How Roland Fryer’s Controversial Harvard Study on Racial Bias by Police Actually Shows Negligible Bias (or Brutality)

I’ll crunch the numbers. You can comment and debunk.

David Shuey
86 min readAug 25, 2016
See below for more complete graphic based on New York Times’ chart of Roland Fryer’s data.

NOTE BY AUTHOR June 2020: Major updates since the July 2016 publication of this article — much of it in the Summer and Fall of 2017, as noted in a footnote in this article — has made this one-time readable post into plausible manuscript on policing and use-of-force.

Fryer’s results on fatal force indicate anti-white bias in shootings. He’s not alone.

Occasionally, I have added key insights and new edits, mostly in response to what I call the all-too-common “moving the goal posts” argumentation by critics of Dr. Roland Fryer, such as not trusting the police data when it points to negligible bias or even anti-white bias as is the case of fatal shootings. And anti-white bias in police shootings he most certainly has found, along with several other researchers over the years, including Dr. Joseph Cesario and Dr. David Johnson who I’ve been fortunate to interview this past year. Media usually responds with silence or extreme skepticism.

Essentially, the evidence of nearly invisible bias I find within Fryer’s results are in the graphic above that I modified from one in the New York Times. Others may disagree, but I don’t think having handcuffs on you in 3.1% stop and frisk encounters if you’re black, and 2.7% if you’re white, is a huge difference.

Fryer’s conclusions do diverge from my own interpretation, and as he finds “significance” in that “statistically significant” gap by saying:

“For instance, 0.26 percent of interactions between police and civilians involve an officer drawing a weapon; 0.02 percent involve using a baton. These are rare events. Yet, the results indicate that they are significantly more rare for whites than blacks. With all controls, blacks are 21 percent more likely than whites to be involved in an interaction with police in which at least a weapon is drawn and the difference is statistically significant.”

It’s especially interesting that seven years after stop-and-frisk ostensibly ended in New York City that it is still being invoked in the aftermath of George Floyd’s death at the hands of police in Minneapolis. Fryer’s other argument that whites are 24% more likely to be shot by police is largely not. In these ultra-politically correct times the mere mention of the demographics of crime offenses, which closely map onto use-of-force outcomes with police, are only said by a few brave souls. The threat of being called out as white supremacist for simply stating how racist history can shape these differential patterns in crime makes for a muffled discourse.

It’s more clear now than ever that even outside academia there are repercussions for going against the grain on the debates concerning institutional racism.

When the data or research runs heterodox to established norms in academia or elite society, the intellectual dodge is quick: “We must focus on the qualitative and ‘lived experiences’ to understand racism today, not data.” This was said to me this week in the context of Black Lives Matter and the use of data to buttress the nationwide hysteria and “moral panic” over killings by police of black people, as Sam Harris puts it. “Data is limited” has been said to me many times over the years without, I think, people fully engaging in it. Of course, in the same conversation often, critics of police will use data if it supports their own viewpoint that police are racially biased — like Fryer’s nonfatal force conclusions. Or they’ll whip out data to prove systemic racism in employment, for instance, which I debunk as an aside in the “resumes” and “hiring practices” section below. Notably, Dr. Fryer’s important research exposes part of that myth. Perhaps more notably, this “resumes-with-black-sounding-names” data is nearly 20 years old.

Zach Goldberg’s data analyses often indicate how white liberals believe racism is far worse than reality.

I believe I address these critiques and issues below with due diligence, specifically pointing out that it makes no sense that overall “use of force” incidents may conceivably be higher for blacks than the record indicates simply because “fatal use of force” is slightly lower in the data, and you can’t hide that evidence easily. People advocating that position have their logic backwards. Here are the two sets of data supported by by The Washington Post, Center for Policing Equity, The Guardian, and other resources:

If those two data points (25% fatal force, 31% non-fatal) were reversed, you could more easily make the argument police are scrubbing data to hide racism. Basically, if it were shown in The Guardian and The Washington Post data — and FBI records that are set to be released in in Summer 2020 — that 40% of fatal encounters resulted in the death of someone were black, but documentation showed 25% of overall nonfatal force incidents were black, you would have: 1) a clear systemic racism problem in terms of fatalities of black people; and 2) a clear systemic racism problem in terms of not documenting force used on people of color. But we don’t. Alas, we have data that I feel indicates the police are mostly “fair” or “consistent” in regards to how they deal with America’s diverse racial demographics.

Before the homicide spike of 2014–2016, 4% of black homicides were from police. Now it’s closer to 3%.

My overall point is both those force results map onto arrest and crime (27% arrests) and thus the “disparity” argument is manipulative. And because of political correctness, it is everywhere. Folks also like to say that racial profiling is the dominant reason for higher rates of encounters, without ever calculating how often it’s occurring — which I argue is on the margins, but it’s only a tiny fraction of overall police encounters. There’s also the fact that fatal shootings by police are around 3% of total black homicides, too, but around 12% of white homicides. (I find it intriguing that folks do trust research when it supports their conclusions of systemic racism, even after questionable academic approaches come forth — see “Grievance Studies Affair” of 2017–2018.)

Increasingly, I sense the media and public at large have run-away completely with the meme that policing is uniquely violent towards African Americans. This is largely due to the fact that any discussion of disparities in “crime rates” is taboo and unmentionable, as Steven Pinker said famously in a video released January 2018 saying that political correctness is “redpilling” America. I believe all the data indicates the U.S. criminal justice system, and use of force specifically, is not systemically racist in its application. It’s mostly equitable under the law. If it’s “bad” it’s bad for all backgrounds, but specifically men who are 74% of those arrested but 95% of fatalities from police. Also, men’s disparities in sentencing compared with women are far greater than the small gaps between white and blacks.

If want to read as the “original post” for the most part skip the 18,000-word section in the middle (Can We Trust The Numbers? Answer: Yes.) and go straight to the very end (Breaking Down Fryer’s Data “On the Ground”). Also, you can read these newer articles:

TIP: Use the search function (ctrl+F) to find key insights you’re looking for.

ALSO: Fryer has a NEW study in June 2020 that appears to support the “Ferguson Effect” hypothesis that more people die as a result of intense media attention and DOJ “pattern-or-practice” investigations on police abuse.

End of 2020 Intro (a year with a 29% increase in murders)

Original August 2016 Intro

It’s been a month, and much has been written (often reactionary) about the new study (“empirical analysis”) on policing by a MacArthur “Genius” Fellowship winner Roland Fryer, a renowned economist from Harvard. The New York Times headline and detailed charts got the most coverage (and nearly 1300 comments): “Surprising New Evidence Shows Bias in Police Use of Force but Not in Shootings.”

I even made graphics (see above and below) replicating the use-of-force data New York Times editors placed at the top of their story, but added a new orange column with numbers I crunched on the right-hand side. The original graphic I cynically believe was positioned for readers “first” and prominently to tell them, “Hey, don’t worry: We’re still highlighting and insinuating evidence of police racism, where use of force is 16–25% MORE likely to happen to African Americans.” The “24% LESS likely to be shot by police if black” chart and statistic, Dr. Fryer’s second major conclusion and obviously the most newsworthy, was positioned far below by The Gray Lady. My analysis will show how both data sets show a trivial difference — being 20% more or 20% less with small raw numbers doesn’t mean much — and the overall occurrences predictably align with crime statistics.

Just as proper, dispassionate analysis shows police aren’t systematically or overwhelmingly racist — which I show on this post by contextualizing (not spinning) more educated people’s hard work — so does looking closer at “Stand Your Ground” laws. One may remember after the acquittal of George Zimmerman for the death of Trayvon Martin, these laws were widely condemned as racist and the #blacklivesmatter hashtag was launched. However, Public Radio WJCT in Florida pointed out that a higher percentage of black people are set free from ‘Stand Your Ground’ laws than white people, 66% to 61%. In an analysis by Florida’s Tampa Bay Times, no obvious racial bias has been found in the application of the law in that state. Some studies differ by focusing exclusively on the race of who dies — though when African Americans make up more than 50% of all homicide victims, that argument may be disingenuous and faulty. But many evidence-based testimonies say there’s no bias, some even including the elephant in the room: “It’s relatively uncommon for a black defender to shoot a white attacker, period. There’s a reasonable explanation for this: Black victims get killed by whites only 7% of the time, while white victims are killed by blacks about twice as often (14%). Murders are mostly intraracial (blacks, 91%; whites 83%).” FBI stats support this: In 2013, the FBI Uniform Crime Report shows 409 white people were killed by black perpetrators, but 189 black people were killed by white perpetrators. So from an institutional and systemic standpoint, those key areas academics and activists claim are the most important, it appears obvious: #blacklivesDOmatter.

People still freaked out, specifically about the evidence dealing with police shootings. It went directly against the massively popular narrative that began after Trayvon Martin’s death and erupted in Ferguson, Missouri. Fryer himself tried to answer reader questions. Though, it doesn’t take a “genius” to conclude for the past few years that if the black U.S. demographic that is 25% of those being killed by police is also 27% of the those arrested (36% for violent crimes), and 43% of the persons killing cops, then there might very well not be nationwide systemic racial bias against that demographic.

Americans and media could also do some homework and point out, for example, that according to the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention the rate of police killings per million for African Americans has fallen by 70 percent over the last four decades but the rate remains as high or higher for whites, Latinos and Asians. Outcomes from so-called “state-sanctioned violence” got better for some since the 1960s, but not for others. The “risk” of lethal force is still higher for African Americans, yet that’s solely based on risky behaviors that bring about interactions with law enforcement.

Eric Garner, 2014, New York City’s Staten Island.

Regardless, few arguments against Fryer got to the heart of the other matter on use of force which I’m addressing here: “How exactly are police approaching and treating citizens? Per encounter (‘stop’), what does the data translate to?”

It is by taking this “next step” with Fryer’s data where a non-opaque image emerges on how use of force is applied “on the ground” and whether racial disparities exist. My conclusion: It’s negligible.

And evidence of prevalent police brutality? Arguably, it’s not there. Unless you believe that police placing handcuffs roughly 3% of the time on BOTH white and black persons they stop in New York City constitutes unequal and pervasive “rough” treatment. This is ironic in the context of what Fryer stated publicly to The Wall Street Journal upon delivering his new data, “For all the eerie similarities between the current spate of police interactions with African Americans and the historical injustices which remain unhealed, the current debate is virtually data free.” And I wonder about those similarities with Jim Crow and other “historical injustices” when that “roughly 3%” figure I calculated is from Fryer’s own data, which mirrors other verified raw numbers of U.S. law enforcement actions.

Roland Fryer’s working paper released July 2016:

Also, it’s worth noting that Fryer’s Wikipedia page is currently updated with the following:

In 2016, the National Bureau of Economic Research published a working paper by Fryer concluding that although minorities (African Americans and Hispanics) are more likely to experience police use of force than whites, but that they were not more likely to be shot by police than whites.[17] The study generated considerable controversy and criticism.[18][19][20]

Indeed, it did. Mostly, I’d hypothesize, because stakeholders and the public are married to preordained notions, propping up narrowly defined evidence to defend their point-of-view a (however thin) and giving a knee-jerk dismissal of new evidence (however thorough). Or set an extremely low bar for charges of racism or unfair treatment. This is a trend, I theorize, spawned in corners of academia and think tanks and running rampant in news organizations, activist groups, and social media — often by over-embellishing certain findings and ignoring others.

First, Let’s Disprove the Narrative that Police Are Far and Violent than Ever in Modern U.S. History — and Touch Upon Whether Their Actions are Evidence of Systemic Racism

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 about “militarized policing”), 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.

In fact, I’ve yet to find any evidence that presents solid data or trends indicating police are getting far more violent over the past decade. This may come as a surprise to global citizens inundated with news of “black deaths at the hands of police” in America. Rebutting the Urban League CEO who says police killings are at a 20-year high, Politifact fact-checks that the data simply isn’t reliable enough to say one way or another, because the government isn’t collecting the data consistently year-to-year. But I have found academic and news sources that indicate the trend of state-sanctioned violence is indeed growing more favorable to African Americans and persons living in urban environments. Also, it appears clear that the narrative of “white police oppressing minority populations” is much overstated, especially when discovering facts like the following: Black police that shoot their weapons three times as much as their counterparts, and predominantly at black citizens.

(The U.S. Department of Justice and the FBI claim they will be fixing this data gap by 2017. Also, those FBI justified homicide reports Politifact refers to show the totals are more than half of what The Guardian and The Washington Post crowd-sourced, which virtually no one in power was denying and the FBI director said was “embarrassing and ridiculous” in 2015.)

Clear evidence police in Chicago shot citizens up to six times more in the 1970s than today. This data was published by Northwestern in 1982, while the Chicago police data was still relatively new. The violent years of 1974 (970 homicides) and 2016 (800 homicides) in Chicago are also in par with each other. While comparisons between eras can be complicated and difficult, it’s important to note that many more people are surviving shootings today due to improved outcomes in trauma centers, much of it due to medical advances from dealing with critically wounded U.S. soldiers in Iraq in Afghanistan. The 4000+ shootings in 2016 was possibly near an all-time record, and many more than 800 may have died if doctors from 1974 were treating victims. Chicago’s population was slightly more than 10% larger, too.

Let’s go back to lethal force by cops for a minute, where the evidence is clear the 1960s and 1970s had far more police shootings, particularly in large American cities. According to the New York Times, New York City had 91 fatal police killings in 1971, but only 8 in 2013. Indeed, police-involved shootings in Chicago today are four to six times less than they were in the 1970s, as a 1980s sociology text confirms. In 1975 in Chicago, 148 civilians were shot by police, according to data published in 1982 by Northwestern University’s Journal of Criminal Law and Criminology. In 2015 and 2016, 25 citizens were shot by police in both years, according to the Chicago crime data-crunching website HeyJackass! (The Chicago Tribune lists slightly less with 22 people shot, 8 fatally, in 2015; and if you do some quick math you’ll see the rate of lethal force in Chicago the past two years is the same as nationally, roughly 1 in 300,000.) Here are the concrete numbers for two separate years spanning four decades which are among the worst for violence in Chicago:

You can also safely assume that black citizens were on the receiving end of the majority of shootings and killings by police in large American cities like Chicago and New York City. Thus, there’s a correlation of city deaths at the hands of police lowering in parallel with the rate of African Americans nationwide. This is because the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC) has shown a dramatic downward trend from 1968–1969 to 2010–2011 for African Americans, but not for the category “All Other Races.”

I have yet to discover other news or academic articles compare these data sets.

Centers for Disease Control and Prevention data, among the most reliable, shows that the rate of killings of African Americans by police went down 70% since 1968–69. But the rate flat-lined for all other races. Could this make cross-generational conversations of “how the cops treat black people” an anecdotal reinforcement of a problem that WAS indeed 3–4 times worse in the 1960s? Maybe it seems “as bad or worse” today because it’s on our TV, computer, and smartphone screens all the time. I compiled a “Top 5” list of videos of police shooting unarmed white persons that many people likely haven’t seen, many of the images as shocking as the high-profile ones seen worldwide in the media.

Black conservative Larry Elder makes this powerful point, and citing CDC data, one of the more trusted U.S agencies, he asks, “So what’s driving this notion that there is now an ‘epidemic’ of white cops shooting blacks when in the last several decades the numbers of blacks killed by cops are down nearly 75 percent?” Good question. According to the CDC data, the rate for all other racial groups have remained the same, or even went up slightly. Indeed, it’s noteworthy that the liberal anti-incarceration group Center on Juvenile and Criminal Justice (CJCJ) refers to the same CDC data and chart (see above) showing the rate of black people killed by law enforcement is more than three times less than 40–50 years ago. (Nov 2017 Update: It’s quite possible the reputable Center on Juvenile and Criminal Justice were the ones who first compiled the data and made the chart “Rate of Police Killings, African Americans vs. All Other Ages/Races” in 2014, after an image search for “compressed mortality file 1968–2011 CDC” and many other fact-finding attempts yielded no CDC report — though there are CDC tools to generate them for recent years. However, Larry Elder refers directly to CDC reports, ignoring the CJCJ. Regardless, my point is simple: Left-leaning and right-leaning sources are trumpeting the same data and chart without dispute.)

Yet facts like these are largely ignored and almost never mentioned in mainstream news reports. In the age of “viral videos,” the “isolated instance” of police violence gets twisted into an epidemic — and nearly exclusively happening to people of color. That’s not true. Especially knowing that two out of four people killed by police are white, and less than 10% of all people killed were unarmed — and some of those police-fighting “unarmed” assailants were still lethally dangerous. (Why? Because fighting a police officer who has a gun can turn mortally dangerous under specific circumstances, like when knocking unconscious an armed police officer in a fight. Last one to get the gun is a rotten egg, and likely dead.)

When cries of racism pop up, maybe it can be be pointed out that nearly 80% of the people black officers kill are black when blacks comprise 25% overall deaths by all officers. Indeed, black cops shoot their guns 3.3 times more often than their counterparts according to a 2015 University of Pennsylvania Department of Criminology statistical study — again, a reflection of the dangerous areas they serve more than any other factor. This indisputably counters the narrative that it’s white police officers using lethal force against black and brown people disproportionately compared to their peers. In fact, the University of Pennsylvania study by criminologist Greg Ridgeway says point-blank that while diversifying police ranks adds legitimacy, “Recent research suggests diversity does not make officers safer and this research does not suggest diversity will reduce the risk of police shootings.”

And it’s worth noting: Applying “use of force” doesn’t mean it’s “unjustified use of force.” These are trained techniques used for compliance and the safety of the officer and citizens, when used correctly. There is even no clear definition of what constitutes “excessive force” despite the term showing up repeatedly in stories around policing. I do sense some people — activists mostly — live in an imaginary world where police should refrain from protecting themselves, and every perpetrator cooperatively goes to jail like a ten-year-old heading to Disneyland. If use of force happened 1 in 25 times for both white and black persons per arrest (about 4% of the time), wouldn’t most people say that’s both low and negligible? Wouldn’t people say that sounds like a country without a racism problem in policing? That’s what the Center for Policing Equity found this summer, closely matching the results of Dr. Fryer regarding citizen stops.

Thus, I won’t delve deeply into Fryer’s self-proclaimed “most surprising result of my career” of NO racial bias in police shootings. I wrote about those results earlier in August when discussing Chicago’s recent police shootings and the rare use of deadly force, which contradicts news headlines and far-too-common assumptions. In fact, some paragraphs here are directly lifted from the “addendum” content at the bottom of that post. I want to focus on the area that DOES appear to show racial bias — and then present clearly that the gap between blacks and whites are really quite small. (Again, refer to the graphic at the start of this post.)

I do ask: To the many befuddled critics of Fryer’s “no racial bias” shooting data, from Slate to Snopes, can you also downplay his “yes there’s racial bias” use-of-force data from the same analysis? Because I don’t believe you can use one and not the other, especially when those numbers match up. That’s cherry picking for a preconceived narrative.

The data from the Center for Policing Equity is similar to Roland Fryer’s Harvard data. As stated in The New York Times, “For those who were arrested, the mean rate use of force against blacks was 46 for every 1,000 arrests, compared with 36 per 1,000 for whites.” That is 24% higher. But when you take the “next step” of presenting the data more clearly, it’s also 100% true stating that “use of force” is applied 4.6% of the time for every black person arrested and 3.6% of the time for every white person arrested. Thus, roughly 95% of the time, no matter your race, police in the United States won’t be “rough” with you — at least according to this data widely used (see here, here, or here) to show racial bias by police is somehow at the heart of the problem more than the behavior of citizenry. I first started making that argument in this Medium post in July: “The Debunking of a Misleading NY Times Headline.”

The Fryer use-of-force data itself is credible as it’s nearly identical to similar reports, such as one put out this summer by the Center for Policing Equity titled “Race, Arrests, and Police Use of Force.” This analysis has been shown as clear evidence of racial bias by the Daily Kos, The New York Times and other publications— even though I argue it divulges no such definitive conclusions, but merely echoes the intentions of the study’s social justice-minded creators. Still, I prefer Fryer’s openness and his team’s 3000 hours of data-analyzing and clarity of presentation, even if it is a “working paper” and not yet peer-reviewed and only conservative websites tend to highlight the rigor of the more “controversial” shooting analysis. (If Fryer would have only published his use-of-force analysis, no one would have blinked and prevalent quibbling directed at the Harvard scholar’s work — published in the esteemed National Bureau of Economic Research — would have likely been non-existent.) Both papers utilize data from large samples in diverse cities across the United States, and Fryer focuses on New York City for use of force during the stop-and-frisk era 2003–2013.

Regardless, these are twin reports that claim all-things-being-equal (applying crime benchmarks to the mix), the use-of-force rate is still around 20% higher for blacks than whites (a rate of around 1.2, or “1.2 times more likely, all things being equal”). The rate higher is 3.6 (Center for Policing Equity) or 3.335 (Fryer) if one does not control for highly important interaction points with law enforcement, such as arrests and known crime data. So both studies are in the same ballpark, with or without controls. But on the street — and this is my main point — “20% higher” translates to about the SAME percentage of use-of-force actions by police for blacks and whites, within a margin of 1% (look at the orange column located on the right of my two graphics at the top and bottom of this analysis).

How much the same? How often is use-of-force taking place? According to Fryer’s data during Giuliani-Bloomberg’s New York City, suspects are “pushed to the ground” once out of every 73 stops if black (1.3% of the time) or 1 in 87 times if white (1.1%). The Center for Policing Equity’s widely reported conclusion breaks down to “use of force” by police happening 3.6% of the time for white people and 4.6% of the time for black people per arrest.

That’s the “next step.” That’s reality. It’s tangible and something an average reader can visualize. Why isn’t that done by media or academia?

Can We Trust The Numbers? Answer: Yes.

(This next portion is 3/4 of this article. Please feel free to skip to the next yellow & orange graphic towards the bottom — i.e. Breaking Down Fryer’s Data “On the Ground” as this section is dense, long and statistics heavy. It’s frankly a rebuttal to naysayers. 2017 update: I added context for the War on Drugs.)

Unfortunately, far too many news outlets, from The New York Times to CNN, simply emphasize the misleading and hyperbolic “Police use of force among blacks is 3.6 times as high as among whites” (or “360% higher”) and leave it at that. I don’t and won’t. Even while recognizing the racist and economically exploitative American history that leads to poverty, spawning crime, and therefore shaping those interaction points. With that in mind, it’s uncontroversial in criminology circles, but it certainly is in public forums, that African Americans commit much more crime than their percentage of the population, and non-Hispanic White Americans slightly less.

If a demographic is arrested, say, 3.5 times more often than another demographic, and it’s reflective of actual crime levels, there’s obviously going to be 350% more moments use of force as a baseline. What if it were shown there’s 175% more occurrences of use of force with the same arrest rate? In that case, police are exacting HALF the proportional use of force on that demographic. Some would even call this hypothetical result a form of “reverse discrimination” — an unhelpful term, but one gets the point. The New York Times muddies this issue often, as the mainstream media regularly does, by not providing context of criminality and obfuscating.

[2019 NOTE: Center for Policing Equity deleted the report. Find here archived.] This chart on page 19 of a PDF report for the Center for Policing Equity may be helpful in understanding what “20% more or less” looks like between blacks and whites per interaction. It is from the Center for Policing Equity’s 2016 report where I get the specific number (used below) that use of force occurs 3.6 times more often overall for blacks than whites. But what is key is that per interaction, use of force is nearly the same. For example, one can see on the chart that police place hands on the body for 30 out of 1000 white suspects and do the same for 36 out of 1000 black suspects. (It doesn’t point out that in NYC blacks are far more likely to be gang suspects, nor highlight demographic differentials in resisting arrest.) Even more important is the RED circle that points out blacks receive slightly more use of force in all but one category: Lethal force. Even so, when The New York Times reported on this data they said in the headline that, “Police Are More Likely to Use Force on Blacks.” The Times also quoted Aislinn Sol, organizer of the Chicago chapter of Black Lives Matter, who said: “It’s kind of like, ‘Is water wet?’ But what we gain with each study, each new piece of information is that we are able to win people over who are on the fence. The evidence is becoming overwhelming and incontrovertible that it is a systemic problem, rather than an isolated one.” Sorry, if I’m not convinced that when 95% of the time there’s no use of force for blacks — and 96% of the time for whites — that there’s “overwhelming” evidence of a systemic racial problem. That’s why I wrote this Medium post rebuttal that led to this analysis you’re reading here.

Use of force by police is estimated, in several studies, to be about 2.5 times higher for African Americans in raw numbers compared to the general population. The Guardian and The Washington Post consistently shows lethal use of force to be 2.0 times higher for blacks (simple math: 12.5% of population and 25% of deaths). The difference with whites is slightly greater, 3.6 for all uses of force combined compared to 2.5 for killings (or 2.8 depending who runs the data for lethal use of force.) First, notice how the rate of lethal force against blacks is lower than the tabulation for all uses of force. Also, think about those two data points on lethal and non-lethal use of force for blacks compared to the overall population — 2.0 and 2.5 — and ask yourself: “Shouldn’t those numbers be fairly close?” Of course they should be, and they are!

[2019 NOTE: Center for Policing Equity deleted the report from their website! Find here archived. Also, it’s possible this data isn’t quite a “national” number, as its limited to 12 departments: “Of the 19,269 total incidents reported by these departments from 2010 to 2015, police were 2.5 times more likely to use force on Black residents than on average and 3.6 times (360%) more likely than on white residents.” The more honest presentation, as I’ll argue below, would show that benchmarking to arrest is the way to go, showing blacks have 20% differences from whites compared to 360% differences.]

Wait, where does it say that whites have more contact with police on average per year than blacks? It’s not police data. It’s survey data, showing what citizens themselves say in the Police-Public Contact Survey (PPCS) conducted by the U.S. government (Bureau of Justice Statistics). A French statistician Philippe Lemoine made detailed charts (see above) on how different races actually have similar rates of contact with police when all contacts are combined together (stops, pull-overs, arrests, calling police, and so forth) and not narrowly focused on criminal contacts — which are far smaller in number, and far more disparate for blacks compared to other populations. Specific breakdowns of the probability of having at least one contact with police the previous year: 20.7% of whites, 17.5% of blacks, and 17.1% of Hispanics. Lemoine’s analysis is here for the PPCS years 2005 and 2008. (To see Lemoine’s conversation with celebrated African American economist Glen Loury on police violence, see here). Other PPCS survey data written about in The Washington Post and “spun” to convey social injustice show more black drivers (12.8%) than white (9.8%) and Hispanic (10.4%) drivers were pulled over in a traffic stop during their most recent contact with police. They then say that this 31% black-white contact difference in this ONE category is evidence of the oft-heard “driving while black,” which is a “measurable phenomenon” of implicit racial bias in policing. But they say so without mentioning research that shows there’s a possible 93% black-white difference in speeding. For example, a 2002 study determined 2.7% of photographed black drivers were speeders, compared with 1.4% of white drivers.

No, Black People Aren’t Over-Policed Like You Think They Are — Just Follow the Data

If this is confusing to you, even President Obama gets his statistics wrong in prepared remarks on the 2016 shootings of Philando Castille and Alton Sterling and is prone to spinning data. Sure, some government research shows blacks are three times more likely to have contraband searches than whites (2% compared to 6%), but that gives zero context for high-crime areas where many stops are made for African Americans, and Obama neglects data that says whites are MORE likely to be to have contact with police on average. Also, while the president meant to say blacks are “twice as likely” to be arrested and “twice as likely” to be shot as the entire population put together, he made the comparison to “whites.” That stood out, as it’s 100% incorrect. We’ll get to arrest rates later, but generally blacks are about three times as likely to be shot AND arrested as whites, and around twice as likely as compared to the whole population, of which non-Hispanic whites are roughly 63% of the population and blacks are 13%. Obama, just like most politicians and the media, has never mentioned how the commission of crime takes place vastly more often for blacks than whites. For example, blacks commit more than 50% of robberies and murders, which is 8 times higher than whites. For some reason, that comes off as racist just as #AllLivesMatter is racist.

But I’m often fed the argument, “Well, you don’t know the many unofficial times police mistreat black people, so your analysis is highly limited and you should question use-of-force data.” This is often said about the Fryer study, from ivory towers to activist media (and mainstream media) to radical left reporters for Salon and Alternet who misspell “Professor Freyer’s” name in their rush to debunk inconvenient results. What nobody has reported is that from the available data that Fryer uses, the differences between lethal and non-lethal use of force are relatively close, where the probability of being on the receiving end of a bullet is roughly the same as being tasered or having police place hands on a suspect — except the odds of being shot are slightly less favorable for whites, and the odds of most other uses of force are slightly less favorable for blacks. [For a specific example, I wrote in the previous section: “According to Fryer’s data during Giuliani-Bloomberg’s New York City, suspects are ‘pushed to the ground’ once out of every 73 stops if black (1.3% of the time) or 1 in 87 times if white (1.1%).”] Despite this reality, many in academia choose to insist disparities by race do indeed exist while contradicting themselves and saying science can’t prove it doesn’t, as USC urban planning professor Lisa Schweitzer said when the study came out in July 2016: “Social science does not really have an answer to any of it, and it’s wrong to ask it to, just as it is wrong to try to use social science to undermine the calls for change.” Basically, believe activists and ignore science.

Yes, racial bias and line-crossing brutality by police does occur. Police lie. Though, I argue it’s isolated and often shared with the outside world through viral videos and anecdotally with little evidence of one key aspect: Prevalence. You can have your “bad apple” cops, but there are not enough of them moving the percentages so far as to create a structural bias. This stands in contrast to current systemic arguments of racial discrimination against black people, to name some examples, in housing (continued violations of the Fair Housing Act, based on the data), prison terms (10% longer sentences for blacks compared to whites), and hiring practices (black-sounding names apparently receive fewer call-backs on resumes).

A slight digression: Even those “systemic differences” of “racial bias” are smaller than one might presume. 10% longer sentences on average means that all things being equal, a white man may get 9 years in prison to a black man’s 10-year sentence, according to a University of Michigan Law School study. Also consider the 15-year-old data on names on resumes affecting hiring practices: The 33% bias (not 50%, as misinterpreted) against “black-sounding” names conclusion is based on a NBER working paper just like Fryer’s current paper, so again if one dismisses Fryer’s paper for not being “peer-reviewed” then the same standards would apply here. However, one can also see Roland Fryer’s 2003 NBER research with Freakanomics co-author and renowned economist Stephen Levitt, which was peer-reviewed and published in Harvard’s The Quarterly Journal of Economics one year later, highlight the importance of controls in seeking truth. Fryer and Levitt wrote, “We find, however, no negative relationship between having a distinctively Black name and later life outcomes after controlling for a child’s circumstances at birth.” This also extends to the ongoing systemic racism debates around resume callbacks: “The proper interpretation of earlier audit studies using Black names on resumes is either that the impact of names does not extend beyond the callback decision (because race is directly observed at the interview stage), or that names are correlated with determinants of productivity not captured by a resume.” They concluded that having a black name is “primarily a consequence rather than a cause of poverty and segregation.” A more recent 2016 study on resumes using “black” and “white”-sounding names at the University of Missouri also validates Fryer and Leavitt’s argument, finding no statistically significant differences across race, ethnic or gender groups. Thus, when talking racism in society, nothing is absolute. Or possibly as extreme as one imagines.

The linchpin underneath my argument that use-of-force data and death-by-police data are intertwined rests on two uncontroversial points: 1. Yes, police can theoretically hide abused people through non-reporting; 2. No, they can’t hide dead bodies.

But how much are police “hiding” data for one group of people (black males), but not another (white males), the implication behind point #1? Logic dictates that if one set of violence like use of force really happened 4.0 times more for blacks than the general population (and, again, it’s documented as 2.5) then police involved killings — the most extreme use of force on the continuum — would also have to be 4.0 times higher (and it’s basically a fact it’s 2.0). I’ll also point out that anecdotally, nearly every person I’ve asked said they believed police killings of blacks make up 50–90% of total, which would be 4.0–7.0 times higher than their percentage of the population. They’re surprised when I say, “No, despite what social media and cable news tells us, it’s twice the black population rate, about 25%.” Bush and Obama-era Justice Department oversight, usually instigated after high profile shootings, incredulously doesn’t benchmark stops to crime demographics and may have unintended consequences in the future — i.e. increased crime. For now, the crowdsourcing data vigorously gathered by The Washington Post and The Guardian is the gold standard until the FBI and law enforcement get their act together in terms of data collection. Thus, I argue the “common knowledge” or “ethnographic” explanation — often used as an argument stopper — of racially motivated police harassment (except for those with “white privilege”) is deeply suspect. I’ve yet to be convinced that police are beating people up at double or triple the rate they’re killing them, though I’m open to any evidence or argument. Also, those are the levels necessary (4.0–6.0) to indicate clear racial bias and systemic abuse towards African Americans. What’s telling is the rate they’re being killed (2.0) is possibly lower than to be expected based on crime and encounters with police, as I’ll get to shortly.

(Picking up from what I’m saying below…) And to critics who say the United States over-polices or say, “Police shootings and use of force like this don’t happen in the rest of the Western World,” let us remind them the U.S. is not like the rest of the Western World when it comes to violence or lethal shootings directed at police.

And to critics who say, “Well, this is data provided by ‘honest’ police departments with nothing to hide (wink wink). How can we trust it?” The problematic police departments might not cooperate like Houston did, for example, or some police may be “cooking the books” on what they document so it doesn’t look like they’re pulling over as many brown and black people. Besides, arrest data isn’t necessarily accurate, statistics are limited and don’t reveal the whole picture, and you need qualitative ethnographic studies to truly understand what’s happening on America’s streets. PBS investigations like Frontline’s Policing the Police have full access, cooperation, and the officer-on-the-street’s POV but still show “bad stops.” Even Fryer suggests it, saying in the analysis, “It is possible that these departments only supplied the data because they are either enlightened or were not concerned about what the analysis would reveal. In essence, this is equivalent to analyzing labor market discrimination on a set of firms willing to supply a researcher with their Human Resources data!” He has indicated a desire to work with Chicago crime data, for instance.

Blacks are 13% of the population but are 32% of aggravated assault arrests in 2015 and 33% of aggravated assault arrests in 2016, according to the FBI. Basically, blacks are 3.8 times more likely to be arrested for an aggravated assault, even though “multivariate logistic regression results show that the odds of arrest for white offenders is 13% higher for aggravated assault.” (“Race and the Probability of Arrest,” Social Forces, Department of Sociology at the University of North Carolina at Chapel Hill, 2003). Thus, when it comes to violent crime, blacks are under-policed not over-policed.

OK, I hear that. Well, you can’t hide dead or gunned down bodies, right? Compared to killings, publicly accessible use-of-force data indicates non-lethal interventions happen slightly more. By looking at both, any rational observer would say, “OK, these numbers are close and they should be.” If non-lethal use of force happened slightly less in the official data than killings by police, you might determine something fishy is going on systemically. Ditto if use-of-force instances between two demographic populations were much lower than the percentage of arrests. It would be completely sensible then to assume police records can’t be trusted. However, that is not the case. Thus, you can trust the data. These are the percentages of the national total for Black Americans (13% of the population):

  • 27% of all arrests (FBI data: 51% for murder, 32% for aggravated assault)
  • 31% of all instances of use of force by police (Center for Policing Equity)
  • 25% of all lethal instances of use of force by police (Washington Post)
  • 43% of the persons killing police (Washington Post)

Bottom line: If lethal and non-lethal use of force were 40% or higher and arrests remained at 27% for Black Americans, I wouldn’t be writing this analysis. I’d say, “See, there’s your systemic racism,” and I’d strongly endorse changes in policing culture. Yet, to anyone looking at those numbers above, I ask: How can one say police treating black people with greater violence and ill intent? This isn’t high-level statistics. It’s common sense.

If someone has an argument that X amount of interactions with police should be anything other than X amount of instances of use of force, I’ve yet to hear that as a compelling argument. They should be similar, like the two percentages above of 27% (arrests) and 31% (use of force instances), with the 4% gap possibly coming from any of the following: The types of arrests (black arrests are higher in the more violent categories), police behavior (racial bias), and citizen behavior (cooperation and complying with orders). Note how only one of those three possibilities affecting a tiny 4% difference actually involve racism. The other two are citizen behavior.

One could argue law enforcement are over-engaged in our lives, black lives specifically, and we’ll get to issues of police legitimacy shortly. (Quick answer: The details of a racist criminal justice system fall short, too.) Still, I argue to prove racial disparities, you need to show treatment is different per interaction — the rate of use of force needs to be higher than the interaction rate. Clearly, from the nationwide statistics shown above, that is not the case. When you’re also adding into the mix, as I do, that 43% of the persons killing police are black (out of 540 offenders from 2004 to 2013), then perhaps one could even ask how did the death-by-police percentage get so low for African Americans? The threat differential of 25% (lethal force against black by cops) and 43% (blacks killing cops) is a statistically significant difference of 52.9%!

Even where implicit bias is shown, such as finding illegal contraband at a higher rate on white suspects by some police departments per stop, one has to look at the tangible on-the-ground differences for perspective. The Washington Post reports how police, or the public, wouldn’t even notice their own bias by how infrequent the searches are executed: “In 2009, Hoffman Estates [a suburb of Chicago] officers pulled over 1,815 black drivers, searched seven — and found no contraband in any those cases. That same year, they pulled over over 15,000 white drivers, searched 40, and found 13 with contraband.” For the difference, which is statistically large (43%) and also the main focus of the many stories written in America’s biggest newspapers about the phenomenon of implicit bias in policing, that’s .25% of all stops for whites having a search take place, and .4% of all stops for blacks. One could argue police, media, and researchers may want to draw attention to how rarely police are searching vehicles of any race, when it’s as low as 1 search per 250 stops of black drivers in Hoffman Estates, Illinois. It might help shape perceptions. Again, we’re living in a world where Democratic state governors say only black people are shot like Philando Castille and it’s American tradition to “destroy the black body,” as Ta-Nehisi Coates likes to repeatedly tell us.

Fryer even trusted his numbers and esteemed reputation enough to trot out his paper to the world beset with the ideologically beholden, such as the left-leaning Media Matters, who would quickly rip him down for making the claim that white people are killed more often by police. This is despite the fact Fryer is a black man and honored academic . After all, much of the standard narrative that began on social media (Black Twitter) and spread through the mainstream media assumes that police are “executing” (Washington Post) young African-American men en masse. Smart black men with law school backgrounds and light-skinned sons still believe an officer will “shoot me down” (Vice Magazine) if mistaken for a kidnapper. Much of that paranoid thinking comes from exaggerating studies or statistics — or hyping tragic and isolated incidents perpetrated by the state. At a certain point, it becomes a self-fulfilling prophecy trumpeted by most news outlets. The Economist when looking at Fryer’s study points out the problem down the line (while also ignoring how small a difference “17.3% more likely” really is):

For racial discrimination by police is socially corrosive. Mr Fryer suggests that if blacks take their experience with police as evidence of wider bias, it can lead to a belief that the whole world is also against them. They may invest less in education if they think employers are biased too. It is more than 50 years since Martin Luther King spoke of blacks being “staggered by the winds of police brutality”. Those winds are still blowing.

Screenshot from the NY Times story on Roland Fryer’s groundbreaking data. This graph was the second image profiled far down in the article.

Indeed, we can go back to the numbers around police involved shootings and deaths to prove Fryer’s data is sound and can be trusted. If the rate-of-death without controls were equal for blacks and whites the number you’d see would be “1.0.” In reality, African Americans die at hands of law enforcement in the United States at twice their rate of population (2.0); and compared to whites, they are two-and-a-half (2.5) times as likely. However, with controls, which are essential to statistical analysis, Fryer and I would argue it’s closer to 1.0 (or even .8 or .9 favoring the black populace). The New York Times posted in the middle of their story, “Mr. Fryer found that in such situations, officers in Houston were about 20 percent [.8] less likely to shoot if the suspects were black.”

The use-of-force disparity rates that Fryer and other studies present (Fryer: 1.2 with controls, 3.335 without) are consistent with the impossible-to-hide evidence of police shootings and deaths. In the final section of this analysis (Breaking Down Fryer’s Data “On the Ground”) I’ll show how 20% greater or lesser can appear negligible with low number of occurrences, which is what we’re dealing with in violent police interactions.

Or another way of saying it, based on 2015 arrests and Washington Post estimates of police killings:

  • 1 black person is killed by police in 12,000 arrests
  • 1 white or Hispanic person is killed by police in 11,000 arrests

As I mention below in an analysis complete with clear pie charts (which I can’t completely vouch for), that disparity is much greater disfavoring whites (i.e. better for blacks) for violent arrests. Thus, on shootings, it looks like whites people suffer slightly more. But in all other areas of “use of force,” black people suffer slightly more. If “suffer” is the right word for an outcome largely dictated by the behavior of the suspect or citizen. Or as the Center for Policing Equity data shows:

  • 1 black person receives “use of force” for every 22 arrests
  • 1 white person receives “use of force” for every 28 arrests
P. 17 of the Center for Policing Equity’s report on use of force says, “Table 5 shows that benchmarking to violent Part I arrests reverses the direction of the Black-White gap.” Yet earlier on P.9 in the section “Organization of the Report” they say, “Finally, within each section, we also reveal the percentage of participating departments that demonstrate racial disparities in use of force when controlling for violent crime arrest rates.” Which is it? And does it really? Because just looking at this data it appears outcomes are worse for whites in violent arrests. Black arrests for violent crime are almost twice the proportion of arrests as they are for whites, but the report neglects to mention that. Also, read between those lines above. The report says “5 of 12 participating departments (42%) still evidence disproportionate targeting of Black residents when violent arrests are controlled.” So does that mean 7 out of 12 departments (58%) show a disproportionate targeting of whites? That’s seriously misleading. The more I look into the Center for Policing Equity, the more I believe they’re blatantly ignoring their own data. And the media blindly falls for it.

Houston, We Don’t Have a Problem; Ideologues Do

It’s also worth noting that despite the common refrain from fussy criticsincluding from Phillip Atiba Goff, criminology professor and co-founder and president of the social justice-oriented Center for Policing Equity, a research center I’ve repeatedly referenced in this meta-analysis — their analyses are incredibly weak and misrepresent Fryer’s actual work. For example, a Harvard peer Justin Feldman claimed his own university “heavily promoted this study without seeking critical perspectives from experts in the field.” That’s not only untrue, it’s a preposterous statement. Fryer sought advice from at least 50 colleagues, and the final paper is reportedly being peer-reviewed to be published in The Journal of Political Economy in 2018. Regardless of those facts, Fryer is one of the nation’s top scholars and economic minds working at one of the most prestigious and heavily resourced labs, Harvard would be stupid and prejudicial not to promote his working paper. It’s hard to imagine this criticism coming from anything less than jealousy and because he develops brilliant work that upends the narrative that are other academic’s bread and butter: Namely, racial grievance.

Critics say Roland Fryer’s data came only from Houston and is interpreted too broadly, yet his conclusions are actually bolstered by officer-involved shooting data spanning 15 years from these additional police departments: Boston, Camden, Austin, Dallas, Los Angeles, and six Florida counties. It’s a large data set. The New York Times article also made clear in the same paragraph where Fryer says “It is the most surprising result of my career” the following: “The study examined more than 1,000 shootings in 10 major police departments, in Texas, Florida and California.” That appears approximately as large as Goff’s data gathered from “12 agencies serving populations ranging from under 100,000 to over 1 million, with a median size of roughly 600,000 residents.” In a USA Today article critiquing Dr. Fryer, Dr. Goff says the paper was conducted “casually” and snidely mentions, “If you haven’t read all of the literature and don’t understand what you’re looking at, you end up in a position that doesn’t look good.”

“In shootings in these 10 cities involving officers, officers were more likely to fire their weapons without having first been attacked when the suspects were white. Black and white civilians involved in police shootings were equally likely to have been carrying a weapon. Both results undercut the idea of racial bias in police use of lethal force.” —From The New York Times’ “hot-button” write-up on Roland Fryer’s data

Maybe that’s because “all of the literature” reflexively points to criminal justice and policing as being among the most wrongheaded, wicked, and racially biased aspects of our society.

Look closer at The Center for Policing Equity’s report. You might see a conclusion they don’t see fit to share with The New York Times.

But what if your own addition to the literature blatantly leaves conclusions out that don’t align with your social justice goals? This is what I believe Goff and the Center for Policing Equity did, and it doesn’t “look good.”

I surmise the criticism from Goff is a cop-out, pun intended, due to ideological bias, which is clearly critical of policing and adamantly pro-black on his social media accounts like Twitter (which is fine, except he’s a researcher focused on police racial bias while holding arguably an anti-police bias).

The Center for Policing Equity’s data clearly shows lethal force is worse for whites, but themselves “casually” mention the difference on page 20 of their report: “The mean use of force rate for Black citizens was higher than that for White citizens in all categories, save the use of lethal force, when controlling for arrests for all offenses.” If you blink, you’ll miss their admission that “lethal force” outcomes are worse for whites. When the New York Times reported about the Center for Policing Equity study, they take Goff and his peers at their word: “The researchers said they did not gather enough data specifically related to police shootings to draw conclusions on whether there were racial disparities when it came to the fatal confrontations between officers and civilians so [often] in the news.” The New York Times accidentally — and ironically — left out a key word, “often,” because “often” it is black people killed by police you’re seeing in the mainstream media even though three-quarters of people killed by police aren’t black. Just like “often” criminologists don’t want to talk about the inconvenient facts that blacks are vastly over-representative in crime, thus leading to interactions with police. Criminologists almost never say arrests by race match National Crime Victimization Survey reporting rates of suspects, which also match fatal use of force rates. This was clear when the American Society of Criminology (ASC) wrote a mass email to members asking for help in countering a Wall Street Journal editorial written by Heather Mac Donald who critiqued liberal claims about the police. There was zero effort by the ASC to clear up how there are disparities in police shootings due to to criminal activity. They simply won’t talk publicly about different populations committing crime at different rates unless they can tie that reality to racism today. Mac Donald virtually stands alone in stating the obvious and statistically provable. Goff stands on the other side lobbing half-truths and passive aggressive character attacks which essentially can be summed up as, “We’re the sociology experts, Dr. Roland, who have read the past literature. Stay in your lane.”

Well, I’m not going to stay in my lane as a journalist, writer and ex-sociology major. I’m going to dig into Dr. Goff’s work and show how it actually proves different things than what he says publicly.

Basically, if academics don’t say it, reporters will never hear it. And if reporters don’t say it, readers won’t understand the reality of the world around them. And one of those realities is: Police are lot less violent and racially biased than they’re being presented in the mainstream press and public discourse. As I mentioned, apparently The New York Times reporters didn’t read page 20 of Goffs’ Center for Policing Equity report indicating no racial bias in police shootings, nor did their editors care to profile charts and data that actually show very small racial differences. One of those examples is Figure 2, which shows roughly 0% (canine) to 25% (taser) black-white differences per interaction without contextualizing for the kind of arrests, just dumping all arrests together. And there’s also that inconvenient “lethal” bar chart that plainly shows whites are more likely to be shot than blacks.

You can also see on page 17 of the Center for Policing Equity report that “Table 5 shows that benchmarking to violent Part I arrests reverses the direction of the Black-White gap.” The chart clearly shows use of force outcomes favoring blacks more than whites. But Goff tells the New York Times, who apparently don’t read deeply into the data they write about despite being the most heavily resourced newspaper on the planet, this fib: “The data really makes it difficult to say that crime is the primary driver of this. In every single category, the anti-black disparity persists.” No, Goff, your own data shows it doesn’t, especially when you say violent arrests “reverses” the black-white gap. You even got The New York Times to repeat your own bias — if not lies of omission — uncritically: “African-Americans are far more likely than whites and other groups to be the victims of use of force by the police, even when racial disparities in crime are taken into account.”

Actually, there’s a tiny disparity that apparently reverses to disfavor whites in two categories: Shootings and when benchmarking to violent crime. For all arrests thrown together, they show use of force happening in 4.6% of arrests for blacks and 3.6% of arrests for whites. That’s not “far more likely,” especially after being dismissive of data highlighting huge violent crime disparities. What are those? The media nor the Center for Policing Equity don’t tell you, despite the fact it would take little effort to do. Using 2015 FBI data, I quickly calculated 6.7% of all black arrests and 4.1% of all white arrests are in these four “violent” crime categories: Murder, robbery, aggravated assault, and rape. Basically, as many as 1 in 15 black arrests are for violent acts compared to 1 in 24 white arrests. If you don’t think that’s an important factor in the 4.6% (1 in 22 arrests) vs. 3.6% (1 in 28 arrests) black-white disparity, your head may look like that of an ostrich.

In basic terms: 100 arrests of blacks, on average, do not look the same as 100 arrests of whites — blacks will have more violent arrests thrown in the mix. This creates a wider disparity in use-of-force incidents. Goff and his collaborators who claim “using evidence-based approaches to social justice” (sic) didn’t want to say that. It would be heretical . They instead play up persistent racial bias in their report and to the press. And the New York Times was more than happy to accommodate without question:

“The dominant narrative has been that this happens to African-Americans because they are arrested in disproportionate numbers,” said Phillip Atiba Goff, a founder and president of the Center for Policing Equity, based at the John Jay College of Criminal Justice. “But the data really makes it difficult to say that crime is the primary driver of this. In every single category, the anti-black disparity persists.”

I, for one, call bullshit on that. Because their own data says that’s untrue “in every single category.” There are two categories where the anti-black disparity does not persist: Lethal shootings and violent arrests. I believe they mislead the public, and the reporters from The New York Times enable them. And, ironically and tragically, this results in deadly consequences for communities of color as homicides spiked in 2016 with 3000 more deaths than 2014.

SHOWN ABOVE: The new Investigative Stop Report (ISR) used by the Chicago Police Department after January 1, 2016. This is only 1 side of 2 pages, and reportedly takes a law enforcement officer 45 minutes to fill per stop! There was no evidence Chicago cops were “fixing” their previous “contact cards” to be politically correct and demographically favorable to superiors. These older contact cards also included demographic information which matched case reports of crime, and thus arguably didn’t indicate institutional racism (but ACLU threatened to sue anyway saying the CPD was racially profiling). WORTH NOTING: Stops immediately went down 90% as shootings immediately went up 80% the first month after police started using this ISR. Even the U.S. Attorney under Obama was critical of the decrease in street stops leading to a 40-year crime spike. Read more about it in the section, “Police Stops: Switching from Contact Cards to the ISR” in my Chicago Police Department DOJ analysis here.

Yes, The Police Data is Fine

Floating above this entire discussion is a query laced in a likely double-standard: How can we assume there IS a problem with racism in police departments, as so many in the media and world-at-large assume? What’s particularly disingenuous is when so many left-leaning critics of Fryer says he’s supposed to factor in “greater structural problems” regarding citizen encounters with police, as Vox said, again moving the goal post to prove endemic racism is part and parcel with U.S. institutions. By this measure, everything is racist because Black America falls behind in almost every statistical category of social well-being, unfortunately.

Or critics say we can’t trust the numbers, as one Atlantic reader did in a published broadside attack on Fryer: “But given the inherent structural bias with data collected by police departments, and the fact that we will never have accurate data on the number of potentially justified shootings that didn’t occur (a point made by the authors), we shouldn’t expect any study to prove or disprove the existence of racial bias in officer involved shootings.” (Actually, Fryer did look at situations where the police did not shoot to come to his conclusions; The Atlantic should have fact-checked that and disallowed the letter.) With so many activists going around saying there IS a racist police-shooting problem — or racist criminal justice system, for that matter — how do THEY prove that? How is it logical to say one can’t “disprove” a phenomenon yet cherry pick other data and studies to “prove” the same exact phenomenon? The logical inconsistency is appalling and prevalent. It appears a vast chunk of the country just automatically assumes unequal outcomes = racism. At any rate, I strongly disagree with The Atlantic statement, which is far from an isolated perspective.

What about when media goes out of the way to ask, “Can we trust the numbers?” Rarely do reporters and editors point out crime stats, let alone the fact they closely align with victim data. There are some examples, and they come to some inconvenient truths. In 2014 after the Ferguson protests, when only a handful of news sources dared to print crime statistics, a British public broadcaster, Channel 4, tried to evenhandedly deal with the issue of disproportionate police killings of blacks by mentioning its relation to black criminality. Their provocative yet simple question: “Do black Americans commit more crime?” Channel 4 wrote a key reason we can trust the arrest numbers is because they match survey data:

But academics have noted that the proportion of black suspects arrested by the police tends to match closely the proportion of offenders identified as black by victims in the National Crime Victimization Survey. This doesn’t support the idea that the police are unfairly discriminating against the black population when they make arrests.

BBC showcased a gun control controversy and thankfully someone posted some “facts” on the above Instagram image linked in the article, countering the completely misleading protest banner that doesn’t take into account whites are 63% of the population (thus, the “biggest”). The click-bait article (“Never Again: Is gun control movement too white?”) featured Tweets focusing on gun violence that are rarely uttered by Black Lives Matter protesters: “Oh, what’s that Never Again? Oh, 30 people were killed in Chicago since the march,” wrote @MrRidiculous4. Basically, when the white Parkland kids protest got national attention, that’s when the more “woke” BLM crowd says, “What about us?” Of note: BLM’s website says nothing about gun violence.

But Channel 4's frank crime analysis in the UK remains one of the lone exceptions the past few years. This is despite the fact many researchers are now finding it to be an essential benchmark that explains interactions with police and uses of force. (For people like myself, that feeling is akin to “Well, yeah. Duh.” But apparently even in academia it’s difficult to say.)

In 2018, after the Parkland mass shootings that killed 17 (mostly white) kids, I noted on social media the extreme irony about how major media almost never publishes crime stats. I posted the following after the BBC decided to run some statistics and quotes about the violence black youth face: “You read stories like this, and they tend to skip around the fact that for every 1 black person killed by a cop, there’s 30 killed by another black person (for whites, the ratio is 1:7). When did BLM take up the mantle of community violence?”

Yes, it seems the BBC only reports disparities of black violent crime or victimization when their editorial angle can link it to identity politics, racism, and “privilege.” Basically, when they can give it a social justice angle. In their article called, “Never Again: Is gun control movement too white?” they trotted out the following 100% accurate stats about victims (omitting who the perpetrators of crime were):

In 2016 more than 52% of murder victims (73% killed by guns) in America were black, even though black people make up 13% of the population.

The BBC was also completely misleading in their editing and sourcing, as their links to a “Black Lives Matter movement” story said nothing about inner city gun-violence and were 100% police violence focused. Indeed, the link to another BBC article about Black Lives Matter activists’ policy goals within this excerpt says 0% about “the impact of gun violence in ethnic minority communities”:

Protesters are being accused of hypocrisy, as some ask why they didn’t turn out for the Black Lives Matter movement, which was set up in 2013 to end police violence against black people and highlight the impact of gun violence in ethnic minority communities.

Basically, that BBC excerpt in the Parkland article is a media lie. Plain and simple. Their hyperlink does not back-up the claim. And if you go to the Black Lives Matter page on their guiding principles (“black villages,” “loving engagement,” “unapologetically black,” “transgender affirming,” etc.) nothing in there talks about the impact of gun violence in black communities, which happens to comprise well over 90% of their homicides.

The Washington Post and Guardian Lethal Force Data (“all uses of force” police data is supported by “lethal uses of force” data)

It’s also shown that other academics will certainly reference Fryer’s data that show “blacks … are more likely to receive police force (Fryer 2016).” This excerpt comes from a Princeton paper (title: “Racial Bias in Bail Decisions”) that I happened to run across when Googling for evidence-based research with these search words: “Are blacks more likely to receive bond?” This is indicative of academic cherry-picking, as they omit his results that showed blacks are less likely to receive lethal force.

This got me thinking. In another Medium post in the future, I would like to see:

  • What percentage of published articles reference Fryer’s “An Empirical Analysis of Racial Differences in Police Use of Force” (2016) and highlight the implication of racial bias (use or force overall is greater for blacks than whites)?
  • What percentage of published articles focus on the most “shocking” part of the study, according to Fryer (police shootings more likely to occur against whites than blacks)?

My guess is the former receives measurably more attention in the mainstream academic circles than the latter. Just like The New York Times decided to emphasize use-of-force disparities in their graphics more prominently in the Fryer article so they could highlight racism first. Often when bringing up Fryer, they like to point out, “But didn’t he prove police are more violent with blacks in general.” To which I say, “Well, not so fast.”

A simple rationale I use to say “yes, we can trust police data” is the simple fact that in Fryer’s paper and in the Center for Policing Equity’s results both show lethal force is a slightly smaller share for blacks than all other uses of force culled from police data. I think of “all uses of force” data as the building, and the “lethal uses of force” are the steel buttresses that strongly support that data. Again, see in the red circle with CPE data that the bar representing whites is larger than blacks:

Now we can go to the shooting data from The Guardian and The Washington Post to prove, without a doubt, the other police data Fryer and other researchers use is honest and accurate. We can consider the following as a baseline: One-quarter of Americans killed by police today happen to be black.

Yes, one-quarter of police deaths are black. Helpful graphic imagery like this above wasn’t found in The Washington Post, but instead was made by a numbers-driven retired meteorologist. Few analyses provide surprising context like this Watts Up With That blog entry in July 2016 who stated: “Here are the results of that comparison for 2015. For every 10,000 white people arrested for a violent crime, 38 white people were killed by police (± 2). For every 10,000 Hispanic people arrested for a violent crime, 21 Hispanic people were killed by police (± 3). For every 10,000 black people arrested for a violent crime, 21 black people were killed by police (± 2). Go figure … I was as surprised as you, so I’ve triple checked the numbers, and it’s true—the odds of a given arrest going bad and ending up in a death are much greater for white men than for black or Hispanic men.” This guy is a climate skeptic, so one can possibly dismiss his data based on that. However, I ran the numbers myself based on “violent crime arrests” in 2015, and the numbers are fairly close: I found 27 whites killed per 10,000 and 16 blacks killed per 10,000. (Worth noting, people aren’t shot only for violent arrests. ) I calculated 4.1% of all white arrests and 6.7% of all black arrests are in these four “violent” crime categories: Murder, robbery, aggravated assault, and rape. The black-white percentage difference for these types of arrests is 48%. The Watts Up pie chart is also accurate, which is how I found this site in the first place. Question: Why does it only seem like skeptics are willing to put out this accurate data?

Because the use-of-force percentage for all actions along the continuum is HIGHER than the percentage for use-of-force killings in 2015 and 2016 by a statistically significant margin, there’s no other rational conclusion. And in reality, all they have to be is fairly close, which they are. Remember that the black population in the U.S. is 13% of the overall population. If the percentages of all uses of force against the black population were lower —let’s hypothetically say 15-20% — one could surmise something nefarious is taking place in police reporting. We could then suspect police are massaging stats in their favor so they don’t come off as racist (“Hey partner, let’s not report that we roughed up this scumbag— we’ve had too many [insert racial epitaph] this month”). But I don’t believe that’s what’s happening, and this is why: Dead bodies are nearly impossible to hide from from reports, but uses of force (and stops) you can omit with ease.

31% is the percentage of the population who receive force who are black, according to police data collected by the Center for Policing Equity. And that’s much higher than 25%, which is the percentage of population who receive lethal force who are black, according to the dead bodies counted by The Guardian and The Washington Post.

The dead bodies are buttressing — validating and supporting — that other police data.

I argue the reactionary thinking of “we cannot trust the police data” is an unsubstantiated conspiracy and/or made needlessly complicated by so-called intellectuals who question police reporting on themselves. On a police-skeptic gut level it makes sense, but they don’t actually engage the data itself. Indeed, non-lethal use-of-force disparities between whites and blacks are slightly higher (blacks are more than 30% of total instances) than lethal use of force (blacks are around 25%), even though the former data is easier to “hide” by law enforcement because they self-document. You would expect those percentages to be reversed if police were “hiding” data, which they can only do with data like stops or non-lethal use of force. I admit, police could be putting down their pens and contact cards for some stops, thus outputting reports with false data with the hope that it looks favorable to civil rights critics. But it’s not a wide enough gap — and it’s not even going in the right direction — to swing the data to conclude police overall are underreporting interactions with African Americans.

In reality, police just quit making stops in general to all races equally in response to civil rights protests. These actions are praised by civil rights critics like the ACLU who deny any connection to de-policing and dramatic homicide increases. Puncturing a hole in the argument of police racial bias, the stops of all demographics fell at the EXACT same rate in New York City and Chicago. If racial profiling was actually occurring, an ACLU-mandated solution would show a reduction in the percentage of stops for minorities, and an increase in the percentage of stops for non-Hispanic whites. But when the Sun Times reported that Chicago cops reduced stops by 600% in a single year in 2016, and the ACLU applauded the efforts they started, the proportions by race didn’t change. And the ACLU ignored that inconvenient fact. Even though they were the ones saying over-and-over those disparities were proof of “racism.”

Yet it doesn’t make much sense — except for the tin-hat crowd or those ignorant of statistics— that cops are predominately or exclusively not documenting data for black and brown suspects while reporting about white suspects. Why? Cops can’t “hide” the people they shoot — and even have to report every time they shoot their weapon in general — so those nationwide numbers are firm and (I keep repeating) are substantially LOWER than all other instances of use of force.

Frankly, this assumption of systemic corruption would indicate a conspiracy across a majority of police departments across the nation. Consider this simple hypothetical: Let’s say there is a massive record-falsifying scheme from California to Maine, and the actual use-of-force percentage for blacks is 35%, or even 40%. You’re still stuck with 25% of lethal use-of-force being black, and that’s a canyon-wide difference. It makes no sense.

Additionally, it isn’t logical that police use physical force against citizens but don’t write it down. If an “excessive use of force” complaint comes in and there’s no documentation for “use of force” taking place during an arrest or stop, heads will roll and officers are reprimanded. No boss likes being lied to. Police are required to document every arrest and use of force incident. It’s their training and their job — and if someone comes into the jailhouse with a split lip and a supervisor catches that it wasn’t documented, the officer is in trouble. But if they wrote down “suspect resisted, force was used with a blunt strike to the face” then they’re not in trouble. Better to document “use of force took place” and say it’s “justified” — which I admit, without cameras, is largely taken at the officer’s word. Yet, it’s a smart bet that at least 99 out of 100 rough arrests are officially documented, thereby covering the police officer’s butt.

There’s also evidence malfeasance may not happen on a system-wide level by assessing the “big picture” stats available. Looking at the “macro” and not “micro” picture in Chicago, the difference in stops and arrests is 8 times higher for blacks than whites (as well as third-party case reports), with the use of force rate just more than 9 times higher. But the percentage of complaints is 3 times higher for blacks than whites — 61% of total complaints of CPD misconduct are black and 20% are white. Why would complaints be vastly LOWER than the police self-reported documented incidents if police were fudging stats to make it look like they weren’t abusing black and brown citizens? How could third-party case reports (such as 911 calls and victim reports) match stops if police are racially profiling black citizenry and not documenting?

Again, it makes zero sense.

Newark was a focus on PBS’ Frontline in 2016, where they reported a single stop that occurred that didn’t later show up on the “official” books.

Cops Hiding Data on Stops and Use of Force in Order to have Politically Favorable Numbers? It Defies Logic.

But for argument’s sake, let’s say there is proof that one-third of stops, let’s say in Newark, are “official” and two-thirds are “off the books”? Even if it was prevalent, how is it rational to presume a whole city of cops can manipulate a secretive “racial quota,” meaning all those “off the books” stops are almost entirely minorities while counting every white suspect to pad the “official” records? One can see the ACLU data for stop-and-frisk in New York City to see stop percentages for whites, blacks and Latinos didn’t change at all with a dramatic police pull-back, even with nearly 60 times less stops in 2016 than in 2011. Basically, whites were about 10% of stops during the height of stop-and-frisk in NYC, and they were 10% when it ended — so the ACLU “disparities” argument is pretty much garbage; it’s simply a “volume” issue of massive numbers of stops of all citizens.

One crime stat, suspect reports, don’t come from the police and are therefore the benchmark that validate police statistics. Whites are only 16% of suspects as reported by victims in both 2011 and 2016, so while stops are still disproportionate — 10% vs. 16% — they’re not far off in matching actual crime. Put another way, these twin facts are vastly more honest than ACLU’s cherry-picking: Minorities in NYC are 1) 84% of the verified criminals and 2) 90% of the stops by NYPD. And the ACLU keeps calling that, in defiance of logic, “racism.”

And you did read correctly that thee are nearly 60 times less stops: NYPD “officially” went from more than 600,000 stops to just more than 10,000 stops in a few short years. Something tells me the current “public” data is highly suspect, too, especially when there’s more than 50,000 drug arrests in 2016. Maybe police leaders are able to provide the numbers their political masters want.

The point is simple: Even if there are a large sum of undocumented stops, the evidence indicates they’re uniform for all racial backgrounds and thus aren’t affecting the final disparity percentages. One has to seriously consider the logic of “police data manipulation” to the end to toss out the crazy notion that nefarious institutional forces make it impossible to “trust” police data.

Cut to the chase:

  • In almost all data and analyses on this topic, lethal use of force is always more favorable to blacks than all other instances of use of force.
  • These two percentages are in the same ballpark for blacks in the United States: 25% for lethal use of force (The Washington Post, The Guardian) and 31% for all uses of force (Center for Policing Equity).
  • To repeat what I wrote in my second paragraph of this Medium post: “Being 20% more or 20% less with small raw numbers doesn’t mean much — and the overall occurrences predictably align with crime statistics.” A 25–31% range would allow for such variances, especially if arrests are around 27%. (I’ve yet to find a statistic that quantifies percentage of citizen-police encounters nationally. I would surmise based on citizen survey data showing similar stop rates for blacks and whites, along with disparate crime rates, that it’s not far from 27%.)
  • Survey data shows around 25–30% of crime is committed by blacks.
  • Roland Fryer’s data is consistent with the Center for Policing Equity data in regards to the first bullet above, where the “research and action think tank” even says without equivocation: “The mean use of force rate for Black citizens was higher than that for White citizens in all categories, save the use of lethal force, when controlling for arrests for all offenses.” (Emphasis mine.)

You can’t hide the dead bodies, and that’s the crux of my argument. Are there any news stories of a police officer shooting someone and the later discovery — hyped on Fox 10 News or CNN — they tried to cover it up, such as dumping the body? I haven’t heard of any. Because they don’t exist. (Just to be creative here: You would need 100 additional black people killed by cops and the crime scenes made to look like normal homicides or missing persons, and zero whites killed, to manipulate The Washington Post killing rate to 31% or 2.5 times the black rate of the population — or 3.5 times higher than whites — and matching national use of force rates.) The closest thing to a pure documented cover-up is the 100% immoral and illegal actions of Officer Michael Slager towards Walter Scott, the one case of dozens I’ve seen where it’s plain-as-day there’s an obvious cover-up by the officer involved. And Slager wasn’t hiding a body or the fact he killed him, just trying to make it look like Scott was armed or a threat. Though, why should cops worry about any-of-the-above when the norm is 99% of the time police face no discipline? When only 1% are considered “bad shootings,” this may be a significant problem, too. It’s also the easiest area to point to when people say, “Cops kill black people and get away with it.” No, cops kill everyone and get away with it — and likely 95% of the time they were in the right and were doing their job. Lorenzo Davis, an investigator of Chicago police shootings who was fired for not favoring police in his reports as much as his superiors wanted, told The Daily Beast in 2015, “As many as 5% of police shootings are problematic.” From this and other evidence, I’ve concluded that 5–10 times more cops should be held accountable, which means 90–95% of shootings are probably reasonable and legal. It’s an arbitrary range, it could very well be 95–99%, but it’s the only area where statistics show a likely systemic problem in the institution of policing: Accountability.

Thus, in raw numbers, are we to understand the fact police kill or shoot Black Americans two-and-a-half times (2.5) as often as non-Hispanic White Americans is hard evidence (with mortal bodies to prove it), but hearing that they’re about three-and-half times (3.5) more likely to be subject to use force sounds ostensibly low? I’d say no. I’d go so far as to say those two data points may indicate police are pulling back from shooting black citizens when they’re facing similar situations as white citizens. Wouldn’t it make sense that violent use-of-force situations by police could escalate to a shooting, of which there are more than two thousand annually (fatal and nonfatal), thus tying together those data sets? How can anyone argue that implicit or explicit bias includes an “emergency stop button” keeping officers from shooting or strangling one demographic disproportionately while also delivering vastly more moments of use of force to that same demographic? That makes no sense. To me, verifiable police violence like killings (or shootings) are the “canary in the coal mine” to indicate injustice or not. Or at the very least show the percentage of interaction. And seeing how blacks are more than 3.5 times as likely to commit many violent crimes than whites in many categories (8 times more for robbery and murder, for instance), then where is the evidence of blatant injustice? All these numbers pretty much align. The only counter-argument is anecdote.

This famous photo by Jonathan Bachman of Reuters from the Black Lives Matters protests in Baton Rouge was situated at the top of David Balls’ assessment of Cody Ross’ and Roland Fryer’s use-of-force data.

Roland Fryer vs. Cody Ross

Fryer also isn’t the only study in town. Many activists, elites, and media fawned over the work of left-leaning PhD candidate Cody Ross (who Tweets questionable Black Lives Matter claims and general social justice polemics) when he presented results on police shootings they preferred — and I surmise didn’t fully understand — rather than an African American PhD MacArthur Fellow “genius” with inconvenient conclusions for those of a certain ideological bent. To liberal critics who say, “But Roland Fryer didn’t do a ‘Multi-Level Bayesian Analysis’ like Cody Ross did when he found clear racial bias” all I can say is, “Show me how their data is different? And do you know what Bayesian even means?” Or perhaps somebody can explain how Ross’ analysis proves clear racial bigotry by police in plain language. Because lines like the following don’t make much sense in this non-peer-reviewed PLoS (“if you can pay, you can publish”) analysis using irregular crowdsourced data from the equally partisan U.S. Police-Shooting Database (USPSD):

“There is no relationship between county-level racial bias in police shootings and crime rates (even race-specific crime rates), meaning that the racial bias observed in police shootings in this data set is not explainable as a response to local-level crime rates.”

— PhD Candidate Cody Ross (A Multi-Level Bayesian Analysis of Racial Bias in Police Shootings at the County-Level in the United States, 2011–2014)

I can show one key area where Fryer and Ross are significantly different: Presentation of criminal and/or dangerous behavior that police officer’s face. Fryer says he factors it in on on a granular level, and Ross does not. Fryer states their differences clearly in his response to critics who brought up Ross’ study in the New York Times:

“The USPSD does not have information on encounter rates between police and subjects according to ethnicity. As such, the data cannot speak to the relative risk of being shot by a police officer conditional on being encountered by police … Our paper does not attempt to overturn previous analyses; its guiding novelty is the granularity of the micro-data.”

— Harvard Economics Professor Roland Fryer

David Ball, an Associate Professor at Santa Clara School of Law, wrote in Washington Monthly in July 2016 a maddening critique of Fryer’s work and said that Ross’ “more sophisticated” analysis six months earlier shows “the probability of being black, unarmed, and shot by police was about 3.49 times the probability of being white, unarmed, and shot by police.” Ball is yet another academic representative of the confirmation bias, hyperbole, and head-in-the-sand attitudes that far too often is the response to reasoned, heterodox papers like Fryer’s. Sorry, but that “3.49 times” difference shows ZERO contextualization for criminal activity, which is always a red flag that the data is being presented through postmodern or subjective filters, where entertaining that the black population today commits more crime is a “no go” zone. You see this all the time. Ball then dives into Fryer’s data, but neglects to mention that his odds ratio shows blacks receive force 3.335 times as often as whites. Those two data points are not much different. Ball misleads readers to imagine the most unjust outcomes (“OMG, blacks get shot about 3.5 times more than whites”) by not controlling for crime. Blacks are stopped, searched and arrested more than white citizens at a rate very close to 3.0–3.5 times more often, and thus will inevitably be shot — armed or unarmed — around that many more times.

The only mention of “controls” by Ross are is his conclusion, where he’s unspecific of said black-specific crime rates: “There is no evidence of an association between black-specific crime rates (neither in assault-related arrests nor in weapons-related arrests) and racial bias in police shootings, irrespective of whether or not other controls were included in the model.” Reading this, I want to say, “OK, explain how, PhD candidate Ross. I’ve looked up and down your study, and I can’t find exactly how much ‘black-specific crime rates’ were cooked into your findings. And some of your paper looks like it’s written by the academic version of Al Sharpton.” Fryer — who again, just happens to be black, unlike Ross — looked at situational variables to show that race was irrelevant to police shootings, while Ross glossed over criminality in the black community.

The above “We Charge Genocide” website and report is a source for one of Cody Ross’ sources: United Nations Committee Against Torture (2014).

I suspect Ross didn’t want to show how controls for crime would eliminate bias. He simply wanted this to be in the first paragraph without contextualizing for crime rate: “The results provide evidence of a significant bias in the killing of unarmed black Americans relative to unarmed white Americans, in that the probability of being {black, unarmed, and shot by police} is about 3.49 times the probability of being {white, unarmed, and shot by police} on average.” This is a patently dishonest and unfair disclosure. After that, he manages to weave-and-dodge in the rest of the paper with impressive figures, graphs, and charts.

The clue for Ross’ own confirmation bias and subterfuge is embedded in his writing, which likely came from his research before embarking on the slog-heavy data-crunching. He clearly wanted to provide a foundation for the United Nations-based indictment of U.S. policing that was prompted by radical Chicago activists who wrote a report to the UN titled “We Charge Genocide” equating police killings with 1950s U.S. lynchings of blacks. Why else would he include the polemic in his paper? Ross wrote:

The failure of the nation’s police to critically evaluate their own use of force, has led the United Nations Committee Against Torture [6] to sharply criticize the ever growing militarization of police departments in the United States, especially as evidence of significant race-based and sexuality-based brutality and excessive use of force has been uncovered, including bonafide acts of torture (e.g., those committed by Chicago Police Commander Jon Burge and others under his command, between 1972 and 1991). The UN Committee Against Torture specifically noted that it: “regrets the lack of statistical data available on allegations of police brutality and the lack of information on the result of the investigations undertaken in respect of those allegations” (pp. 13, [6]). This paper provides a response to the first of these two concerns.

Cody Ross, found here:

This is despite the fact that Chicago police kill no more residents per capita than police nationally (about 1 in 300,000 residents since 2015), yet deal with vastly more deadly gun violence. This data was easily searchable as well.

Ross’ social justice mind-set is clearly shown by the end of his paper, where he openly wonders if today’s police departments might be headed by individuals like one of the most notoriously racist police officers in modern U.S. history, Jon Burge:

“Perhaps police departments with disproportionate rates of racially-biased police homicide can provide justification for these patterns based on local context, or perhaps they are headed by individuals like Police Commander Jon Burge — the public needs to know which.”

Cody Ross (A Multi-Level Bayesian Analysis of Racial Bias in Police Shootings at the County-Level in the United States, 2011–2014)

There are 25 commanders in Chicago at any given time, of which Burge rose through the ranks to become on of those. He never came close to “heading” an entire police department, as Ross infers. His accused torturing period was between 1972 and 1991. But it only takes one rogue leader three decades ago to imagine recent Chicago police chiefs like Gary “Compstat” McCarthy or Eddie “Humble” Johnson — who are politically vetted with the considerations of the African American community front-and-center — could also be the kind of monsters who allow the electrocution of black suspects’ genitals. Yes, that is exactly what Burge was accused of doing as a detective, and that’s why Chicago is paying millions of dollars in reparations and formally apologized.

In 4 years (screenshot taken September 22, 2019) Cody Ross’ paper has received 78 citations and 900,000 views.

Ross clearly has ideological bias, and perhaps because of it, his work is accepted without question by many criminal justice critics to counter Fryer’s heresy.

Thankfully, not by everyone falls for the let’s-go-with-Cody-Ross trap, with even Slate’s Daniel Engber pushing back on the “Fryer wasn’t peer-reviewed” rebuttal often lodged to dismiss his work. Engber argues there’s 1 million “peer-reviewed” articles a year, and not all of them are up to snuff. He writes, “Fryer’s paper was not ‘peer-reviewed.’ It was reviewed, though, very thoroughly, and by a large number of his peers.” Engber still demurs and says, “I won’t weigh in on this aspect of the debate except to second what Rosa Li wrote recently in Slate: While Fryer’s data set was quite impressive, it certainly has its drawbacks, and no single study of the issue will ever yield a comprehensive answer.” Indeed, that’s par for the course for Slate, which offers up an almost daily dose of racial animus clickbait.

Professor Ball, mirroring so many others in academia and media, asks “why so much police activity, including lethality, is directed at black people” without quantifying how much is too much. Ball and Ross don’t mention that blacks commit murder and robbery at a rate at least 8 times higher than whites. Blacks are victims of murder at a rate 8 times higher than whites. Nor do they mention “unarmed” shootings are rare and a tiny fraction of overall police shootings. They don’t mention that U.S. Police-Shooting Database crowdsourcing data could be flawed, especially in its rough form. They don’t mention the research, from a 2016 Criminal Justice Review paper to a U.S. Department of Justice report, that indicate policing is mostly equitable in its treatment of whites and blacks and is based on the actual commission of criminal activity. One critic left a comment on Ross’ paper and pointed out that he didn’t even include homicide rates in his analysis, asking simply, “Why exclude homicide from regional crime rates?” Yes, why?

One of the most iconic Black Lives Matter images — that of a young black woman in a dress standing before police in Baton Rouge — may have given away Ball’s bias, and the moral purpose for his platform, as he featured the photo at the top of his story. (Note: My “DS” comments and critiques of Ball are at the bottom of his article.)

Strangely, promotes rifle scopes like it’s some NRA site:
Sources used by Cody Ross.

Ross’ so-called academic work is rife with prejudice, exaggerations, and sections that make very little sense. One only has to scan the anti-law enforcement “killed by police” or “stolen lives” sources in the section “Moving Forward” to note his prejudice. Or note his mention of the left-leaning ProPublica’s infamous 2014 article which said black teens were 21 times more likely to be killed than white teens. That article has several critics who argue reporters don’t know how to read data, including professor David Klinger of University of Missouri-St. Louis who noted their “measurement error” in a follow-up piece where ProPublica weakly defended their shoddy journalism. (ProPublica also denied Klinger’s accusation that he asked to not be quoted in the original story; one could understand Klinger being upset because he works closely with police departments, and has been paid nearly $50,000 to review St. Louis police data on officer-involved shootings.) Heather Mac Donald even made a case that black men are 18.5 times more likely to kill police than an unarmed black male is to be killed by police.

Personally, I want to focus on two obvious examples in this key excerpt. Example 1: Ross’ tone when he says “censored data by official sources.” (Who’s censoring? The government just hasn’t collected it.) Example 2: Ross’ suggestion that we can “identify police departments or officers who kill unarmed black individuals at disproportionate rates.” That’s a ridiculous statement. Departments? As in more than one. The Washington Post reports no more than 40 unarmed blacks killed by police per year since 2015, and there’s around 18,000 police departments total. Officers? Does Ross really believe there’s an officer out on the streets who kills multiple unarmed suspects, let alone at “disproportionate rates”? Did a fictional officer-non-friendly, disproportionate to the population in his city, kill a couple black men and maybe a token white guy AND remain on duty via the sole corrupt power of the fraternal order of police?

To believe Ross on that point is to believe in the hyperbolic and absurd.

Anyway, here’s the excerpt for others to read between the lines:

Moving Forward

The work of documenting police violence in the United States, has recently begun through several open-contribution, public-access projects in addition to the USPSD. The Stolen Lives Project started by the Anthony Baez Foundation and the National Lawyers Guild [7], the Fatal Encounters Database started by Brian Burghart [8], and the Killed By Police database [9] are examples, as is the Mapping Police Violence project [10], which emphasizes visualization of the raw data from the above-mentioned databases. Additionally, [11], the Washington Post [12], and the Guardian [13] have begun keeping rigorous statistics on police shootings in specific years. Unlike the censored data released by official sources, the data in the USPSD and other grassroots databases allow for fine-scale evaluation of the use of lethal force, including investigation of department-specific and even officer-specific patterns. It is, for instance, possible to identify police departments and officers who kill unarmed black individuals at disproportionate rates. With the previously-used SHR data, lack of reporting and/or selective-biases in reporting of police shootings, could have masked underlying racial biases in police shootings, or masked the rates at which unarmed individuals are shot by police.

5. Gabrielson R, Grochowski Jones R, Sagara E. Deadly Force, in Black and White: A Pro Publica analysis of killings by police shows outsize risk for young black males. Pro Publica. 2014;.

6. United Nations Committee Against Torture. Concluding observations on the third to fifth periodic reports of United States of America. United Nations. 2014;.

7. Stolen Lives Project. Stolen Lives: Killed by law enforcement,; 1999.

8. Brian Burghart. Fatal Encounters: A step toward creating an impartial, comprehensive and searchable national database of people killed during interactions with law enforcement,; 2014.

9.Killed By Police.; 2015.

10.The National Police Violence Map.; 2015.

11.Wikipedia.; 2015.

12.The Washington Post. Fatal police shootings in 2015 approaching 400 nationwide; 2015.

13.The Guardian. The Counted: People killed by police in the US,; 2015.

Ross also makes bold claims from questionable data like the following: “At a broader level, conditional on being shot by police, the probability ratio of being armed rather than unarmed averages around 3 to 1, with variation depending on race/ethnicity and location.” 3:1 appears to be buried in the highly suspect Deadspin crowd-sourced data he uses. It’s a shoddy database you can tell had many hands in it. I counted, and there are an unreasonably large amount of “unarmed” people, and several indications of poorly categorized data, i.e. links to The Simpsons homepage found on tab “Responses (sorted by date)” in row 14. But the heavily resourced Washington Post police-shooting data in 2015 clearly shows a 11:1 ratio of armed people killed by police vs. unarmed. (That ratio has increased to nearly a 20:1 ratio in recent years, too.) That difference is huge, by nearly a factor of four, and should have been mentioned by Ross as the Washington Post Fatal Force data base was available before he published and is his 12th reference.

Ross also cherry picks — and misrepresents — police chiefs who may be complete anomalies in the law enforcement field. A Richmond, California, police chief he brought up via a Vox story says not a single word about police shootings, nor “laments” about unarmed people killed. Yet Ross implies he does, claiming, “Even some police chiefs still lament that the use of deadly force is probably avoidable in a non-negligible portion of police shootings, if for no other reason than the fact that the suspects/civilians are unarmed.” I read the article, and it even mentions Richmond, a city of just more than 100,000 people, hasn’t had a police shooting in 5 years. All this police chief did was go out to a protest with a #BlackLivesMatter sign. The image of him went viral, but he also got criticized because it against California law for him to appear in “political activities of any kind” while in uniform. One resident did say, “I’ve never seen anything like it, not in Richmond, not anywhere.”

Bottom line: Ross like so many others are brainwashed that unarmed killings of blacks is an epidemic when The Washington Post and other sources show it’s closer to 1 in 20 fatal shootings.

Thus, with similar shooting data gathered, I doubt Fryer’s and Ross’ results “on the ground” are far apart, because Bayesian analysis looks for probabilities that are difficult to say are certainties. Basically, it looks for very small differences. And these are small differences. When several of statisticians and economists on a 2016 post on the blog “Statistical Modeling, Causal Inference, and Social Science” fussed over the Ross and Fryer papers and media reactions with diverging “headline messages,” University of Victoria professor Chris Auld concluded in the comments section, “The descriptive statistics presented by Fryer are consistent with the analysis in the Ross paper.” The blogger of the original post, Andrew Gelman, director of the Applied Statistics Center at Columbia University, replied that he couldn’t disagree, and wrote, “I’m not disagreeing with you [Chris Auld] that the data in Fryer’s and Ross’ papers are consistent with each other, but certainly the headline messages coming from the two papers are much different, hence the need to reconcile.” He mostly just wondered what the hell was up with the polar opposite news stories connected to these two major statistical analyses. Gelman also critiqued at Ross’ work: “I’m a bit concerned by maps of county-level estimates because of the problems that Phil and I discussed in our ‘All maps of parameter estimates are misleading’ paper.” Fryer’s conclusions were questioned in the Feldman blog post, as the thrust of the piece was quoting economist Josh Miller who said Fryer may have “selection bias” in his data. There’s a link to another blog (and vice versa) by a skeptic of how data is manipulated in academia leading to “false positives,” social psychologist Uri Simonsohn. That blog is provocatively titled “Teenagers in Bikinis: Interpreting Police-Shooting Data.” Both Miller’s and Smionsohn’s critiques I believe can be countered as overly complicated hand-wringing by the fact the data of use-of-force matches the dead bodies. At most there’s small racial variances — some favoring blacks and some favoring whites — yet few have the will to say that publicly and clearly.

Maybe the media can’t read data, and merely go along with the biases of the lead authors who contact them.

I ask all serious-minded and fair people: How can bias be a bigger factor than behavior in outcomes with police if we’re talking 20% difference with controls and 350–360% difference without controls? How can it be remotely controversial to say, “Well, if a certain race is being described to police 3.5 total times more via 911 calls with matching arrest rates — and for murder, rape, assault, larceny, etc. as opposed to more arbitrary drug arrests — then maybe there’s going to be 3.5 more moments of use of force”? Unfortunately, none of that is being said.

Studies Show Police Arrests Aren’t Racially Biased

It’s a canard to simply attack racist police or claim “institutional racism” leads to these outcomes. It’s citizen behavior. Several studies conclude similarly:

Basically, there’s a strong argument backed by peer-reviewed research that blacks get away from being caught by police more than whites in many key crime categories.

I also did some background checking for ideological bias on the above studies. For example, Drs. Stewart’s and Stolzenberg’s academic work displays fairness on issues of race and crime. They wrote another peer-reviewed paper in 2009 against the so-called “racial animosity theory” that says blacks are more violent during interracial crimes. They show this to be untrue. They also showed whites are not more violent towards blacks during a criminal act such as rape or robbery. They also indicate this bias may be why some blacks may receive harsher punishment. They concluded, “Our findings also lead us to question the veracity of the often-made claim that black-on-white crimes are punished more severely because these types of offenses are somehow more heinous in circumstance. At least in regard to serious victim injury and victim death, black-on-white crime is no more violent than white-on-black crime.” They also showed that black-on-white rape is more prevalent than white-on-black rape — which my not be politically correct to say, even if true. But the reason isn’t dehumanization or animosity, but because of a particular form of racism: “White females in our society are often portrayed by the media as the standard by which we define beauty.”

Additionally, there was a study published in the journal Injury Prevention that Time reported about in July 2016 that likely was swept aside and forgotten amidst Roland Fryer and Center for Policing Equity’s more high-profile media releases. Despite a sensational title (“Perils of police action: a cautionary tale from US data sets”), the study clearly shows no racial disparity in outcomes of injury or death by police per capita. As Time reported:

The study, published in the journal Injury Prevention, provides a nuanced view of the intersection of race and law enforcement in America. In the analysis, researchers from the U.S. and Australia used several national databases and hospital records, spanning a range of years from 2011–2015, to count the number of injuries and deaths inflicted by law enforcement officers during stops, searches and arrests. Approximately one in every 291 police stops or arrests ends in injury or death, the researchers found.

Racial minorities — especially blacks and Native Americans between ages 15–29 — were more likely to be stopped and searched or arrested by the police than whites.

The ratios of death or injury across races, once a person is stopped, are the same, which initially surprised lead study author Ted Miller, principal research scientist at the Pacific Institute for Research and Evaluation in Maryland. “Maybe the decision to pull you over was racially biased; maybe the decision to arrest you once you were pulled over was racially biased,” Miller says. “But who a police officer kills or injures is probably more of a function of who resists arrest or who pulls out a knife or gun,” he says. The chance that a firearm injury or a hospital-admitted injury would be fatal was also the same across races.


Confirmation Bias in Academia

Interesting. Dr. Ted Miller is another “surprised” researcher, just like Dr. Roland Fryer. This again indicates that the “common sense” hypothesis of that racism in policing is baked in and absolute in academia. Journalists continually don’t help matters. Time, like so many others in media, did not report how blacks more often commit crime, which could still lead readers to think it’s police that are driving the racial disparities. Again, it’s likely based on the researchers driving the narrative which editors and reporters mimic. Thus, Time’s disingenuous headline: “Blacks Are Most Likely To Be Arrested By Police — But Not Killed.” Yes, blacks are “most likely” to be arrested because they’re committing vastly more violent crime. The media won’t say this, of course, because it’s also not politically correct.

Science Daily also reported quoted the Injury Prevention study and researchers verbatim, while still missing the mark:

“Given a national history of racism, the excess per capita death rate of Blacks from US police action rightly concerns policy analysts, advocates, and the press. The excess appears to reflect exposure. Blacks are arrested more often than Whites, and youth more often than the elderly,” they continue.

“However, Blacks are not more likely than non-Hispanic Whites to be killed or injured during a stop/arrest, and youth have the lowest injury ratios. Ratios aside, even one person unnecessarily killed or injured by the police is one too many, and every racial/ethnic group has mourned losses from undue force,” they say.

“As the US struggles to reduce citizen injuries during police contacts, it would seem prudent to train at-risk groups about appropriate behaviour during police stops,” they conclude.

Thus, this academic study concludes by promoting “the talk” narrative that apparently “keeps kids of color from enjoying their childhoods like other children.” (Even when TV pundits on MSNBC try to process Fryer’s analysis, they say his quantitative doesn’t it match up with the “qualitative” BLM stories, and repeat how white kids don’t get “the talk.”) They don’t go into research indicating police aren’t overwhelmingly interacting blacks more than whites for no reason, but instead because of real criminal behavior that leads to an excess of law enforcement “exposure.” In reality, the data indicates all people regardless of race should be aware that it isn’t a smart idea to resist arrest, to make sure police can clearly see your hands during a stop, and to be polite and cooperative. Everyone should get “the talk” from parents. And everyone should know that police are injured, too, which the Injury Prevention did at least make clear. While police actions led to nearly 1000 annual citizen deaths and 54,300 required hospital treatment for their injuries, the report says, “during 2012 an estimated 67,000 law enforcement personnel were assaulted, with an estimated 18,600 medically treated for injury and were 48 killed.”

Basically, almost no one talks about how police stops match reported crime.

The most glaring fact I’ve found, and only seen reported one time by NPR affiliate WBEZ in Chicago — and later scrubbed off the internet — is that Chicago police are pulling over citizens demographically at the exact rate citizen victims themselves call in suspects demographically. I wrote about it in April 2016 and early August 2016 after a unarmed Chicago teen was shot running from police, and eventually found the source data below.

University of Chicago’s Crime Lab doesn’t touch these figures, nor does any other academic institution in the state of Illinois or nation.

This info was provided by the Chicago Police Department for Chicago Public Radio when the ACLU was cracking down hard on CPD in the Spring of 2015. One can tell it was “rushed” out to the public or done by cops, because they misspelled “Latino” as “Lation.” I have yet to see CPD or the Fraternal Order of Police defend disparities of arrest or use of force with specific statistics like these. They should. Anyway, similar data-driven evidence has been featured by Chicago’s WBEZ in 2013, where you can see case reports match the contact rates, a key linchpin to any argument that no racial bias is taking place systematically by Chicago police.

Fact: Around 70% of perpetrators of crime as described by victims and arrests in Chicago are black (Case Reports*, Arrest Rates)

Fact: Around 70% of people in contact by police are black (Contact Cards*)

Fact: Around 70% of people shot or killed by police are black (Chicago Police Accountability Task Force Report)

Question: Where’s the racial bias by police in Chicago if that’s the hard evidence?

Table 43 of the FBI Uniform Crime Report for 2015 says it straight. RED = African American drug violations and drinking violations. Note how the alcohol-related violations are only arrests that are proportional to the population, thus an indication that police are policing based on behavior (most drug arrests are for selling and use on the street, along with persons with gang affiliations). GREEN = African American arrests involving violence. Note how the percentages are much higher than for use of force (approximately 31% for non-lethal, 25% for lethal). PINK = African American arrests for rape. Note how these are more than twice their percentage of the population and nearly four times higher than whites. This may also be an indicator of behavior more than police bias. Arrests are made after a victim identifies the perpetrator, and the police and prosecutors decide there’s just cause for a sexual assault arrest. Most crimes are intraracial, so if racial bias was manifesting in police, would this mean they aren’t arresting suspects that white women report as rape? (i.e. Believing the black women and throwing black men into jail, but NOT believing the white women and protecting white males more often? That’s the conundrum and the question, which may not be easily answered by arguing there’s “implicit” or “explicit” bias by police.) NOTE: 90% of Hispanic total is integrated into the “white” total. I wrote about this blending “white” and “Hispanic” in government data extensively in a Medium post.

The War on Drugs

Of course for Black Americans, in areas like hard drugs and marijuana arrests, getting caught by law enforcement can be seen as a problem. The ACLU and New York Times-endorsed argument of disparities convey plainly that drug use is nearly the same but drug arrests are nearly four times higher for blacks than whites. These surface charges of overwhelming systemic racism do come across as hyperbolic when context is thrown in, such as the fact that people are often arrested for other crimes when drugs like marijuana are present — thus, muting the argument that engagement with the criminal justice system is due to arbitrary enforcement of drug laws. In fact, drug arrests are less than 14% of total arrests, according to FBI’s 2015 Uniform Crime Report data, which may surprise people as being a low percentage given the widespread and often misleading reporting on drug arrests.

A side note, as this is negligible to the contact points between police and citizenry, but explodes many misconceptions: People aren’t put in prison for simple possession. According to the Pulitzer Prize-winning website Politico when correcting Bernie Sanders’ oft-presumed notion that America jails people for smoking marijuana, “Only about three-tenths of 1 percent of state prison inmates were there because of marijuana possession alone, without a more serious charge … 99.9 percent of those sentenced to federal prison for any drug-related crime during that year-long period [2011–12] were sent to prison for something more serious than simple possession.”

Indeed, the War on Drugs (which should end) far-too-often lends to cries of injustice for disproportionate arrests for the same drug usage and dealing, it’s still not entirely clear if there’s a cut-and-dry case for that. For example, a University of Illinois at Chicago study shows African-Americans are vastly more likely to fib on surveys self-reporting for cocaine or marijuana use. The Chicago-based researchers Michael Fendrich and Timothy P. Johnson wrote, “Overall, the results replicate and extend a growing body of research suggesting that African Americans underreport substance use on surveys.” OK, but what about nationally? The Substance Abuse and Mental Health Services Administration reports that African-Americans are 23% more likely to use marijuana. Common sense will tell you that the low-hanging fruit of outdoor pot use and dealing — selling “dime” bags and smoking on the stoop in high-crime areas — will likely result in police arresting vastly more minorities than whites. Some people sell drugs on the street because they don’t have other means to make money; they smoke on the street because they can’t at home, or don’t want to be home. Rarely is this basic logic mentioned, but I admit this is one of the stronger arguments for structural inequality. It’s also predictable, and one can hardly fault the police who are following their leaders whose mandate is to uphold the law. Again, like the HBO show The Wire’s “paper bag” metaphor of covering up one’s liquor with so the police won’t hassle black men, there’s a proper argument for full marijuana legalization, if not all drugs. Despite all that, and the fact there are indeed small but “statistically significant” racial disparities in criminal drug charges — which some advocates argue violates international human rights statutes — only 1 in 5 people serving time in state prison or federal prison are doing so for drugs. Nearly 70% are in prison for violence and property crimes.

Clearly, based on the available data, drugs are not a factor in a vast majority of interactions with police — the one area where the argument could be made that police are discriminatory.

FBI data that has nothing to do with “The War on Drugs” shows vast disparities between black Americans and other groups. SOURCE:

Anti-Police Media Bias?

The argument that racially motivated overzealous policing is a given in the U.S. continues, especially when revered public radio reporting points out that in NYC during stop-and-frisk, blacks are nearly twice as likely (85.4%) than whites to be charged with resisting arrest per encounter (that’s “rate” not “total”), the narrative is still spun to place blame squarely on “aggressive police.” And thus, racial bias is to blame. Again, the controls will show about a 20% difference in regards to use of force in Fryer’s study, so behavior manifests violent outcomes far more often than bias. Yet, a key question is how “controls” in studies include attitudes both police and citizenry bring to the interaction. This may not be quantifiable. For example, a Pew poll showed that for nearly 10 years only one-third of African Americans believe police treat blacks and whites equally, while seven-in-ten whites have confidence in the fairness of law enforcement. As I’ve stated before, “Issues of trust around police make this a chicken or egg situation, which I don’t deny needs fixing.”

Additionally, page 26 of the PDF for the Center for Policing Equity’s conclusions on use of force disparities, where I already indicated their social justice bias, actually mentions potential citizen behavior — or more accurately, misbehavior — and “cultural mismatches” for why blacks receive slightly more force in every category except shootings. They offer this caveat on those differences in their conclusions section: “That significant attention should be paid to additional situational factors in attempting to quantify and explain racial disparities in use of force. For instance, might racial disparities in the tendency to resist, flee, or disrespect officers be implicated in the observed differences? Might cultural mismatches and/or officers’ perceptions of cooperation be influenced by residents’ race? There is some suggestive evidence that there are racial disparities in resistance based on research by Smith and colleagues for the National Institute of Justice. They find that the rate of officer injury is lower when arresting a White suspect than a suspect of another racial group (Smith et al., 2009).”

Look closely at The Guardian’s “The Counted” — which is higher than The Washington Post’s exclusive focus on law enforcement shooting death totals — and you can see their “wide net” of police-involved homicides include the kitchen sink: A cop killing his young child and wife, a vehicular accident randomly killing two young women, off-duty police actions, and so forth. But it also includes the death of 19-year-old Zachary Hammond, who is white, and almost no one knows about. See Hammond’s fatal shooting dash-cam video, and ask why it’s not on national news . Or why virtually no uproar ensued after “deadly force was deemed justified” according to a local solicitor, with no criminal charges filed against the police officer.

Add the fact that twin groundbreaking 2015 analyses on police killings by The Washington Post and The Guardian both say indisputably “200% more likely to get killed if black” sans controls — i.e. African Americans are a little more than 25% of total deaths by law enforcement and just under 13% of the population. Interestingly, these same media outlets tend to spin their numbers to foment racial injustice, while a scientist with free time on his hands can write an “impartial data analysis” that makes clear, logical sense indicating there’s no racial bias.

Of course, conspiracy minded folks — and I have a few in my social network — will say there’s many times more murders and shootings of blacks committed by police that aren’t recorded. I honestly directly hear “opinions,” to say it nicely, about the CPD as if they’re the famed Vice Lords gang committing “hits” left and right and leaving the bodies. (Police are commonly referred to as “gangs” by detractors.) It’s true the FBI has publicly admitted their undercount for years, but now newspapers are crowdsourcing that data. They’re also spinning the results.

How? The media will almost never present context for criminal activity in officer-involved shootings. Some outlets, like Vox, will almost exclusively highlight incidents happening to African Americans, even though they’re one-quarter of all fatalities at the hands of police.

Academic Bias?

Academia indulges in “provocative work,” too — but their assumptions may lead to unwarranted outrage, too. Let me focus on one example.

Theoretically, I’m receptive to uncovering potential data on all shootings from hospitals, as one academic, criminologist Joseph Richardson, proposed publicly on NPR after publishing research in the area of police-involved shootings (2016 paper title “Who Shot Ya? How Emergency Departments Can Collect Reliable Police Shooting Data”). When it comes to the difficulty in getting an exact count of police-involved shootings, NPR wrote, “Richardson is skeptical that the federal government can solve the data problem.” But I instantly become skeptical when this academic proposing a radical method for measurement via hospitals can’t properly or clearly assess the scope of this perceived official undercount. For example, Richardson implies early in his study that 1 in 10 people shot in Baltimore may have been gunned down by police — an exaggerated number I’ll show is possibly 5–15 times higher than documented reality. Are we to believe police aren’t documenting shootings 5 times as much as they should be? That when Baltimore police data says 12 people were shot by cops in 2015, it could be as high as 60? This smacks more of conspiracy than rigorous academic research.

Richardson quotes one doctor in Baltimore (“Dr. Roy Smith, a Trauma Surgeon,” page 12) who estimates anecdotally — with no data to back it up — that 10% of his patients were shot by police. Smith is quoted as saying:

The majority of people are shot by a person of their own race, so Black men are typically shot by Black men. We can focus on the 10 percent who are shot by the police or the 90 percent shot by another Black man. I want to focus on the 90 percent. If we miss the mark by focusing on the 10 percent we ignore the larger problem. The vast majority of people that come in shot are shot in their own community, it is not police related, so we have not been forced to confront this issue. I agree that people designated to protect you shouldn’t be killing you, but that is not the biggest problem in the Black community.

1 in 10 are shot by police, according to a doctor who still says, essentially, “Cops aren’t the problem, black-on-black violence is.” This struck me as a unbelievably large percentage, and its inclusion may be a marker of ideological bias in the paper. How come? Because I happen to know in Chicago some years it’s closer to 1 in 150. And Chicago and Baltimore are comparable cities in terms of being besieged by gun violence — though per capita killings by citizens and police are even worse in Charm City compared to the Windy City.

It’s worth noting some hard Baltimore numbers at this point to show how much more often citizens shoot other citizens than police do. First off, Baltimore has double the murder rate compared to Chicago, often vying with St. Louis and New Orleans for the tops spot as the murder capital of the U.S. Officially, Baltimore, with a city population of 620,000, experienced a 72% increase in shootings leading to 55 homicides per 100,000 residents in 2015, with 344 total deaths — the year of Freddie Gray’s death while in police custody. An average of 6 people were killed per year in Baltimore by police from 2010–2014, and police killings often get wrapped up in terms of “police brutality.” In 2015, this dropped to 3 police-involved killings as crime soared, likely the result of police pulling back. Thus in Baltimore in 2015, fatal “brutality” by citizens was 115 times higher than by police (344 divided by 3). Then again, what if the police shooting data trusted enough to be compiled by Vice News is completely wrong, which is the premise of this academic study?

Even when talking about all shootings (not just police-involved ones), Richardson’s research indicates a potential small undercount in emergency rooms: “A three-city study found that 9% of medically documented cases of gunshot injuries could not be matched with a corresponding police report.” Thus, police are cataloging 9 in 10 shootings (91%). Are we to think they’re not cataloging the police-involved shootings at that high a rate? Also, should it simply not be a surprise that police aren’t cataloging 100% of incidents the same as hospitals? Data can be slightly different when two different organizations run the numbers.

Also, what is even the point of the section Richardson titled, “EMERGENCY MEDICINE AND THE POLICE: WHY ACCURATE DATA COLLECTION IS SO IMPORTANT” where I got that largely irrelevant 9% mismatch data point? It appears confused and full of contradictions and non-nonsensical lines like the following, “Studies have reported that EDs [Emergency Departments] detect far more assaults in the community than those recorded by the police.” Hmm, think about that for a second? Maybe that’s because many people get shot, show up to the hospital, and do NOT report these incidents to police. Because citizens often don’t like getting police involved. (Occam’s razor clearly isn’t this researcher’s strong suit.) This section mostly seems to be the means to bolster the hot-button “black victim” narrative ends — a dominant news headline and academic narrative that completely ignore the fact that young black men are 15 to 35 times more likely to be homicide offenders (a fact nearly all criminologists know, but few will confess in writing, including this one). Thus, Dr. Richardson writes the following without any mention of disparities in crime involvement in black communities:

Police Brutality, Race, and Gender: Police Brutality, Race, and Gender

Police shootings also disproportionately impact specific demographic groups, particularly young Black males. The police-involved shooting deaths of unarmed young Black men over the past two decades have highlighted the disturbing pattern of police brutality among this population. The high-profile police-involved shooting deaths of Amadou Diallo (Bronx, NY), Sean Bell (Queens, NY), Oscar Grant (Oakland, CA), Michael Brown (Ferguson, MO), Tamir Rice (Cleveland, OH), and Walter Scott (North Charleston, SC) represent some of the fatal police-involved shootings that have garnered national attention. Young Black men are at far greater risk of being shot by the police than their white counterparts. Data collected by the FBI on police shootings from 2010 to 2012 indicates that young Black males were 21 times more likely to be shot and killed by the police than young White males. Qualitative studies on recurrent trauma among young Black men found that harassment and racial profiling by the police were significant sources of trauma and stress. Researchers found that young Black men expressed a lack of faith in the police and that they could not depend on the police to protect them from danger.

Dr. Joseph Richard’s paper, I argue, exaggerates a problem that isn’t largely relevant.

These academically published paragraphs of Richardson’s lacking even the bare attempt at context, along with other details postulating state-sponsored injustice by those charged to “protect and serve,” leads me to be believe there’s a preformed agenda in this paper’s approach. I would argue that being killed 15–35 times higher by fellow black youth compared to the national homicide rate — with a multiplier of more than 30 times that of total police killings — would cause greater “trauma and stress.” But then I’m not the one performing these “qualitative studies.” Indeed, in real quantitative numbers — which I believe more honestly shape the qualitative argument — there are 31 murders of black citizens by their fellow black citizens for every one police-involved killing of a black person. This compares to 7 white citizens killed by fellow white citizens for every one police-involved homicide of a white person. There’s no rational argument that the higher rate of police contact largely derived from those facts is a a significant cause of “stress.”

Richardson assumes there’s a wide gap in “the nature and prevalence of police-involved shootings.” Yet, for all the reporting problems currently being worked out, he muddies the waters by insinuating undercounts that aren’t there. Also, it appears his data is mostly accurate in the first place. For example, Richardson brings up criminologist David Klinger’s work in St. Louis that found “230 instances when officers fired their weapons and only 37 of those fired upon were killed” over a 10-year period (2003 to 2012). He even quotes Klinger who says, “If your statistics just look at dead bodies you’d be undercounting police involved shootings by 85 percent.” Indeed, Klinger’s work in 2015 was already cited in the St. Louis Post-Dispatch as a national model for data collection — he’s on record with The Washington Post talking about the “crappy data” out there pre-2015 — and offered clear and precise breakdowns that includes 100% of police shootings. Half the people shot at aren’t hit by bullets— thus wouldn’t show up at hospitals — leaving 117 people on the receiving end of a gun-related injury of or fatality. I can break the rest down on the back of a napkin:

  • Slightly more than 10 people are shot by police in St. Louis annually (less than 4 killed), in a city where more than 600 residents are shot every year (around 120 people are killed).
  • It’s safe to say St. Louis cops are responsible for less than 2% of the city’s shooting victims.

In verifiable numbers this year, for my city of Chicago as of the last week of August 2016, there were 17 shootings by cop where the bullet hit a citizen out of 2800-plus total . Thus, well under 1% (.6%) of total citywide shootings were by law enforcement. Even the past six years, Chicago police average shooting around 40 persons annually. So are we talking 5 more shot every year in the perceived undercount? 10? 2?

Or maybe it’s an undercount of 360?

It would take 400 annual police shootings in Chicago to make up 10% of the total citywide victims hypothetically showing up at the hospital with bullet wounds as framed in Dr. Richardson’s study “Who Shot Ya? How Emergency Departments Can Collect Reliable Police Shooting Data.” Chicago’s percentage of police-involved shootings is more than 15 times less than that suggested by a single Baltimore doctor in a peer-reviewed paper in the Journal of Urban Health: Bulletin of the New York Academy of Medicine. I’m surprised no one questioned that or followed up with “Dr. Smith” before publication.

Also, the ratio of deaths-to-shootings in Chicago of citizenry by citizenry (and presumably other big cities) is 1:6 (approximately 800 killed, 4300 shot), but for police shootings it’s about 1:2 (11 killed, 25 shot) — so cops are three times more “effective” and intentional in using lethal force. Indeed, it’s their training: Shoot to kill. Police can’t shoot people in the legs and not expect to get reprimanded — a former Cook County police officer driving me home via a ride-sharing app (it wasn’t Uber) said a law enforcement officer would get in more trouble for shooting a leg than a torso. He basically said, “Shooting someone in the leg or arm means you’re not doing your job correctly, or something fishy happened.” Police and conceal and carry individuals are trained to shoot “to stop the threat,” which usually is the upper body. Thus, when police make that split-second decision to shoot, someone often dies. Fatal police shootings in 2015 represent 7.6% of shooting homicides nationally (986 divided by 12,979), so using those aforementioned killed/injured ratios (1:2 in Chicago, 1:7 in St. Louis) and numbers it’s possible the percentage of police shootings (fatal and nonfatal) as a slice of the overall pie could be as high as 2-3% across the country — and much lower at 1% in Chicago. This is nowhere close to 10%.

Again, further analysis is needed, but in following shootings in Chicago over the past few years, I’ve yet to hear of one that wasn’t “part” of the official count — for example, a corrupt cop hid a shooting until cameras or evidence proved otherwise. One can see how absurd this line of thinking becomes. Yet sometimes it derives from people with PhDs as well armchair critics across the United States.

Again, my point is “You can’t hide dead or shot bodies” and those bodies — white or black, pink or brown — match interaction points by police based on actual crime. So how can you hide a sizable number of undocumented bruised or beaten bodies from use of force when the police data nearly matches the “dead or shot” ones?

The concept that lethal use of force outcomes should be vastly different than all other uses of force manifestations simply cannot be built on a logical or empirical foundation.

Breaking Down Fryer’s Data “On the Ground”

But back to the use-of-force data. To better understand the Harvard study by Dr. Fryer, a celebrated black economist interested in racial disparities, see the graphic below for the “stop-and-frisk” era of New York City, 2003–13. Then note my additional numbers in the right column, and the further percentages I breakdown below the image. Then ask, “Is it really that racist or excessive?”

This is during the period of zero-tolerance “broken windows” theory style of policing, started by Mayor Rudy Giulani and Police Commissioner William Bratton and continued with Mayor Michael Bloomberg and Police Commissioner Raymond Kelly. This was a highly criticized period for “racist policing” and excessive use of force, which led to the anti-stop-and-frisk Mayoral victory of Bill De Blasio. Recorded police stops have dropped from 684,000 in 2011 to 191,000 by 2013 — more than three times less! Yet, polling shows as recently as last year widespread and consistent support in white, black and Hispanic communities for Bratton, Kelly, and police issuing arrests or summons for “quality of life, low-level offenses”(a.k.a. “broken windows”).

Hey, New York Times, an extra column would help explain what “25% more likely” means. Also, you misspelled “Baton.”

To be a broken record, as I wrote at the very bottom of an earlier Medium post: “And is the mistreatment by ‘NYC Cops’ so extreme, in general, if your chance of getting handcuffed [per stop] is 3%, whether you’re complexion is black or white?”

3% of the time you’re handcuffed per stop by one of the most criticized police departments in recent U.S. history. And it doesn’t matter if you’re ‘Black or White,’ as Michael Jackson used to sing to young boys like myself — before he smashed a car and tore off his shirt in one of his more bizarre artistic statements. The results are pretty much the same.

How did I get this percentage? How is it “the same”? Again, divide 310 by 10,000 and 266 by 10,000 (i.e. 1 in 32 for blacks, 1 in 37 for whites), and you get 3.1% (blacks) and 2.7% (whites). This is the “next step” I’m doing with Fryer’s data published in The National Bureau of Economic Research as translated by The New York Times. Do the simple math on any interaction with New York City police (see graphic above) during the controversial “stop-and-frisk” decade and you get nearly the same percentage for black and white citizens:

  • 1 out of every 64 blacks stopped will have a weapon DRAWN on them
    (1.5% of encounters)
  • 1 out of every 77 whites stopped will have a weapon DRAWN on them
    (1.2% of encounters)


  • 1 out of every 185 blacks stopped will have a weapon POINTED at them
    (.5% of encounters)
  • 1 out of every 232 whites stopped will have a weapon POINTED at them
    (.4% of encounters)

You can do this 5th grade arithmetic for all those moments of “disparities” (from 16% to 25%) among the “use-of-force continuum,” which I started doing in the Center for Policing Equity study that I debunked as a powerful example of institutional racism. Even news outlets like Fortune focus on the higher percentages, which lead readers to conclusions that racial bias is the problem, not behavior. But that shocking figure of “25% more likely to” use of force with a baton or pepper spray really just compares 5 times out 10,000 (blacks) versus 4 times out of 10,000 (whites). While technically true it’s “25% higher” likelihood of a baton beating — and that’s the number media and academia promote — you’re still talking about pretty much the same minuscule rate or percentage of occurrence, i.e. .05% (black) versus .04% (white). That’s a paltry figure that doesn’t fit the narrative (or the cliché anti-police t-shirts) of cops beating down citizens.

Police: Not necessarily trained to shoot-to-kill but to “stop dangerous, life-threatening behavior.” But that’s at the end of the “use of force continuum.”

And I’m still not sure if other intangibles are factored into Fryer’s analysis, such as general demeanor towards cops (sometimes negative in minority communities, shaped by perceptions of not being treated fairly) or ‘revolving door’ targeted stops of known gang members — there’s lots of “above my pay grade” math going on there. I have no doubt racial profiling and mistreatment occurs. I just don’t see it translated into hard evidence from the data that is currently being sold to the world as “statistically significant” and “racial bias” and “these cops are out-of-control.”

I’m not spinning these numbers; I’m trying to break them down to their simplest, most understandable form. Frankly, I’m surprised by the low per encounter use-of-force result. That’s why the first time I saw The NY Times story and lead graphic, my reaction was, “Wait a minute. What is that saying, really?”

I also recognize that if stops are more than three times less than during the stop-and-frisk era, that’s possibly three times less occasions where “use of force” is applied — and people can debate the merits of that. But I’m not arguing that today. I’m arguing that information that shapes key political decisions is poorly shared by the mainstream media, at times.

Again, I’m just wondering: Why this context is being wiped off media and academic reports, or not being published in the first place? It’s not difficult. It creates a clear picture to the public. Shouldn’t this be the “best practices” approach in presenting information that explains how use of force is experienced?

“The Wire” filmed in Baltimore highlights police violence.

Hard Numbers vs. Perceived Reality: Which is it?

And honestly, I have cognitive dissonance from watching HBO’s The Wire. Or reading about Baltimore’s “racist” police department beset with a “cultural resistance to accountability” (one among numerous American cities operating under the Department of Justice’s “consent decrees”). And the longtime “common knowledge” of racial profiling with the Chicago Police, an assumption upheld in 2016 by a mayor-directed task force.

But when I look at the numbers that supposedly argue “police racism,” I simply have to say: It doesn’t add up.

NOTE BY DAVID SHUEY, AUTHOR: This was originally posted August 24, 2016. However, I consider this a “working paper” and consistently edit it with updates while keeping the core argument, structure, and conclusions the same. For example, in September 2016 I added pictures along with the two graphics I designed (with bonus orange column). This posting I’ve also submitted a draft for publication, and I’m open to other opportunities to collaborate and/or publish. Questions can be directed to me at or via comments below.

Another Note: I eschew AP style on numbers, mostly (i.e. 2, 5, and 7 rather than two, five, and seven). This is to sustain focus on the data in this numbers-driven analysis.

Summer and Fall 2017 also have major updates in the ever-growing middle section (from “Can We Trust the Numbers?” to “Academic Bias?), as well as the CDC sections in the beginning. This has nearly doubled the length of the original piece, which I did to bolster the argument at hand, particularly as a defense against the critique that data is limited at rendering strong conclusions. I’m very certain the data proves there’s no systemic racism in policing. Other than that, the intro and final section (“Breaking Down Fryer’s Data ‘On the Ground’”) are relatively unchanged from August 2016.



David Shuey

Writer. Researcher. Designer. Human seeking better outcomes for all. Empiricism, relevant facts, and logical arguments > simple narratives.