FiveThirtyEight & Libertarian Reason.com — and the Media in General — Can’t Face the Obvious: The “Ferguson Effect” is Likely Happening & Trump May Have a Point About Crime
With 31.5% homicide jump, thousands more people died in the last two years of Obama’s presidency. But let’s not call it a “crime wave” or “unprecedented”?
FiveThirtyEight Jan 25 minimization: “Chicago’s Murder Rate Is Rising, But It Isn’t Unprecedented.”
Reason.com Jan 26, 2017 minimization: “Trump Is Wrong About Crime in Chicago (and His Voters Are Wrong About Crime Everywhere Else Too)” Excerpt: “Trump reported in his tweet that “killings” are up 24 percent from 2016. That’s consistent with Chicago Police Department data cited by the Chicago Tribune, but it may not mean much — with less than a month of data in 2017 so far, estimates of the murder rate increase are incredibly volatile.”
Donald Trump’s Somewhat Vague Tuesday Jan 24 Tweet: “If Chicago doesn’t fix the horrible ‘carnage’ going on, 228 shootings in 2017 with 42 killings (up 24% from 2016), I will send in the Feds.”
My late January response: If we have thousands of more people die over these past few years partially arising from the social unrest and conditions created by activists like Black Lives Matter, but it’s proven that there wasn’t significant systemic racism by police or the criminal justice system, then wouldn’t that be a tragedy of epic proportions?
Final Tally as of Feb 1 and Chicago’s “ACLU Effect”: 51 homicides were committed in January, one more than 2016, which was the highest total in 20 years. Chicago’s homicides increased 58% from 2015, and that trend is continuing. Last year, police stops dropped 90% to begin the year, and hovered around 80% throughout the year. These corollary stats are part of what some within the police ranks call the “ACLU Effect.” This is similar to the controversial “Ferguson Effect,” the concept that increased scrutiny of police following the 2014 shooting of Michael Brown in Ferguson, Missouri has led to an increased crime or murder rate. Dramatic increases in crime unquestionably happened in Baltimore and St. Louis, too, after protests intensified scrutiny on police and destabilized communities, causing academics who once “pooh-poohed” the term “Ferguson Effect” to reconsider it.
No, I won’t go deep on the whole speculative discussion about what “sending the Feds” looks like as suggested by Trump. One reason is because calls for the National Guard, if his intent, are indeed ridiculously short-sighted — they don’t even have arresting powers. And it won’t get to the source of the violence in Chicago: The dreadful mix of guns, boredom and entrenched poverty. A city where homicides spiked to six times the national average, up from four times, in just one year. This isn’t the fantasy of crazed racists or fascists, as there are desperate pleas for the National Guard spoken within communities of color, as NPR’s WBEZ reported this week — reluctantly reported, I might add, after a series of quotes by civic leaders pushing back against the idea. It doesn’t come just from Trump and his followers. In fact, I’ve personally heard “send in the National Guard” several times by people living in Chicago in poor and black communities because of the level of desperation. A nearly 30-year veteran Illinois State legislator Rep. Monique Davis, an African American former teacher from the South Side, called for the National Guard in Chicago in 2013 because of 4th of July gun violence.
For the Record: Homicides by Chicago police are exactly at the national average, averaging 10 per year the last two years, which is about 1 death per 300,000 citizens (just under 3 million citizens). There’s about 1000 police-related deaths a year in a country of 319,000,000 people — so do the math there. The shooting demographics are proportional to the criminal activity demographics, which the ACLU nor the U.S. Department of Justice under Obama mentions. Maybe law enforcement in Chicago aren’t the problem, and it’s possible they do have a regard for lives of minorities when it’s proven they shoot their weapons by several degrees of magnitude less than the violence around them.
Solutions? Spend Money to Save Money (and Lives)
I don’t actually trust Donald Trump to plan anything cohesive or intelligent. His solutions for Chicago’s violence are consistently vague. I also feel his obsession with Chicago also has more to do with making personal digs and critiquing past Democratic rule, former President Obama, and Chicago Mayor Rahm Emanuel. Or — shock — he actually cares about the deaths of Americans on his watch. Regardless, the solutions should be multi-prong:
- Increased education spending prevents crime and saves money. Period. But that’s long-term, but should start immediately.
- Increase investment in the city for public safety. For example, one could expand on the template set forth by Mayor Emanuel in returning $14.7 million in unspent tax rebate funds for “critical safety programs” (after school programs, body cameras on police, park infrastructure, etc.)
- Consider bringing back CeaseFire, a.k.a. “violence interrupters,” which were spotlighted in a 2012 documentary directed by Steve James of Hoop Dreams fame. If it expands in Chicago again, CeaseFire should be monitored closely, based on past financial accountability problems and accusations that hired former gang members told residents not to cooperate with law enforcement. This is a major problem driving crime, which I’ll get to shortly, though CeaseFire claims that annual funding at pie-in-the-sky $25–30 million levels would bring down homicides from nearly 800 to down to 160, the national average. Despite CeaseFire’s own assessments that shootings dropped 38% in two high-crime neighborhoods they operated, the program had a few issues, including the Illinois director being arrested and charged with domestic violence. State funding withered recently under Republican Gov. Bruce Rauner. Also, the City of Chicago opted not to renew their $1 million contract in 2013. (Note: The crime spike happened two years later, after the Laquan McDonald video came out and new ACLU stop guidelines were implemented in 2016, leading to low Chicago police morale and possibly emboldened criminality. State cuts caused CeaseFire to drop down to six programs, about one-third of previous levels by fall 2015. I generally agree with calls to restore funding to save lives, but I don’t think they’re defunding is the main driver of the very recent spike in shootings.)
- Increase spending on youth summer jobs programs.
- Assist in hiring more, better trained police — perhaps increasing the speed in the processing of 1000 promised cop hires by Mayor Emanuel. Instead of spending on the National Guard, spend the money on community policing. Indeed, communities of color want more police, not less: The Minority Rights and Relations Gallup survey conducted in July 2016 showed more blacks (38%) say they want a greater police presence in their local communities than do whites (18%) or Americans more broadly (23%).
Note that conservatives don’t often like to spend more federal or state money. I think they should. But the left and the mainstream media have major blind-spots, too.
Houston (and Chicago) We Have a Problem: The “Ferguson Effect”
To FiveThirtyEight, and others, I say: Please stop downplaying Chicago’s crime spike which graphically and in real terms is indeed unprecedented. Last year year’s murder rate was nearly 60% higher from the year before, which began immediately in January 2016, and now January 2017 has the potential to be even worse. Trump’s Tweet was also completely accurate when it came to violence statistics, basing it on a Chicago Tribune story that states as of January 23, “There have been at least 42 homicides, up 23.5 percent from the 34 homicides from the same period in 2016.” For context, January 2016 ended with 50 murders up from 2015's 29. When Trump wrote that Tweet, it looked likely we’d top that number — and we did, with 51. There’s also a double-digit growth in the homicide rate nationally for two consecutive years nationally — a 31.5% increase from 2014 to 2016 for the 30 largest cities, says the Brennan Center for Justice. With nearly 16,000 homicides per year in 2014, this averages out to 1500-2000 more people killed each year than the year before. Half of those are black lives. Why the hell isn’t this being discussed as a national emergency? How are those numbers wrong or this isn’t “carnage”?
Even a few years ago, the media “Hip-Pop” site by rap mogul Russell Simmons highlighted disparate outrage poured out for Trayvon Martin and asked for a louder cry for the he 7000 annual black lives lost, 94% by other black people. Can the progressive left, which I’ve proudly once counted myself a member, take account for their magical, unreasonable thinking on this matter because they’re seemingly on the “right” side of this issue of “white privilege”? And it turns out, “Stand Your Ground” laws that supposedly kept George Zimmerman out of jail are indeed biased — possibly in favor of black Americans. Public Radio WJCT in Florida showed that a higher percentage of black people are set free from ‘Stand Your Ground’ laws than white people, 66% to 61%. Is anyone complaining about that?
I know Reason.com may have a libertarian angle with a penchant of being wary of actions by the police or the state apparatus, but I am surprised they’re also in denial about very real increases in violent crime crime within the political landscape where Black Lives Matter disinformation permeates, such as ignoring the fact that 12% white homicides are at the hands of police compared to only 4% of black homicides. Perhaps this is media’s virtue signaling. If murders went up 60% in Chicago in one year, and police stops were also down 80%, why do writers have to sprint to the 1990s “crack war” violence levels or New York City during stop-and-frisk to induce a weak, simplistic counterargument? New York City is a giant city that became a much safer city than the 1970s or early 1990s, with one unique set of outcomes — dropping to 4.2 NYC murders per 100,000 residents (2.8 for gun homicides), which is surprisingly lower than the national average of 4.9. In my thorough analysis on use of force, I showed how the data highlighting racial disparities during “broken windows” policing in the Big Apple was negligible — using simple math I could show both blacks and whites would get handcuffed around 3% of the time per stop in the years 2003–2013. So if crime rates didn’t trend up after police pulled back in ONE city after 2013 when a new mayor came into office, who cares? What happened after Baltimore post-Freddie Gray (murders double, shootings up 80%, police “defensive”)? St. Louis post-Michael Brown (“deadliest year in two decades”)? Chicago post-Laquan McDonald (FiveThirtyEight headline: “Gun Violence Spiked — And Arrests Declined — In Chicago Right After The Laquan McDonald Video Release”)? Short answer: Mayhem and “carnage” in THREE cities. I don’t know how else to explain what thousands of additional bullet-ridden bodies looks like besides “carnage.”
Even skeptical research criminologists like Richard Rosenfeld, who said before there’s no “Ferguson Effect,” are having “second thoughts” now. “My views have been altered,” he said to The Guardian after seeing an overall 17% increase in homicide in 56 of the nation’s largest cities.
There’s been very little media spotlight on the fact that in 2016, only 17 out of 48 unarmed police shot by police were black according to a Washington Post database on fatal shootings by police (blacks are 35% of total unarmed and 24% overall). The rare “unarmed” tragedies that exist out of 12,000,000 arrests annually are down by nearly half for all racial groups from the year before, and even including the 1000 or so total homicides by police, there’s a 99.99% chance of no death per arrest. Yet can anyone honestly say that the 8000–9000 homicides within the black community in 2016, more than 50% of the nation’s total and largely intraracial, have been given as passionate and proportional focus as sporadic instances of lethal use of force against black Americans by police?
The basis of this argument is easy: Unless it’s proven that different groups are treated vastly differently from bias rather than behavior, then the case for institutional racism is exaggerated. And that can create a crisis of confidence in the system we haven’t seen since the days of Jimmy Carter. (By the way, Carter gave a powerfully articulated “malaise” speech, which was actually quite well received, for a short political window of time at least.)
If police activity wasn’t overtly biased, there might be deadly consequences when police pull nack. This also requires ignoring critics repeating ad nauseum that crime is “low by historical standards” and “but… crime didn’t spike in New York City.” Ignoring how we got to such low crime rates partially through data-based and street-smart policing is the argument of former Chicago Police Superintendent Garry McCarthy, who rightfully critiqued the recent Department of Justice report and was arguably scapegoated after being fired after the Laquan McDonald video controversy. He’s pointed out how in a single year since his firing, the crime-skyrocketed and criminals have been emboldened. McCarthy told “60 Minutes” this past January, “The police activity is horrific. Honestly. And there’s not an excuse that could be made in my book,” he said. “The noncompliance of the law is becoming legitimized. And the police are on their heels. … We’re reaching a state of lawlessness.”
If I hold onto one conspiracy — and I loathe conspiracies — it’s that there’s media reluctance to call a spade a spade with uncanny regularity, even when presenting Brennan Center statistics like the national 31.5% homicide increase from 2014 to 2016 (a dubious reliance on the dubious left-leaning think tank’s conclusions, see section below “ADDITIONAL FACTS & QUESTIONS”). And I believe that’s propped up by stubborn ideology and pockets of like-minded academia. Case in point: The Atlantic. They tend to write articles with headlines like, “Has the ‘Ferguson Effect’ Finally Been Debunked?” or “What’s Causing Chicago’s Homicide Spike?” Then they don’t answer the question and downplay the fact police are pulling back. I highly regard The Atlantic and subscribe to their publication. But I critique The Atlantic’s very clear bias due to “restricted” journalism underwriting, particularly when their footnote says, “This article is part of our Next America: Criminal Justice project, which is supported by a grant from the John D. and Catherine T. MacArthur Foundation.” It’s increasingly evident that mainstream media’s pursuit of “social justice” is a bias unto itself. It’s also clear there’s a reluctance to face obvious truths in the FiveThirtyEight link I found via Reason’s article. For example, there are also parts of Chicago, such as a large swath of the West Side, with the population of St. Louis and the same murder rate as St. Louis — the neighborhood of Austin is about one-third the size of St. Louis but had nearly one-half their number of homicides in 2016. Unfortunately, far too many publications invoke “St. Louis” or other cities with high murder rates to minimize the argument that Chicago’s violence isn’t very remarkable. The fact is: Shootings and gun homicides are spiking, it’s a wholly American phenomenon compared to other Western nations, and is often isolated in large, diverse cities.
I hate to say a conservative is correct, but the only other person whose work mirrors my own, who I discovered AFTER starting my own research on this matter, is Heather Mac Donald from the Manhattan Institute and City Journal. And besides her occasional polemics and hyperbolic attacks at Obama, whom she once voted for, I have yet to find her statistics or conclusions erroneous. I believe MacDonald is a beacon of light in our “New Correctness” culture when she says, “When the police refrain from pro-active policing, black lives are lost. Lost because of a myth.” Those myths are bountiful.
Through two years of research, I’ve concluded the media and academia exaggerate and perpetuate that assumption that police abuse citizenry. A recent study by Harvard economist and MacArthur “Genius” Fellowship winner Roland Fryer showed that per 10,000 stops in NYC during stop-and-frisk 2003–2013, police put handcuffs on 2.7% of blacks and 3.1% of whites per arrest. But I had to do that math. Yet, that’s exactly how police interactions play out “on the ground” and omitted by The New York Times in July 2016 examining Fryer’s controversial vanguard study. This is when I first noticed that the media was downplaying obvious conclusions or exaggerating “disproportional” percentages, such as saying one group (blacks) are “25% more likely” to receive use of force. That example comes from Fryer and the New York Times spotlighting when cops use a baton or pepper spray 5 times out of 10,000 for one dark-skinned demographic, but 4 times out of 10,000 for a light-skinned demographic, which becomes “25% more likely” statistically speaking and promoted by reporters and editors. But that’s really just 1 more occurrence out of 10,000 stops. Thus, for use of force, Fryer, the academic, found a 17–25% HIGHER likelihood that of use of force would be used on blacks than whites. For lethal use of force, Fryer also determined that “that blacks are 23.8% LESS likely to be shot at by police relative to whites” in an analysis of one violent city, Houston. His analysis of shootings in Austin, Dallas, six large Florida counties, Houston, and Los Angeles also found “no racial differences in either the raw data or when contextual factors are taken into account.”
The key conclusions when I take the “next step” in Fryer’s calculations: “Statistically significant” really isn’t very significant when dealing with small numbers, occurrences per 100 (or 10,000) are all in the same ballpark, racial bias is negligible, and instances of use of force are rare.
Evidence of behavior being a far great determinant of police interactions than bias is clear. Police use of force among blacks is 3.6 times as high as among whites, according last summer’s report by the Center for Policing Equity. That’s like saying if you’re black you’re 360% more likely to have use of force — based mostly on behavior — than a white person. We know that, because when controls like criminal activity are factored the authors find about a 25–30% higher likelihood of use of force occurring — this vastly lower percentage indicates bias. A University of Chicago Press paper titled “Racial and Ethnic Disparities in Crime and Criminal Justice in the United States” by Robert J. Sampson and Janet L. Lauritsen stated clearly, “There is little evidence that racial disparities result from systematic, overt bias” during criminal justice processing. An American Sociological Association 2007 report supports this fact: There’s simply a vast difference in criminal activity between blacks and whites. Black arrests for of violent crime is 36%, according to the FBI’s Uniform Crime Report, which is 3 times higher than the general population alone and the difference is at least 4 times higher (400%) than whites in this crime category and many others that might preclude an arrest that includes use of force. For instance, an average black person is 8 times more likely to rob or murder someone than a white person. Thus, common sense will tell you that 3.6 times higher instances of force used by cops isn’t unreasonable. It’s to be expected.
It’s also fundamental to understand the racist and economically exploitative American history that leads to poverty, thus shaping interactions with law enforcement. We didn’t get here without Jim Crow and slavery, the United States’ original sin.
This isn’t to say there aren’t consequences when you’re stopping citizens and youth more often. The Vera Institute of Justice found that 88% of young people in New York City believe that residents of their neighborhood do not trust the police. It also found only four in 10 respondents said they would be comfortable seeking help from police if in trouble. They attribute this, in part, to stop-and-frisk. But as I said, these “stops” by police are proportional to the crime in the area they’re committed. It also should be pointed out, that during stop-and-frisk era, University of Pennsylvania criminologists Greg Ridgeway and John MacDonald determined that out of nearly 3,000 New York City Police Department officers regularly involved in pedestrian stops, 15 officers were flagged for stopping a substantially greater fraction of black and Hispanic suspects than our statistical benchmark predicts. Oh, and they found 13 officers went out of their way not to stop minorities. So it was a wash.
It’s a provocative question: What if police officers aren’t acting in a racist or disproportionate manner compared to the crime they face? First, we should contextualize how instances of use of force per 1000 stops are as low as 36 (3.6% of the time) for whites and 46 (4.6%) for blacks. This is a negligible difference using Center for Policing Equity data from geographically diverse police departments, though many would argue it’s “significant.” It wouldn’t be untrue to say that roughly 95% of the time per arrest, no matter your race, police in the United States won’t be “rough” with you. This is according to numbers meant to be convey that “racial bias” by police is somehow at the heart of the problem more than the behavior of citizenry. Indeed, far too many would rather spin their data in a different direction and preposterously deny that “crime is the primary driver” and say instead that, “In every single category [of use of force], the anti-black disparity persists.” I look at the data, shake my head, and ask, “There’s about a 1% difference per stop. Where’s the law enforcement bias if use of force occurs 3.6 times more often for African Americans than white Americans, but that rate matches actual crimes committed and violent arrests?”
The reason I’m doing this is simple: With greater knowledge and lessened fears, perhaps we can turn the tide on ongoing distrustful relationship between some Americans and law enforcement — academics have written about the “no snitching” code on the street and everyone knows that “911 is a joke.” A 20% clearance rate in murder in Chicago in 2016, another unprecedented low, only leads to more murder from people continuing the cycle of violence on their own — the cultural winds behind their back in a semiautomatic “fuck you” to society — with little regard for who is in the way. As I personally hear from Chicago residents residing in longtime economically disadvantaged areas, human pockets of revenge and callous behavior is the norm and on the rise. Annually, more children under 17 are shot and killed in Chicago by citizens than the 16 unarmed black men in the United States by police in 2016. And many times more age 13 or younger are simply shot. Yet, the NPR and media focus is on other children and their outcomes with police.
I’m not sure I am making myself clear through this echo chamber cacophony of noise. But I’m trying. Lives are on the line.
A Final Push for Perspective: Could Police Be Getting a “Raw Deal”?
I consider myself an open-minded guy (cis male) concerned about the poorest in the USA, who’s firmly against Trump, but there’s one area — only one — where I can honestly say I mostly agree with him and perpetually indignant Heather Mac Donald (author of “War on Cops”): Criminal justice has gotten a raw deal these past few years [my primary sourced Google doc]. And that “raw deal” can be broken down in three parts:
1. The narrative about police violence being racially biased is dishonest and is inaccurate, and is perpetrated by both the media and activists;
2. It lacks context for criminal behavior which drives interaction points; and
3. Hostility towards police and authority could very well be the reason violence is ticking up in cities like my hometown of Chicago, as well as Baltimore, Houston, and many others.
Even Selma director Ava DuVarnay’s The 13th is up for an Academy Award and the director is doing interviews with Oprah calling out racism within the criminal justice system. But even though I give the documentary a “thumb’s up” and found it asked some important questions, I found their entire premise — as well as Michelle Alexander’s far-too-popular argument that “incarceration = racist slavery” — to be problematic and riddled with holes. For one, prison rates increased about three times for all demographics save for one: White women’s incarceration rate increased eight times. Violent crime makes up nearly 50% of the prison population, and drug-related crimes 21%. Of people in state prison, less than three-tenths of 1% are there for simple possession of marijuana, and no more than 4% are there for any drug possession charges. 99.9% of those sentenced to federal prison for any drug-related crime were sent to prison for something more serious than simple possession, according to data in a 2012 Department of Justice report. So how did the War on Drugs and “mandatory minimum” sentences lead to significantly greater injustice for blacks than whites?
21 of 30 U.S. cities saw a jump in their murder rate in 2016. Shootings were up 70% in Chicago, but police shot their weapons nearly the same number of times as 2015, representing close to .5% of the city’s total shootings. Now, compare Chicago police to police nationally. You’ll arrive at this mind-blowing fact more people should know about: Police in Chicago in 2015 and 2016 shot and killed about 1 in 300,000 citizens. The U.S. average for police killings is 1 in 300,000 citizens. Indeed, there’s no difference except for one thing: Chicago cops dealt with a murder rate last year that was 6 times higher in Chicago than the national average (in 2015, it was 4 times higher). My quick-and-dirty math tells me Chicago also has 1/40th of the nation’s black population, and 1/30th of the black homicides by cop.
Let’s toss into the pool one more fact-based statement I’ve been saying for some time:
In the United States, white people and black people, as individual demographic sets, are roughly 40% of those in prison and 40% of criminals and crime victims in many categories. But police in 2016 shot and killed just less than 1000 persons — 5% unarmed (down from 9% and 90 total in 2015, according to the Washington Post) — and about 50% were white and 25% were black.
The constant refrain is that as a black man, at any moment during an interaction with police, one’s life is in danger. Numbers get twisted by pointing out “black men” are 6% of the population and they’re the ones disproportionately being killed by police, without mentioning that they’re also nearly 50% of the murderers — which is highly disproportionate, too. By gender, around 90% of all murders are committed by men. African Americans are also 36% of the those arrested for violent crimes and 43% of the persons killing cops, yet we’re crying “systemic racism” and “violent oppression” because police are killing blacks at around 25%? That doesn’t really make any sense. There’s not a cry of “systemic sexism” because 95% of people killed by police are men. We should work to limit all killings by the state, and proportional to our population demographics — this should be an American goal — but the factors that manifest tragic outcomes occur long before police are involved.
Can we talk about how often police are NOT shooting people in Chicago? Or what could be the factor for Chicago cops being shot at TWICE as much in 2016 than 2015, but they shot LESS people themselves? (Cough, “Ferguson Effect.” Or in Chicago, “Laquan McDonald Effect” and/or “ACLU Effect.”) Even Superintendent Eddie Johnson talked about the intense public scrutiny that caused one of his West Side officers to not discharge her weapon even as her head was being crushed into the concrete by a black man high on PCP. Murders may have gone up nationally more than 30% in just two years with increases in two-thirds of large cities in 2016, but academics, writers and even the Brennan Center which published that shockingly high percentage continue to minimize and say, “Half of additional murders are attributable to Baltimore, Chicago, and Houston” so there’s no “national crime wave.” If there’s no problem, then there’s no answer — or an attempt, however flawed, at a solution such as the 1994 Crime Bill. A bill the two leading Democrat presidential candidates tried to run away from in 2016, with Hillary “superpredator” Clinton paying for ads that critique our “fundamentally broken” criminal justice system.
I’m saying firmly: Chicago lives matter, especially black and brown ones, and I think we need more evidence-based analysis and reality based answers to get to the heart of the real reasons so many of them are being killed. Fact: 80% of Chicago homicide victims are black, and more people died in Chicago last year than the year before (around 270 more) than ALL the black people killed by police nationwide (266, according to The Guardian’s final tally; 574 white; and tremendously tiny fraction of all demographics had no weapon).
If we need “surveys” to prove that there’s a possible “Ferguson Effect” after major police shootings, then why aren’t academics, foundations, and the government rushing to do those surveys? Perhaps they married a narrative that the criminal justice system needs to be critiqued and dismantled rather than, shudder to think, defended somewhat? (Or better resourced.) Says The Atlantic, who will continually to resist any narrative that supports policing:
What researchers don’t know is vast. A breakdown in police-community relations after the McDonald shooting could have played a role, but without regular public surveys on the issue, there’s no reliable data to prove the effect. “You could anecdotally look up stories and what you find in the press, but that’s not a particularly scientific way of actually assessing where those relations stand,” he said. Another possible factor is an increase in gang feuds, but for obvious reasons, those are harder for researchers to study.
“That may well explain what’s going on but there’s really no way to verify it because nobody keeps track of data on a month-by-month basis,” Kapustin said. “I wish they did, it’d make our lives a lot better. For the most interesting explanations, the ones that really grip people, we just don’t have a way of knowing.”
Find a way of knowing. It’s been two years since Michael Brown and Eric Garner. And two years of ten-plus percentage increases in murder nationwide. It’s been two years since the story of discord between black communities and police have hit their apex. It’s also been two years and no wrongdoing can be found of the police directly involved. Though, the cut-and-dry murder case of Walter Scott needs justice, like, yesterday.
Few discuss the fact that policing has been firmly placed under the spotlight for two-plus years since Michael Brown’s death in Ferguson, Missouri. Wouldn’t it be logical as FBI Director James Comey (“viral video effect”) and Mayor Rahm Emanuel (police going “fetal”) have suggested that police are hesitant and perhaps withdrawing from situations that may require force or interactions with citizenry? That the reason police aren’t “doing their job” isn’t them, but us — the United States. 68% of Americans have smartphones, and they’re now directed at cops. Police are getting out of their cars and immediately have a camera on them, or are shot at and taunted as they’re doing their job, as reported in the Chicago Tribune. Or communities are second-guessing law enforcement officers as they’re apprehending suspects, which may lead to more dangerous situations and a greater chance for violence to erupt.
Even when Newsweek points out the minuscule number of problematic shootings, activists and academics stumble over themselves to not acknowledge the corollary spikes in crime in the aftermath or the unreasonable hype built around certain shootings. Only Mac Donald appears to have analyzed what those “unarmed shootings” of black men look like:
Perhaps because there were so many prominent incidents involving unarmed black men in 2014 and 2015, family members of those killed, as well as activists, the media and some lawmakers now seem too eager to claim the deceased was unarmed, even if the evidence suggests otherwise, or there is not enough information available. For example, early evidence suggested that Keith Lamont Scott had a gun when police shot and killed him in Charlotte, North Carolina, in September. But in a video of the confrontation, his wife says, “He doesn’t have a gun.” That is the version that stuck for many. The New York Times had to issue a correction after initially referring to Scott as “an unarmed black man.” Hillary Clinton tweeted, “Keith Lamont Scott. Terence Crutcher. Too many others. This has got to end.” Around two weeks later, Bernie Sanders tweeted, “I am tired of seeing unarmed African Americans shot in cold blood.”
In October, protests erupted in Los Angeles following the fatal officer-involved shooting of Carnell Snell, a black man. Activists described Snell as unarmed in a tweet published to more than 10,000 followers, and in a widely shared Facebook post, a woman who said she had taught Snell in school wrote, “Witnesses say that his hands were up when he was shot in the back.” Days later, the Los Angeles Police Department released a video that appeared to show Snell with a gun moments before police killed him.
Law enforcement experts also point out that an unarmed person can still pose a threat to police and bystanders. “You can talk to any officer and he’ll say in any confrontation with a violent or resisting suspect, there’s a gun involved, and that’s the officer’s,” says Mac Donald, of the Manhattan Institute. In her book, she scrutinized the Post’s 2015 data. At least five of the unarmed black men killed that year had reportedly tried to grab an officer’s gun or beat an officer with his or her own equipment, she wrote. Two more of the men “were struck by stray bullets aimed at someone else in justified cop shootings.” In one case, a bystander was killed by police — not the suspect. “That older man happened to be black, but his race had nothing to do with his tragic death,” she wrote.
She’s got a point.
People say these things happen only to blacks. Not true. Indeed, there are white victims where police aren’t held accountable (video) in those rare instances of death-by-cop that vastly fewer people have heard about. There are many more not reported in the media, and not because they look much different than the highly publicized shootings of black men. Some are tragic. A vast majority are justified and legal.
How the Department of Justice Report Got it Wrong in Chicago
Even this month, the Loretta Lynch’s Department of Justice (DOJ) paints Chicago police as racist and systemically abusive towards citizenry. But how can they do that when they rip context, crime rates, and victimization completely out of the report? Their bottom line premises and argument for institutional bias are highly flawed, I found. I searched “Disparities” in the report — mentioned 21 times — and never once do they reference statistics or concrete information on crime disparities. It’s mind-boggling when you think about it. The DOJ report simply states the following, “Blacks, Latinos, and whites make up approximately equal thirds of the population in Chicago, but the raw statistics show that Chicago Police Department (CPD) uses force almost 10 times more often against blacks than against whites.” Nowhere does the DOJ mention that “ten times more” (10x) figure closely mirrors contact cards (stops) by police (8x), and those stops closely match case reports issued by ordinary citizens or 911 calls of suspects (8x). Nor do they point out that Chicago’s last published report on crime disparities shows a vast white-black imbalance, particularly for the most violent crimes that may lead to “use of force” by police: Robbery arrests are 26x higher for blacks than whites, for instance, according to 2009 CPD arrest data. Other arrest figures: 11x higher for criminal sexual assault; 26x higher for murder; 13x higher for aggravated battery; etc. Nowhere do they compare police violence to other major cities, or point out my statistic above that Chicago police use lethal force the same rate as cops nationally. Around 10 in Chicago vs. about 1000 nationally. Chicago’s population is a little less than 1% of the country’s population. That’s the same average. This isn’t rocket science. So why doesn’t anyone in the media, government, or academia report that when it’s clearly the “systemic” data point?
I also find it interesting that the Department of Justice found so many problems and presumably did ride-alongs on the year police pulled back from policing. Newsweek in December reported a few perspectives for what drove the crime increases. This includes one from a gang member in Englewood, Tray, talking about police in 2016:
“They hop out on you less,” Tray says of the police bowing out of aggressive stops in his neighborhood. The police still drive by and see young men selling drugs, but they don’t stop. They used to get out of their car the first time they passed by, Tray says. But now they’ll drive by twice without stopping, and only if the young men are still there on the third pass will they get out of their patrol cars.
“I tell them, ‘Be careful. Don’t be so aggressive out there. Think of your family before you go out there and do something,’” the detective says as he finishes his salad, laying out the advice he gives officers under his command. “Policing has changed. If you don’t change with it, you’re going to lose your job.”
And from leaders in criminal justice, such as U.S. Attorney Zachary Fardon, connecting the dots from the Department of Justice investigation and intense focus by the ACLU to what happened in the city last year. Again, as if we need reminding, this is during the period where nearly 300 more people were killed in Chicago than the year before:
Whatever your feelings about cops, the withdrawal of a city’s police force can hurt the fight against violent crime, according to Zachary Fardon, the U.S. attorney for the Northern District of Illinois. The current violence spike in Chicago followed four events late last year that kneecapped residents’ confidence in police and officer morale, he said in a speech in late September.
First, in November, the city released graphic dashcam video of a white police officer fatally shooting Laquan McDonald, a black 17-year-old who was walking away from police when he was killed. After protesters and the City Council’s Black Caucus demanded the ouster of Police Superintendent Garry McCarthy, Mayor Rahm Emanuel fired him on December 1. Less than a week later, the U.S. Department of Justice announced it would investigate the department, focusing on its use of force and whether any racial groups bore the brunt of it. Finally, the agreement between the city and the ACLU also requires police to fill out lengthy contact cards every time they stop someone went into effect January 1.
“I also think that the fallout in public confidence — the apparent embattlement of police on all fronts — created a sense of emboldened aggressiveness among gang members, especially in Chicago’s most violence-afflicted neighborhoods,” Fardon says. “Some gang members apparently felt they could get away with more, and so more bullets start[ed] flying.”
I still believe there’s historical lack of accountability with police. The Guardian has reported on the infamous Homan Square CPD holding station where torture reportedly takes place. There’s indeed a “Thick Blue Line” around policing that protects officers. 99% of police, give or take, aren’t given any reprimand whatsoever for police shootings. From everything I looked at, the number of “bad” shootings can be anywhere from 5–10%, as opposed to the official 1%. Culture, union rules, policing strategies and policies — all those play a part. “As many as 5 percent of police shootings [that IPRA investigates] are problematic,” Lorenzo Davis has said. Davis is a former Chicago police officer, who got fired from the review board that investigates police shootings. He was let go for not changing his assessments from ‘unjustifiable’ to ‘justified’ in six cases.
Can we change the narrative and support the fact that police are better trained and possibly acting better towards citizens than ever? This is based on the available evidence, not anecdote. CDC data states clearly that police shoot blacks 3–4 times less than they did in 1968, though they shoot all other racial groups at the same rate per million. And Chicago police also shoot citizenry 4–6x times less than the 1970s. There were 148 shootings by police in 1975, 25 in 2016, by comparing numbers of heyjackass.com (data comparable to Chicago Tribune) to Journal of Criminal Law and Criminology, Spring 1982 Issue, p. 349.
There’s no solid evidence police violence has increased in recent years (despite what academic papers titled “In the Shadows of the War on Terror” might imply), or is disproportionately directed at minority Americans at rates vastly higher than the crime rate. In fact, the most credible evidence says the opposite: It’s gone down significantly for blacks, but not for whites.
But the Criminal Justice System is Racist and Arrests Black People more than White People!
Short answer, um, no.
Two studies say it’s actually white offenders that are more likely to be in contact with police based on the “commission of a crime.” One of them is consistently referenced in Wikipedia’s analysis of race and crime. In the study’s own words:
1. Revisiting ‘‘Measuring the Problem’’: Separate Examination of Police Contact in Serious and Nonserious Offenders (2016, Wendi Pollock , Scott Menard , and Milton C. Hill):
“Results indicate that race does have an indirect effect on police contact, but it is White individuals who are more likely to be questioned and arrested.”
SOURCE (2016, Criminal Justice Review):
* Note this citation uses D’Alessio and Stolzenberg’s 2003 study Race and the Probability of Arrest.
2. Race and the Probability of Arrest (2003, Stewart J. D’Alessio and Lisa Stolzenberg):
“Although blacks are arrested disproportionately for most types of violent crimes, disagreement persists as to the extent to which official arrest data are indicative of differential offending behavior or selection bias on the part of law enforcement personnel Using data from the National Incident-Based Reporting System (NIBRS), we assess the effect of an offender’s race on the probability of arrest for 335,619 incidents of forcible rape, robbery, and assault in 17 states during 1999. The baseline model for these comparisons is the equiprobability hypothesis that relative to violation frequency as reported by crime victims, the likelihood of arrest for white and black offenders is roughly equal. Multivariate logistic regression results show that the odds of arrest for white offenders is approximately 22% higher for robbery, 13% higher for aggravated assault, and 9% higher for simple assault than they are for black offenders. An offender’s race plays no noteworthy role in the likelihood of arrest for the crime of forcible rape. These findings suggest that the disproportionately high arrest rate for black citizens is most likely attributable to differential involvement in reported crime rather than to racially biased law enforcement practices.”
SOURCE (2003, Stewart J. D’Alessio and Lisa Stolzenberg): http://sf.oxfordjournals.org/content/81/4/1381
Originally found in Wikipedia’s page on Race and Crime in the United States proving it’s BEHAVIOR that affects outcomes more than BIAS:
“The probability of arrest given the commission of a crime is higher for whites than it is for blacks for robbery, aggravated assault, and simple assault, whereas for rape the probability of arrest is approximately equal across offender race. This suggests that blacks are disproportionately arrested for these crimes because they commit them at higher rates, not because law enforcement practices result in racially biased arrest decisions.”
ADDITIONAL FACTS & QUESTIONS:
- There’s a double-digit growth in the homicide rate nationally for two consecutive years nationally (a 10% jump and then a likely 13% jump) — a 31.5% leap from 2014 to 2016, says the Brennan Center.
- (NOTE: Given difficulties in dissecting the “national” of all murders and the “national” for only the largest 30 cities in the 31.5% increase, which even the media gets confused about, these numbers can be taken with a grain of salt. The Brennan Center should be more clear with their language in future reports.)
Q: How is a 31.5% increase in 2 years nationally not a “crime wave”? How can there be greater than 10% annual increases in homicides and say that a handful of cities representing 2% or less of the population are “driving” the increases? (It could be possible, but I need to see the math transparently.) Seemingly, the Brennan Center themselves appear dismissive of unsettling conclusions that rise from their data like pimple on an adolescent nose.
FiveThirtyEight see two double-digit increases for the past two years for large cities. But do they seek to explain them?
This year’s rise appears slightly smaller than last year’s dramatic increase. The big cities experienced roughly a 11.3 percent increase in murder in 2016, which is down from the same group’s 14.8 percent increase from 2014 to 2015. Still, the figures suggest that big cities have seen murder rise by more than a quarter in just two years, likely the biggest two-year increase since 1989 to 1991. The issue has drawn national attention, with Donald Trump repeatedly pointing to violence in cities as evidence of a breakdown in law and order under President Obama. Even after the recent increase, however, the murder rate remains low by historical standards.
A few points jump out while reviewing the change in murder in big cities in 2016.Chicago has gotten the headlines, and the Windy City’s 59 percent increase in murder accounted for fully 40 percent of the rise in murder among big cities. But Chicago was not the only big city to experience an alarming jump in murders in 2016.
I really wish they would just graph the numbers. Or else I will have to. But I have a job. I’ll trust the “expert” crime analyst from New Orleans for now.
Q: Again, is it “ghettoizing” the problem by saying this is only happening in Chicago or a few select cities? I think of one city as everyone’s problem, to an extent. When we sent feds to Selma or other places, those were to protect people. Though, I don’t quite trust Trump to do anything smart or goodhearted. But at least he’s addressing a real problem rather than putting his head in the sand.
- 20% clearance rate for murders in 2016 in Chicago, a historic low.
Q: Do citizens not want to work with the police? Why is that?
- Last year in January, shootings and homicides were up, but stops by police were down 90%. By March, shootings were up 80%. The only difference was Laquan Mcdonald’s video the month before, and a new ACLU form police had to use.
Q: If there’s a 24% increase in murders in January 2017 from January 2016, and last year’s rate was already an unprecedented spike from 2015, how is this not an emergency and “unprecedented”?
- There’s very little discussion about that new ACLU form by police, which takes up to 45 minutes to fill per stop, says the ex-CPD chief, Garry McCarthy. By year’s end, stops were down 80% and arrests were down 33%, while homicides were nearly up 60%.
Q: Can we talk about a “viral video effect” (aka Ferguson Effect) yet? Can we talk about letting police do their job again WHILE holding them to the highest standard?