The Debunking of a Misleading NY Times Headline: “Study Supports Suspicion That Police Are More Likely to Use Force on Blacks”

David Shuey
35 min readJul 9, 2016
Another New York Times article this week says it all: Shootings Further Divide a Nation Torn Over Race

“It’s kind of like, ‘Is water wet?’” said Aislinn Sol, organizer of the Chicago chapter of Black Lives Matter. “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.” * Quote from NY Times’ article. See addendum at bottom.

Another day, another ugly American killing. And yet another New York Times article (July 7, 2016) highlighting racism in police actions while omitting the most glaring context: Crime rates and arrest rates.

The result is a misinformed public, and that can make for lethal results.

Here’s more context for this heart-wrenching week in the United States of gun-happy America. Sunday: Black Lives Matter protesters stops Toronto Gay Pride for 30 minutes with a list of demands, including no more pro-gay police floats because they represent “oppression.” Tuesday: White police officers shoot and kill a man (reportedly after “brandishing a gun” at a homeless person who called 911) in Baton Rouge, Louisiana, causing immediate national outrage with graphic videos of the deadly scene shared widely. Wednesday: It’s suburban St. Paul, Minnesota, and another viral video of a black man shot by police in a passenger seat, the driver girlfriend live-streaming that her boyfriend told the officer he had a gun and a license to carry. Thursday: A black militant sniper saying he wants to kill “white people” specifically “white police officers” ends the lives of 5 law enforcement in Dallas, Texas, and injuring another 7.

Friday: Good-willed friends post a police “use of force” racial disparity NY Times article on a social media thread of mine. In debunking it, I raise my middle finger to the more irrational aspects of the Black Lives Matter movement that continually misrepresent the problem.

The victims in Louisiana and Minnesota will be 2 out of another 1000-death-by-hands-of-police year, 25% or so will be African American, much like 2015. The fallen in Dallas are 5 of 26 officers killed in shootings so far this year, an increase of 63% since last year.

The problem is poverty + guns and the violence shaped by that marriage. It’s not so much prejudicial racism.

Again, I would like a statistician collaborator to substantiate some findings here. To me, it’s obvious key facts are missing and claims are hyper-inflated. And ask yourself: When you read an article about disproportional police shootings or violence against persons of color by law enforcement, does the story contextualize with crime rates and interactions points (arrests, stops, etc.)? Or does it merely say it’s racial bias as a given and move on?

OK, now on to critiquing this NY Times story, the report released Friday by the Center for Policing Equity in which it’s based, and the misleading headline.

“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

The study found that the overall mean use-of-force rate for all black residents was 273 per 100,000, which is 3.6 times higher than the rate for white residents (76 per 100,000) and 2.5 times higher than the overall rate of 108 per 100,000 for all residents…” [bold emphasis mine]

Let’s break down what 2.5 times higher is. That would equal 31% of total instances of use of force by police during arrests, i.e. 12.5% is percentage of Americans who are black x 2.5 rate of force = 31%.

The study is completely questionable from the beginning, and the story about it omits key facts in its reporting.

UPDATE Aug 2016: Quickly, the above excerpt from the NY Times are two overlapping points pieced together for brevity (thus the “…”). The key facts are the bullet points I highlight below in this post showing crime is also 2.5 times higher (or even more) for blacks than the general population. Thus, use of force happening 2.5 times as much shouldn’t be a shocker. The article does convey, just as the original report titled The Science of Justice: Race, Arrests, and Police Use of Force did, the following: First the benchmarks for population only — that’s the 2.5 times higher part— and then controls for crime demographically. With those later controls, use of force is about 1.3 times higher, or 20+%, as the report claims.

As I get to later in this essay — though in retrospect I should have placed it at the top — you can say “20% more likely” another way: Around 1 out of 20 arrests (slightly under 5% of the time) use of force takes place for BOTH black and whites, according to the Center for Policing Equity’s own facts. It’s rare and hardly differs along racial lines. (Before even benchmarking for violent crimes, 1 out 22 arrests involve use of force for blacks, and 1 out of 28 times for whites.)

I also wrote two more epic (i.e. long) posts after this one, too, that deal with what these disproportionate outcomes mean “on the ground” and the essential context of crime regarding interactions with police (TL;DR conclusion: There’s minuscule racial bias):

Frankly, I believe reports and the news should focus on disparities with controls first, then show the inequity in population second — crime and police interaction are at the end of a very long chain of sociological problems that begin with poverty, family, and the legacy of racism. Instead, they bury that context.

This truly muddies the entire Black Lives Matter debate.

I eventually get to what “20% more likely to have use of force used against you if black” really means after crunching nationally known data in the next two paragraphs. Basically, my article is a modified first draft, and I admit I could set up how “jumbled” the NY Times was in summarizing the report and make a stronger argument.

Or point out how the NY Times could at least question the bias that may be inherent in academic or not-for-profit institutions like the Center for Policing Equity (CPE). White Papers or reports aren’t conceived without ideological or political bias, i.e. they often have a “find a problem/fix a problem” approach. This is a bias as much as law enforcement's hyping the Drug War for bigger budgets. The ACLU, the U.S. Department of Defense, and that student writing a paper all need a “target” or “purpose” or else they’re irrelevant — which is true for most things in this world. For example, the Center for Policing Equity seeks to ingratiate themselves with police departments to offer “free” reform, but really, there’s a cost. Their website states, “Training for police departments on issues related to equity: The CPE has conducted various hands-on, specialized training sessions for law enforcement offices and police departments who want evidence-based training. Topics include implicit bias, ‘racism without racists,’ and managing gender on the force. Trainings can target executives, patrol, and/or community members. While most of our trainings are free of charge (in exchange for access to research-related data), trainings that have already been completed may require a fee.”

So basically, the CPE gives you trainings on how not to be racist if you give them “research-related data”that we can manipulate to prove there’s racism. If you think I’m being uncharitable with the term “manipulate,” you’ll see what I mean as you read further.

OK, now back to my Medium essay where, remember, we established 31% of total instances of use of force by police are directed at black U.S. residents based on the “2.5 times higher” benchmark the study…

[end Aug 2016 Update]

How can the study authors claim with The New York Times’ validation that they’ve proven “[there’s ‘far more’ bias] even when racial disparities in crime are taken into account” when these are the undisputed stats for Black Americans?

• Homicide offender (and victim) = 50–55% of total US population (4 times higher)

• Arrests = 28% (2.25 times higher than the general population)

• Incarcerated = 37% (3 times higher)

• Violent crime arrests = 39% (3 times higher)

• Property crime arrests = 29% (2.3 times higher)

• Weapons arrests = 40% (3.2 times higher)

(Racial disparity higher than overall population in parenthesis; mostly based on FBI Uniform Crime Reporting.)

Isn’t that how you’re supposed to take racial disparities in crime into account, thus debunking this report’s argument? Does The New York Times purposely choose to not vet their findings?

UPDATE Aug 2016 Part 2 (with some additional data Apr 2018): My argument is simple: There clearly isn’t “far more” racial bias “even when racial disparities in crime are taken into account,” as the NY Times reports. There’s a tiny, almost unnoticeable amount of bias when actual crime is factored in. Thus, the original report and The NY Times and other mainstream sources like Vanity Fair trumpeting it are misleading. As I point out often, and in the addendum graphs at the bottom of this page using Roland Fryer’s parallel data, a 20% higher rate of use of force also means less than a 1% difference “on the ground.” The Center for Policing Equity data says it clearly even if their editorializing does not: The difference of use-of-force occurrences is 5 times out of 100 arrests for one demographic (black) and 4 times out of 100 for another (white). That’s fairly negligible. And rare.

Look closely at this Table 5 created by the Center for Policing Equity that show whites have higher rates of use of force for violent arrests. It appears they present this data, but ignore it in their narrative. The next three paragraphs updated April 2018 show that all along the Center for Policing Equity were misleading the media when presenting their data to the masses. This proved dangerous as homicide rates were increasing 20% from 2014 to 2016.

How Center for Policing Equity Misleads and Lies by Omission

Here’s what’s really shocking. That 3.6% vs. 4.6% use-of-force difference doesn’t factor in violent crime and the writers of this report obfuscate that fact. 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.” But several times, they try to say violent crimes don’t matter. But just looking at this data it appears outcomes are worse for whites in violent arrests.

Also, I was able to tabulate that black arrests for violent crime are almost twice the proportion of arrests as they are for whites, but the report neglects to mention that. Basically, as many as 1 in 15 black arrests are for violent acts compared to 1 in 24 white arrests. (Remember, 1 out 22 arrests involve use of force for blacks, and 1 out of 28 times for whites.)

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.” That appears to be here on Table 5 where 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. The Table 5 chart clearly shows use of force outcomes favoring blacks more than whites.

Phillip Atiba Goff, criminology professor and co-founder and president of the Center for Policing Equity, 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.” No. Um. No. It’s not “far more likely.” That fact is the reason I wrote this Medium essay in the first place.

The Center for Policing Equity’s report left this little Easter egg showing the anti-black disparity does not occur in lethal use of force. This is details more below in the “October 2017 Update.”

I have to repeat that when Goff says, “In every single category, the anti-black disparity persists” he is blatantly lying. Their own data says there are two categories where the anti-black disparity does not persist: Lethal shootings and violent arrests. (See photo to the left.)

This is a fact: Blacks are more often arrested for violent crimes. There’s a 48% black-white difference in arrests for violent crimes in 4 categories (FBI Uniform Crime Report: rape, aggravated assault, murder or robbery). If more of a demographic group’s arrests are for violent crimes, then obviously that may affect the rate of use of force in that same demographic for overall arrests. It’s like adding more chocolate chips into your cookie; don’t be surprised if you taste more chocolate.

How Suspect Behavior is Different Between Races

Regardless, these studies hardly mention antipathy towards police that can lead to problematic interactions, and are likely factors behind a racial difference of 3.6% for whites vs. 4.6% for blacks. The Center for Policing Equity mentions it only in passing on page 26:

“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).”

The following is the excerpt and data from the Michael R. Smith, J.D., Ph.D analysis from July 2010 (A Multi-Method Evaluation of Police Use of Force Outcomes: Final Report to the National Institute of Justice): “The results from model 1 also indicate that the odds of officer injury are slightly lower if the suspect was white compared to another racial group (OR=0.87; 95% CI= 0.80–0.95).”

It would be irrational to believe groups behave in the same way towards authority, and that those biases on behalf of citizens (as well as police) don’t shape outcomes. 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. That will likely affect how each police encounter begins if nearly 70% of blacks don’t think they get treated fairly.

Jeff Sessions the White Supremacist (where I got this image) vs. Jeff Sessions the guy who wants to help people affected by crime victimization in minority communities (an argument I’m willing to make at the risk of alienating friends and damaging my personal reputation).

Criminal Context not Clearly Presented

I’ll get to the downplaying of no racial bias in lethal shootings in a minute.

The NY Times could vet their findings by simply comparing what “2.5 times higher” is compared to nationwide FBI crime stats above. I’m constantly in awe how that context is erased from the discussion in mainstream media; or how “institutional racism” is argued with opaque evidence. And if “black crime” nationally is substantially different from from “12 agencies serving populations ranging from under 100,000 to over 1 million, with a median size of roughly 600,000 residents” that are “geographically diverse,” then I’m open to hearing the evidence. Though, I highly doubt it is very different based on my own viewing of crime data in several American cities. Basically, crime committed disproportionately by the black population is consistent in major cities across the United States — what the Left won’t tell you. And the reasons that still happens in the “post-racial” 21st century may be due to the long-lasting legacy of slavery, segregation, and Jim Crow — what the Right won’t tell you.

Also, someone can explain why these reports seem to “hide” how they benchmark to crime, i.e. their controls are often vague and unclear. To me, and the NY Times, the key figure on the report is on page 19 “Table 4. Use of Force Rates per 1,000 Arrests, by Citizen Race” which I get to after the next excerpt. Leading to some rather shocking conclusions, even to me.

Something in the red circle isn’t like the other columns. Look closely. That light grey bar is slightly higher.

October 2017 Update: I should have looked closer at ONE detail obscured in the report, but this post was written rather quickly. Given time, I would have shown the data above, but I might have still missed that little “lethal” column on the left that clearly indicates lethal force is higher for whites. Or if you read too quickly, you’ll miss the Center for Policing Equity write a “use of lethal force” exception to their argument that an anti-black disparity persists in every category.

Below is an excerpt from what I wrote recently in my article “An Evidence-Based Analysis of Attorney General Jeff Sessions’ Call to Review Obama-Era U.S. Justice Department Police Reforms.” It can be found in the section “Problems with DOJ Report: Part 2 (Also: Evidence of No Racial Bias Against Blacks in Lethal Force, Including 5 Studies).” Now, it’s up to about 8 studies and/or analyses showing no racial bias OR a bias against whites when it comes to lethal force by police. Click link above to see them all in that “Problems with DOJ Report: Part 2” section— or read the studies here, here, here, here, here, and here (Roland Fryer’s). The following excerpt I wrote shows how even the Center for Policing Equity analysis could be added to the pile of studies indicating no racial bias in police shootings:

The Center for Policing Equity at John Jay College of Criminal Justice:

“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.”

Surprise, the Center for Policing Equity does NOT emphasize how lethal use of force is lower. Most of their groundbreaking document “The Science of Justice: Race, Arrests, and Police Use of Force” focuses on disparities that are disadvantageous to blacks along the use-of-force continuum. The research was reported on by The Washington Post, PBS and The New York Times, among others — sometimes misleadingly. There is one passing mention on page 20 of the research when they say “save for lethal force” but they don’t expand on the topic and except for conservative Manhattan Institute fellow Heather Mac Donald, media outlets didn’t report it or look into it. Coincidentally, the statistic that blacks are 24% MORE likely to receive force than whites (the difference from 36 out of 1000 arrests involving force for whites, and 46 out of 1000 arrests for blacks) is the inverse of Roland Fryer’s conclusions that blacks are 24% LESS likely to receive lethal force than whites. This variable will surely change slightly based on the data set, but the chart on page 19 clearly shows in the column “lethal” a disparity favoring blacks — matching Fryer’s conclusions — based on “12 agencies serving populations ranging from under 100,000 to over 1 million, with a median size of roughly 600,000 residents.” Again, the Center for Policing Equity chose purposely not to highlight this fact that would counter the narrative of racially biased police killing black people disproportionately and without regard for their well-being. However, the evidence is there in black and white (and on Figure 2, shades of grey).

UPDATE (mysteriously deleted off the CPE website Apr 2019):

Mostly, I think the Center for Policing Equity is hiding things. I wish I could have been more precise when I first wrote this in in 2016.

Reason for Goff and Center for Policing Equity Bias: Money, Power

And the reason the Center for Policing Equity and its leader Dr. Goff are hiding things? Money. They admit as much when they attack Dr. Roland Fryer and other researchers that don’t find racial bias in police treatment of blacks: They say it will cost them funding! I even speculated that was the case when I first published this article regarding how the Center for Policing Equity is built up around paid-for racial bias trainings. I wrote, “While most of our trainings are free of charge (in exchange for access to research-related data), trainings that have already been completed may require a fee.”

Yes, Goff even admits here, it’s all about the money and whose narrative receives media attention:

Perhaps more urgently, while the scientific community may understand that this research is preliminary and ongoing, the public may not see that distinction. Careless media reporting of Fryer and Miller’s results, made without context from past studies or other experts, could have serious consequences that extend far beyond a day’s news cycle, said Phillip Atiba Goff, president of the Center for Policing Equity and a professor of policing equity at John Jay College of Criminal Justice in New York.

“When elite media outlets cite people with elite credentials, it has the potential to influence money and power,” said Goff, who has published reports on police interactions with the public. “It’s not really a good idea given how important the topic is in the national media, to our national conversation, and how bright the spotlight is shining, for people to pick it up and act like tourists.”

Goff, who maintains a police behavior database, tracking stats like stops and use of force, explained that philanthropic organizations that want to fund racial justice issues may believe, based on headlines, that there is no racial bias in police shootings. Politicians may believe the same, and not push as hard on legislation to hold police departments accountable.

“This kind of, frankly, irresponsible narrative, saying way more than their data can say, muddies [the] waters,” he continued. “[It] delays policy innovations that can save lives.”

But does it save lives? Or does this so-called social justice pushed by criminologists cost lives? I believe the latter. While all this negative attention on police racism occurred, 3000 more people died in society by homicide from 2014 to 2016 (spiking to 17,250 total murders). Zero more people were killed by police, nor were there significantly any less killed by law enforcement. Those figures remained neutral. Compounding the annual homicide increases, I’ve calculated that as many as 6500 more people would be alive today if we remained at 2014 levels of homicides before uprisings prompted by Black Lives Matter in Ferguson, Baltimore, Chicago, Milwaukee, and across the nation. Remember, courts and investigations found no wrongdoing by police in many of the nation’s high-profile cases. Arrests and prosecutions of a handful officers involved in potential misconduct also were a result.

I believe it’s the sincerely held belief that their cause is just that makes individuals like Goff want to wield their power — and make themselves heard at every opportunity. But while he does this, many more black and brown people die, and it’s not by police.

Two papers show how de-policing negatively affects the lives of poor minority communities in the past few years since Ferguson:

Ferguson Effect paper (2017):
“In this article, we examine the association between public concern over police violence and crime rates using Google search measures to estimate the former. Analyzing data on 43 large U.S. cities, we find that violent crime was higher and rose more in cities where concern about police violence was greatest. We also find that measures of social inequality predict crime rates.”

ACLU Effect paper (2018):
“Our regression equations permit quantification of the costs of the decline in stop and frisks. Because of fewer stop and frisks in 2016, it appears that (conservatively calculating) approximately 239 additional victims were killed and 1129 additional shootings occurred in that year alone. And these tremendous costs are not evenly distributed, but rather are concentrated among Chicago’s African-American and Hispanic communities.”

[end Aug 2016 Update & Oct 2017 & Apr 2018 Update]

Cont. with Original 2016 Essay:

Do they mention how Non-Hispanic White Americans may, in fact, have significantly lower crime rates than Black Americans — and despite left-wing pundits’ ideological lies are even lower than society as a whole in many key areas — thus interacting with law enforcement 3.6 times less?

But if occasions where use of force is deemed necessary is indeed 3.6 times more for blacks than whites (or 2.5 times more than the general population), let’s see the areas that may show that number is actually small. Black persons are 8.0 times greater likely to commit murder, 6.0 times more likely to be incarcerated, and 8.55 times more likely to be arrested for robbery than white persons. A 2004 study at the University of Columbia Department of Economics study cited on Wikipedia points out that when it comes to robbery, crimes with white victims and black offenders are more than 12 times as frequent as those with black victims and white offenders. Keep in mind, too, that 70% of all prisoners are there for property or violent crime, and only 21% for drugs, so you can’t pin this on our short-sighted War on Drugs. (The drug incarceration figure is that of state and federal inmates combined, which I find almost anyone I ask believes it to be much higher. One reason is because anti-incarceration arguments often cherry pick the statistics for the federal system, which is 7 times smaller than the state penitentiary population but has a much higher percentage of drug conviction inmates.)

It’s also worth mentioning one reason Non-Hispanic White Americans (63% of the total population) are less exposed to police is because they’re less exposed socio-economically as some immigrants and ancestors of slaves. Poverty derives from a historical racism.

Am I missing something here?

My $100 bet. WOULDN’T evidence of excessive use of force be a rate 4 times higher or greater for black persons compared to overall US population? But the “evidence” in a pro-equity academic-police partnership organization is simply pointing out the 2.5 times higher use-of-force rate. I’ll give $100 to anyone who can prove that I’m wrong. (Anyone can try: A professional statistician, academic, journalist, or regular Joe or Jenny Schmo.)

Now, the second data set the NY Times chose to highlight did seem interesting and raises eyebrows:

“For those who were arrested, the mean rate of use of force against blacks was 46 for every 1,000 arrests, compared with 36 per 1,000 for whites.”

46 to 36 per 1000 is a significant difference statistically. It’s like saying, “If black, you’re 20% more likely to have use of force used against you.” It’s not twice as likely, but it’s an indicator of possible bias — evidence! Then again, there’s two key factors: 1. How the police are engaging differently (are they?); 2. How the arrested person is responding differently (are they?). Also, fundamental to understanding that difference are the circumstances of arrests. Blacks are far more likely to be arrested and incarcerated for violent crimes (matching victim reports), with a homicide rate 8 times higher than whites. So, hypothetically, apples and oranges.

Do studies like this one by the Center for Policing Equity look at that, or consider the “full picture” of each interaction? Or the different crimes in which people are arrested? Issues of trust around police make this a chicken or egg situation, which I don’t deny needs fixing. I also don’t deny police may not document every “bad” stop or interaction (see this 2016 Frontline piece, “Policing the Police”), but how much that skews the 2.5 times “use of force” difference, it’s hard to speculate (though many do).

I suspect the perception and occasional reality of being treated different feeds the mistrust. Yet even if use of force is not shown 954 times out of 1000 arrests for black Americans (or 964 out of 1000 arrests for white Americans), writers on esteemed news sources like Public Radio International will continue to offer platforms for distortions like, “I know why Freddie Gray ran. And it’s not because of any history or anything he’s doing wrong. He ran because for young Black men, encounters with police often do not go well.” Actually, according to the Center for Policing Equity’s own data, 21 out 22 times they do “go well” with no “use of force” for blacks, and 27 out of 28 times it’s the same results for whites. And I’d say logic dictates Gray ran because he had more than 20 criminal court cases against him, often for drug dealing.

But again for black Americans, 31% of total instances of “use of force” vs. 28% of total times arrested indicates to me that overall there’s negligible bias. I wonder how these two data sets are unrelated. I suspect they are not.

It’s all there in my Medium pieces, including my twin posts “Commenting the Wider View on Police Shootings: Taking to Task the NY Times, and The Chicago Police Accountability Task Force Report” and “The Think Progress Post that Doesnt Think” where I’ve carefully thought about these factors. I admit, they take much to digest. So jump to the middle FBI and Southern Poverty Law statistical portion on my “Think Progress” critique and read to the end. They deal with this analysis, specifically. And how Black Lives Matter feeds off feeling more than fact.

When I wrote my first piece back in March, I never realized how difficult the evidence of NO systemic bias by police against black Americans — or even MORE bias against whites, based on contact points — was so difficult to convey or for others to understand. From my Medium post “The Think Progress Post that Doesn’t Think (And the Far Left that Isn’t Thinking Much Anymore, Either, Because of Righteous Indignation”:

The the murder rate, violent crime rate, and arrest rate are HIGHER than the police-killing-black-men rate, which to me is the “canary in the coal mine” of racism.

Or super-duper simply: White people and black people, as individual demographic sets, are roughly 40% of those in prison and 40% of criminals and crime victims in many categories. But police in 2015 killed more than 1000 persons, 10% unarmed (90 total in 2015, according to the Washington Post), and about 50% were white and 25% were black.

And I await to be swayed by different evidence or how I’m looking at this data incorrectly.

Perhaps the pro-police advocates have a point: Police officers pursue “criminality, not color.” And their job actually is fraught with danger, according to Sam Harris, chief executive of Project Reason, a non-profit organization that promotes science and secularism. His interview with a firearms tactics expert and 30-year veteran of the LAPD is a must-listen podcast, especially for those critical of the police.

It’s funny, but I need to interject: White racists can fuck themselves. Ditto conservative conspiracy theory wingnuts, even if they make similar points. (Every dog has his day.) But pro-black ideology without verified facts or context don’t do social justice movements a service. When Black Lives Matter individuals Tweet about killing white people and someone eventually does it, don’t say it’s much different than the Klan. Who, by the way, aren’t on a killing spree since Jim Crow ended. As of last year, Dylann Roof’s racist killing of 9 black people in a Charleston church still aggregates to 5 or so ideologically right-wing mass killing attacks a year. The Southern Poverty Law Center points out there are 4–5 “hate crime” homicides a year, from 2003 until 2015. Hate fed a terrorist like Roof, undoubtedly. Just like hate likely fueled by blatant hyperbolic assessment of police actions created a monster in Dallas. Tonight I heard the Fraternal Order of Police president wants to ask the US Attorney General for the same consideration for Men in Blue. With 5 dead in Dallas in one incident, I might not disagree. The reactionary left media will.

When there’s no trust between police and their communities, more people die or get hurt. People resist arrest. Cops get nervous. Adrenaline kicks in and cops shoot white people getting out of crashed cars and get away with it [UPDATE: He may not “get away with it” as he was indeed charged within three months, as a friend pointed out. And the white suspect died three weeks after being shot in the neck.]. A white South Carolina policeman who shot a black man in the back very likely will not get a way with it. A myopic country doesn’t pay nearly as much attention when a white 6-year-old in Louisiana is killed by police by black officers. But many pin their impression of injustice on several high profile arguably grey areas of police culpability. Or conspiracy.

The result? A psychotic sniper in Dallas shoots police after a peaceful Black Lives Matter rally. More people in Chicago are “taking take matters into their own hands and settle disputes violently” — among other reasons tied to poor police/community relations — leading to a nearly 50% spike in homicides the first six months of this year. While the Washington Post reports 90 “unarmed” persons were killed by police in 2015, 2016 will see a 150–200 death toll increase in Chicago alone. [Jan 2017 update: I underestimated, it’s closer to a 274 death total increase, but even “60 Minutes” can’t ask why police are pulling back.] Sadly, the cogent dissection of those 10% of “unarmed” killings are relegated to more right-leaning media outlets, while factual case-by-case analysis, such as in the Wall Street Journal, might benefit the section of the national consciousness that avoids mainstream press paywalls. And for those who want to read without paywalls how unarmed black persons aren’t necessarily killed because of racism, here is a 2015 breakdown of Americans killed by police with “no weapon.” Not many smoking guns among the discharged firearms. Why didn’t the Washington Post do the same?

Even the FBI Director James Comey talks in May 2016 of this spike nationwide, including Chicago, and a possible “viral video” effect on policing morale, only to be met with silence, denial, and anger. “It’s a complicated, hard issue, but the stakes couldn’t be higher. A whole lot of people are dying,” Comey said.

In my city of Chicago, police have to deal with aggressive bystanders and videotapers and not do their job correctly apprehending suspects, yet the reaction is “(The police stomping the suspect) in the face was uncalled for, and it was a disgusting act” by community leaders. If the community trusted the police weren’t out to kill them — which I back with evidence not anecdote — the officer would be helping arrest the suspect properly. He wouldn’t be “kicking a suspect in the head” when the suspect is clearly reaching for his Chicago Police Department coworker’s throat while a throng of young people are arguing and videotaping them.

Why aren’t there more videos in other communities? Perhaps because they’re not hellbent on taping everything or elevating every police cam “bad arrest” into a viral phenomenon fueled by reactionary indignation and narrow editing.

UPDATE July 19: Again, even in Baltimore, the legal threshold of responsibility has not been reached 4 trials straight on the death of Freddie Gray. (And “0 for 24” on charges sticking.) The legal defense of the police officers accused of killing Gray is that bystanders’ anger led to them not buckling Gray, i.e. the police couldn’t do their job “by the book” because of citizenry, the ones many saw in the viral video of Gray’s arrest. The black Associate Judge with the Baltimore City Circuit Court, Barry G. Williams, “has agreed with defense arguments that a crowd that formed around the arrest scene [of Freddie Gray] gave officers reasonable cause to use their discretion not to adhere to the department’s police general orders on using seat belts.” And this is one of the prime examples of institutional racism in our country?

Black communities and activists should consider why all the fingers are pointed at police when as of July 2016 in Chicago less than 10 out of 2000 shootings were by men in CPD uniform.

Also, the NY Times “Supports Suspicion” July 7 piece mentioned the following:

“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 in the news.”

So they don’t answer that fundamental question, which I call the “Canary in the coal mine.” That deaths are the key indicator of police bias. Are police beating people up at twice the rate they’re killing them? If so, that’s some suspicious thinking.


I purposely avoided standard style guides and chose not to write out numbers for three, five, eight, etc. Numbers matter, and want them to “pop,” so it’s clear. i.e. The Southern Poverty Law Center points out there are 5–6 “hate crime” homicides a year OR the “offending rate for blacks was almost 8 times higher than whites,” which is copied from Wikipedia directly. Calling Wiki Editors! It’s “eight”!


And that “Canary in the coal mine” of racial bias in killings by police is answered! Only a few days after this report, a groundbreaking study by an acclaimed black Harvard economist (and recipient of the MacArthur “Genius” Fellowship) judiciously backs my longtime argument that there’s no racial bias in police shootings. See NY Times (July 11, 2016): Surprising New Evidence Shows Bias in Police Use of Force but Not in Shootings. Note, this study may also miss key factors that show the slightly higher use of force for minority persons over white people, i.e. known gang members who may cycle through police stops repeatedly, or stronger negative attitudes towards police in the black community. As I said above, “Issues of trust around police make this a chicken or egg situation, which I don’t deny needs fixing.”

But when we’re talking a common set of facts, note my own statistical breakdown in the orange rectangle as to what around 20% “more likely” means. I believe this shows how rare use of force actually is during the heavily critiqued modern period of aggressive police tactics in the “stop-and-frisk” era in New York City (2003–2013). And gives perspective.

Ask yourself about these stats by a Harvard economist Roland G. Fryer, Jr.: On an everyday patrol with a NYC cop in the Brooklyn in 2004, with these numbers above (i.e. 1 in 32 black people will get handcuffed; 1 in 37 white people get handcuffed), would you even notice that difference? And is the mistreatment by “NYC Cops” so extreme in general if your chance of getting handcuffed is 3%, whether you’re complexion is black or white? And that’s before getting to what Fryer calls “the most surprising result of my career” in discovering no racial bias for shootings after studying 1332 of them over a 15-year period.
Sources for graphic here.

* ADDENDUM 2 (to opening quote I just added 11/15/20):

Why don’t we connect the threads of HOW the media and activists constantly validate that police are uniquely dangerous to black lives — defying data — and how that’s resulted in a vastly more black lives lost this past half decade?

I added the quote “Is water wet?” in November 2020 from the original 2016 article. There’s a reason. It is from a Black Lives Matter activist in Chicago and highlights how poor contextualization by media and academics fosters mistrust in the system. No, the study as I argue clearly here does not reinforce the false “anti-racism” and BLM-inspired belief that policing leads to discriminatory treatment. I had thought I dropped that quote in this original piece — which includes the kitchen sink, let’s face it, after several subsequent edits — but I left the nonsensical quote out apparently.

It’s there now. Haunting us like so much “carnage” has continued in the Trump years. But it’s a trajectory (like the economy) from the Obama years, manifesting a 30% growth in the supply of murder in just seven years.

And if you want to read more evidence about the Center for Policing Equity’s misleading methods, guided by their crusader-grifter director Phillip Atiba Goff — whose profile is ever expanding and validated , unfortunately— please read these two pieces of mine where I lay it all out.

Though, this Medium post in the post-Dallas police massacre Summer 2016 is where it all started.

TL;DR — It’s all about manufacturing a problem, and getting the funding

Let’s be clear: Media allowed the lies, obfuscations, and untruths from Black Lives Matter to spread wings and soar. If anything 2020 accelerated these falsehoods, and I admit some despondency. Four years after publishing this piece, the facts remain: Approximately 19 out of 20 black arrests, and 19 out of 20 white arrests, result in NO use of force. Virtually no one knows this, or articulates it in such a way. Not even my heroes John McWhorter, Coleman Hughes, Glenn Loury, or Sam Harris mention this when arguing there’s no argument for systemic racism in police killings. Sometimes, they flat-out say police brutalize black people more often — as Hughes did at the 4:15 mark in a YouTube exchange with the former Prime Minister of Australia — even as they point out the landmark study from Roland Fryer and others that police are not shooting black folks more often than whites. Or they smartly mention Tony Timpa, a white man who died essentially the same way as George Floyd. But virtually no one knows Timpa’s name nor protested over his death after police held him down for nearly 14 minutes.

Maybe they are seeing the same data as I am that force is used 36 out of 1000 arrests for whites and 46 out of 1000 arrests for blacks and coming to the conclusion that is a significant difference. I stand firm it isn’t. No more than Fryer finding that “blacks are 27.4% less likely to be shot at by police relative to non-black, non-Hispanics”

It’s a conundrum to me. Everything is.

Five years of BLM activism and still 1000 people are killed every year, 75% of which are NOT black. However, analysis by Dr. Wilfred Reilly shows 80% of media content on police killings focus on black lives, which are only one-quarter of deaths. How can good-hearted people not become brainwashed? Especially when news-powerhouses like The New York Times and fundraising-powerhouses like the Center for Policing Equity are hellbent to obscure reality as they mix social justice agendas with journalism and science.

Unarmed killings of blacks have dropped significantly from 38 in 2015 to 14 in 2019. That makes unarmed killings of black men around 1% of overall police killings. That’s not mentioned in media. Around 4 in 10 lethal assaults on police are at the hands of black offenders, and that’s also not mentioned in the Washington Post, CNN or ABC News. What is mentioned is that blacks are and are around 35% of all unarmed police killings, and that’s four times higher than whites. They don’t mention that white men are killed at a rate 10 times higher per capita than black women, using the same logic.

There’s no headline, “Misandrist Police Killing Men at Vastly Disproportionate Rates.”

The Carnage & The Data

The consequences are our new bloody and irrational reality? Likely 20,000 murders per year in 2020 compared to 14,000 per year in 2013–2014 when BLM started taking shape. That’s thousands of lost black lives to murder — all not mentioned on the web pages of Black Lives Matter, where they “memory hole” their own call to “disrupt the Western-prescribed nuclear family structure” and neglect any mention of gun violence as a subject topic unless by cop. Many resources and studies support the idea that a “Ferguson Effect” has transpired in America, but its underplayed in TV pundits and smart phone news feeds.

Even the New York Times knows that mistrust is why more murders happen, reporting in August 2020:

Some research suggests that a loss of trust in law enforcement can cause citizens to be reluctant to contact the police, and people may be more likely to take matters into their own hands to resolve disputes.

Below are two articles from Roland Fryer’s 2020 study that came out soon after the George Floyd protests, which have led to $2 billion in damages and dozens of lives lost in the protests alone. This year will likely result in a 15% spike in murders, according to FBI estimates.

“But when I look at cities in which the investigation was preceded by a viral event,” he said, “homicide goes up considerably. Total crime goes up considerably.” What happens, he said, is that police effectively pull back. They don’t stop doing their jobs, but they become less proactive and curb their interactions with civilians.

In Chicago, there was a 90% drop in police-civilian contacts immediately after the announcement of an investigation, and “Baltimore literally went to zero” after a probe was announced there, he said. In cities where these contacts fell the most, homicides increased the most. Sadly, the decision to launch departmentwide state and federal inquiries into the deaths of Brown, McDonald and Gray resulted in numerous additional deaths. Mr. Fryer said that because of changes in police behavior following investigations in these and other cities, “my estimates show that we lost a thousand more lives, most of them black as well, because of an increase in homicides.” The protesters and their political allies insist that policing is the problem, but when police pull back, black communities are hit hardest.

“This is not to say that police departments shouldn’t be investigated,” Mr. Fryer added. “But to quote [former Mayor] Rahm Emanuel in Chicago, ‘investigations have to be done with police, not to police.’ ” One alternative is to target individual officers for wrongdoing rather than putting entire departments under a cloud. Federal officials also could be more patient in letting local investigations run their course before Washington gets involved. Mr. Fryer hopes his results will “encourage introspection on the trade-offs involved when we increase scrutiny on police departments.” At the moment there’s a lot more venting and posturing than introspection.

Protesters have decided to vilify the police. Rioters have decided to take advantage of the protests. And the media have expressed little interest in putting this tragedy in context. The activists tell us that what happened to George Floyd is commonplace and racially motivated, but the empirical evidence points in the opposite direction. Camera phones and social media may give fatal encounters between cops and black suspects more attention, but anecdotes are no substitute for hard data.

His new research is similarly controversial in the media. In a Manhattan Institute video late last month, Fryer exclaimed that he encountered an “absolute refusal to grapple with the data” from the media and “insistence” that he should not publicize it.

Referring to a reporter whom he showed the research, Fryer told The Wall Street Journal’s Jason Riley: “I thought the person might sit with the numbers for a bit and go, ‘Damn, a thousand lives. That’s a lot.’”

Beyond media telling him not to publicize facts (!!!) that’s why Fryer had to go to The College Fix and black conservative Jason Reilly to put the word out on his groundbreaking new study in 2020. The College Fix reported:

“Pattern-or-Practice” investigations are used by federal and state governments to mitigate unconstitutional police activity including, but not limited to, excessive force and racial bias.

According to the Harvard scholars’ working paper on the impact of these investigations into police activity on homicide and crime rates, published in early June, the investigations resulted in “almost 900 excess homicides and almost 34,000 excess felonies.”

This spike in the crime rate occurred over the course of two years in the five cities where those deaths and viral incidents occurred: Freddie Gray in Baltimore, Laquan McDonald in Chicago, Timothy Thomas in Cincinnati, Tyisha Miller in Riverside, California, and Michael Brown in Ferguson, Missouri.

From Fryer’s study itself:

“Our estimates suggest that investigating police departments after viral incidents of police violence is responsible for approximately 450 excess homicides per year [in just 5 cities]. This is 2x the loss of life in the line of duty for the US Military in a year, 12.6x the annual loss of life due to school shootings, and 3x the loss of life due to lynchings between 1882 and 1901 — the most gruesome years.”

Fryer’s new paper was preceded by a few others. Two papers proved the Ferguson Effect was a likely true phenomenon, and thousands of lives were lost in the increases of murders from 2014 to 2016, when murders went from 14,164 to 17,250.

Ferguson Effect paper (2017):

“In this article, we examine the association between public concern over police violence and crime rates using Google search measures to estimate the former. Analyzing data on 43 large U.S. cities, we find that violent crime was higher and rose more in cities where concern about police violence was greatest. We also find that measures of social inequality predict crime rates.”

ACLU Effect paper (2018):

“Our regression equations permit quantification of the costs of the decline in stop and frisks. Because of fewer stop and frisks in 2016, it appears that (conservatively calculating) approximately 239 additional victims were killed and 1129 additional shootings occurred in that year alone. And these tremendous costs are not evenly distributed, but rather are concentrated among Chicago’s African-American and Latino communities.”

3000 more people murdered since 2014 (the year of Ferguson protests), when FBI listed murder totals as 14,164:

“In 2016, the estimated number of murders in the nation was 17,250. This was an 8.6 percent increase from the 2015 estimate, a 16.1 percent increase from the 2012 figure”

Below is a new Ferguson Effect article I found. I’ll leave the epic excerpt, as I find it’s worth reading:

Both versions, disempowered cops and empowered bad guys, implicitly reinforce the idea that only rigorous law enforcement stops Black people in poor urban neighborhoods from killing more of each other in the first place. In his paper, Rosenfield doesn’t try to directly shoot down either one, because how can he? They’re both just hunches anyway. He does present data, meanwhile, to confirm that the Ferguson effect is real and that it is primarily a factor in urban Black communities.

But Rosenfield also presents other earlier academic studies showing that Black people in poor neighborhoods have far less faith in law enforcement, even without a Ferguson. Multiple studies have shown that poor Black people think calling White cops to a scene of trouble will only bring worse trouble. The cops won’t listen, won’t be able to tell bad guys from good guys, will get scared and start shooting people before they know what’s going on.

“What matters is not the factual accuracy of these beliefs in every instance,” Rosenfield writes. “What matters is that they can metastasize into a pronounced ‘legal cynicism,’ especially in disadvantaged African American communities.”

Rosenfield cites research by others establishing a direct correlation between legal cynicism and crime: “When people believe the procedures of formal social control are unjust, they are less likely to obey the law.”

If they feel that way already, he says, those feelings may be sharply exacerbated by, “widely publicized incidents of police use of force that seem to confirm the validity of the underlying belief system.”

I asked Aziz about all that. He said he believes the Ferguson effect is real: “It can be the Ferguson effect, the Baltimore effect. Every time something comes up, we have all kinds of academicians giving names to these different things, but there is a very real truth to it.”

Finally, from my October 2019 article, the following graphic to drive the point home: We’re looking at around a 500:1 ratio of death from being unarmed and killed by police to ordinary murder, if black.

SOURCES FOR GRAPHIC: CDC — 19,510 homicides in 2016. | ColorLines showed black homicide victim rates that are almost 7 times higher for blacks than whites. | 2018 Study: “Is There Evidence of Racial Disparity in Police Use of Deadly Force? Analyses of Officer-Involved Fatal Shootings in 2015–2016” shows 34 white and 23 black people killed by police were “unarmed and not aggressing” using Guardian data. | Running data here from The Washington Post shows 36% of unarmed killings are black. | The Washington Post in 2015: “There were 511 officers killed in felonious incidents and 540 offenders from 2004 to 2013, according to FBI reports. Among the total offenders, 52 percent were white, and 43 percent were black.”



David Shuey

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