Afraid of facts. Afraid of not being “woke” enough. But there’s nothing more frightful to me than not sharing relevant facts to give greater understanding.
We shouldn’t be afraid of police when approximately .002% of encounters for blacks, Hispanics and whites results in a fatal shooting. We should be afraid of what happens when the foundations of our society fray to pieces.
2018 fatal shootings by police (so far):
Chicago police involved shootings (last 4 years matching the national average):
Chicago population (2.7 million): http://worldpopulationreview.com/us-cities/chicago-population/
23.4 homicides per 100,000 in 2016 (U.S. average is 5.3):
The Guardian fatalities by police 2015–2016:
My Spreadsheets (feel free to leave comments)
Data Analysis of Use of Force Against Blacks in DOJ Report on Chicago Police + Arrest Data: https://docs.google.com/spreadsheets/d/1FU0YyGjJE_lrCJl0tWtpnQtomLpaKlp_3gyjuM_odGY/edit#gid=952921389
Violent Crime Arrests, Drug Arrests + Police Killings Rate = Stats that Matter: https://docs.google.com/spreadsheets/d/126uhTSpBJL6tbhQJBEg0rCoK-YYczERUjnqAhCgkRCQ/edit#gid=1227724185