Unarmed Killings of African Americans Numbered Under 10 Last Year, 4 Times Fewer Than 2015 *
* And unarmed white Americans numbered nearly 20, but you didn’t see that in the media, did you?
Wait, What Is This Posting? Why Should I Read It?
You may be angry about the brutal killing of George Floyd by a Minneapolis police officer. The officer is currently being charged with murder. You may be angry at the protest violence that erupted and want to share facts that provide perspective. You may just like data, empirical evidence, and context and not media or political spin.
If you’re an apologist for people destroying police vehicles or burning down businesses, you may want to move on to the next chaotic protest.
But Isn’t Data Spin? How Can I Trust It? Or You?
True. Everything is spin. But I want to give you a chance to understand the data by providing direct SOURCES to everything, and explain the context simply. You can can accept and interpret as you like, or mumble something about “lies, damned lies, and statistics” as you flip back to Twitter or Netflix.
OK, What’s Your Argument?
What happened in Minnesota is 100% unacceptable and should have never happened. Now let’s move beyond the rhetoric.
Last year nine (9) unarmed people were killed by police who happened to be black, according to The Washington Post’s widely used data on fatal encounters with law enforcement. The same occurred to 19 unarmed people who happened to be white. And six (6) who happened to be Hispanic.
I say “happened to be” because I believe this data refutes the narrative that black lives are uniquely endangered by police or that race determines outcomes more than behavior.
In fact at least 10 studies indicate the same. One found “an overall pattern of anti-White disparity” in fatal police shootings. Another said, “blacks are 27.4 percent less likely to be shot at by police relative to non-black, non-Hispanics.”
Stated another way: 99.9% of black people murdered in 2019 were NOT unarmed and killed by cop. And 99.7% of white people weren’t. This is reality. But because we saw one awful, horrendous killing on video, the reaction is nationwide protests, violence, and destruction in dozens of cities.
My main question I often wonder: Is that a rational response given reality? My second question is: Why is the media and political class reluctant to share this reality with the public to squelch this anger?
But First, Here’s a Video of a White Person Killed Not Widely Known and Sporadically Covered in National News
For Every George Floyd there is a Tony Timpa ignored by the larger public and the narrative of black lives being uniquely threatened. As reported in the Dallas Morning News: “Timpa wailed and pleaded for help more than 30 times as officers pinned his shoulders, knees and neck to the ground in 2016.”
Watch if you can. Millions watched the death of George Floyd.
In fact, with more than 200 non-black unarmed lives killed by law enforcement the past five years compared to around 100 black lives, there must be many Tony Timpas we’ve never heard much about. It would be hard to argue that a majority of Americans don’t know most of these names: Eric Garner, Freddie Gray, Michael Brown, Tamir Rice, Sandra Bland, Laquan McDonald, Philando Castille, Stephon Clark, and Botham Jean. Far fewer know the names Zachary Hammond, Jeremy Mardis (age 6), Dillon Taylor, Dylan Noble, or Gilbert Collar. Who are they? They were all unarmed white teens or children killed by police in recent years. Yet Twitter doesn’t trend their deaths. And protests aren’t built around their names.
Yes, there is a black-white disparity based on population. But there’s no racial bias when benchmarking to violent crime rates, killings of law enforcement, and overall arrest figures.
Let Us Begin (Media, Feel Free to Steal These Headlines & Data)
As I write this, I’m receiving a citywide lock-down order in Chicago due to the protests, so maybe we should have began days ago, weeks ago, or years ago. Though I’ve been writing and building data-driven charts on this topic intensively for the past four years. All the following statistics are true. They’re also graphically represented below under matching subheads.
- 9 Unarmed Black People and 19 Unarmed White People Were Killed by Police in 2019 *
- 4 Times Fewer Black Americans Were Unarmed and Killed by Police in 2019 Compared to 2015 *
- Several Sources Indicate Killings of African Americans by Cops at All Time Lows, Dropping Nearly 75% Since 1970
- Chicago Has Seen a Ten-fold Reduction in Shootings by Police Since 1975, and Killings by Chicago Police Have Dropped In Half the Past Five Years
- “Unarmed and Killed by the Police”: Around 99.8% of Black Homicides and 99.5% of White Homicides Don’t Fit that Category
- Unarmed Blacks Are Disproportionately Killed by Cops at 34.5% of Total 2015–2019; But (Largely Unsaid) Blacks Are Also More Than 40% of Cop Killers
- Data Proves Media Focus on Racism and Social Justice Issues at All-Time Highs Despite Arguably Lowest Levels of Discrimination in U.S. History (This is Why You Think It’s Really Bad Right Now)
* Again, scroll to bottom for update on adjusted “unarmed” figures as Washington Post updated to 14 unarmed blacks and 25 unarmed whites.
9 Unarmed Black People and 19 Unarmed White People Were Killed by Police in 2019 *
4 Times Fewer Black Americans Were Unarmed and Killed by Police in 2019 Compared to 2015. *
Several Sources Indicate Killings of African Americans by Cops at All Time Lows, Dropping Nearly 75% Since 1970
Chicago Has Seen a Ten-Fold Reduction in Shootings by Police Since 1975, and Killings by Chicago Police Have Dropped In Half the Past Five Years
Compared 148 people shot (likely around 75% black) in 1975 to the 12 people shot in 2019 and 21 people shot in 2018 (around 75% black).
“Unarmed and Killed by the Police”: Around 99.8% of Black Homicides and 99.5% of White Homicides Don’t Fit that Category
2016 was a fairly average year, so let’s look at that data. (In 2019, it was closer to 99.9% black and 99.7% white, but I was too lazy to make a new graphic.)
Unarmed Blacks Are Disproportionately Killed by Cops at 34.5% of Total 2015–2019; But (Largely Unsaid) Blacks Are Also More Than 40% of Cop Killers
How is 13% of the population really “overrepresented” if they’re 43% of cop killers? Police are on the receiving end of up to 2,400 firearm assaults a year, according to FBI records. This is story I’ve never seen referred to after originally being published in 2015. I wrote a Washington Post and media critique last fall after the death of Atatiana Jefferson at the hands of police, mystified that journalism ignores their own sources or contextual data.
Additionally, these are the breakdowns for black arrest in 2018 according to the FBI Uniform Crime Report:
- Overall arrests = 27.4%
- Violent crime arrests = 37.4%
- Weapons arrests = 43.3%
- Robbery arrests = 54.2%
- Murder and nonnegligent manslaughter arrests = 53.3% (8 times higher than non-Hispanic whites)
This isn’t high-level Bayesian data, but the figures map on fairly closely to overall unarmed deaths of African Americans the past five years. Here is also my analysis of unarmed shootings by race and gender for 2015–2017.
Data Proves Media Focus on Racism and Social Justice Issues at All-Time Highs Despite Arguably Lowest Levels of Discrimination in U.S. History (This is Why You Think It’s Really Bad Right Now)
That was luck. I was just going to Zach Goldberg’s Twitter page to source the graphics above this last one. But this final gem should have been my lead.
And as if you needed more convincing if you’ve skim read this far: Political scientist and general wizard contrarian Wilfred Reilly number crunched and showed that non-blacks make up 70% of police-shooting victims and receive 20% of national media coverage of police shootings. Blacks got 80%. Among other interesting findings, as he’s wont to do.
I thank you for your time. Feel free to use any content as you see fit. Hopefully to fight for justice and against racism. But the issue is: We have bigger fish to fry when the last graphic should indicate to you that around 96% of the time, police don’t use force when arresting you. And 99.999% of the time they won’t kill you unarmed. No matter your color.
Asterisk Addendum (*): How A Washington Post Update Messes with Your Charts & Graphics + BONUS MID-SUMMER THOUGHTS
This used to be a caption at the top of this post, but decided late July to move it down to the bottom and give it a rigorous edit. If you made it this far eight weeks after posting my most widely read article —21,000 views and 2,400 reads — I humbly thank you. But protests continue across the nation, with one late July death of an armed protestor in Austin and likely dozens connected to protests, so the conversation continues.
I’ll be as honest as I try to be transparent: I’m more pessimistic than ever. This “fix” by the Washington Post is but one small example of media obfuscation, even as clarity is the arguable objective.
Despite having six months to fix their database, the Washington Post apparently updated their Fatal Force database about a week after I posted this article. They wrote the following disclaimer in the related high-profile story:
Note: This article was updated to reflect that some numbers in the Post police shootings database have increased recently after additional research, as police, oversight agencies and media released more information about ambiguous shootings.
It’s now 25 unarmed whites killed by police along with 14 unarmed blacks. Not a huge change, though that would make make this article’s headline slightly inaccurate. (More accurate: “Unarmed Killings of African Americans Numbered 14 Last Year, 3 Times Fewer Than 2015.”)
This fluctuating data by the Post was used against black conservative Larry Elder in Politifact, where they gave him a “mostly false” rating for saying the same thing I did on June 2 and merely Tweeting “killed by cops” and not “fatally shot by cops”— sorry, Politifact, he was “mostly right” and you’re being fussy and showing your ideological bias. The Post even added a chart (see above) that would also be helpful to the national conversation on race and police shootings, indicating they’re extremely rare at 6% of total fatal shootings by police.
Again, these are the credible, straight-forward, and essential facts that are almost entirely unwritten and unsaid in the mass media landscape:
- Two-thirds of those deaths by law enforcement are not black
- Violent crime rates (one-third black) and assaults on police (one-third black) completely predict those unarmed fatal encounters
- Unarmed killings of blacks have dropped precipitously in five years
If only 1/100th of Washington Post’s overall coverage, as well as the other mainstream media in the aftermath of Floyd’s killing — or, hell, even the past six years — could be like that chart. So far, I’m not aware of even one of the seven headlines I posted in this article finding their way into a mainstream story. I surmise this is because editors and writers have blind spots, biases, and a healthy fear of “cancel culture” and losing their job from the social justice mob.
I’ve personally exchanged emails with a Chicago Tribune editor who came across this article and contacted me. I suggested he focus on the fact that while shootings are up around 50% in Chicago the city’s police force are utilizing their firearms against citizens less than ever — and even lower than the U.S. average, indicating remarkable restraint. This fact could help build trust between communities and police if it got out there. The trend is clear as well as the newsworthiness: There’s never been such a wide gap between Chicago shootings and civilians shootings in modern history. Yet not a single reporter in Chicago or nationwide is writing about it.
I say it often, “Please, steal this data.” Or just the main idea from this graphic:
It’s also worth noting at least 9 in 10 fatalities by law enforcement involve cops using their firearm, if we compare to Guardian data that includes deaths like neck holds or even car accidents. A tiny anomalistic percentage may look like George Floyd or Tony Timpa. That’s because research shows 90% of unarmed killings might still involve a dangerous suspect. Given these facts, the back-of-the-envelope math indicates you may very well have 5 to 10 unjustified killings out of 1,000 every year. And this makes American police uniquely dangerous and in desperate need of reform?
I suppose so. We keep getting countless articles like this drilling it into us:
At any rate, it is frustrating and inconvenient that this number changed. Even if a tiny bit. One prefers not to re-edit charts and headlines, and I haven’t so far. Though, at the end of the day it’s better to be accurate. Thus, this addendum.
I’m just tired that progress can’t be acknowledged.
Perhaps a tipping point on this mid-year/post-uprising update by The Washington Post was because influential heterodox thinkers and black conservatives started to pump out the same Post numbers you see in the main graphic I cobbled together at the top of this post. The first time I noticed the “9” and “19” unarmed deaths mentioned was when philosopher, ethicist, and podcaster Sam Harris Retweeted a post by Kmele Foster from the excellent The Fifth Column podcast. Foster, who is black and not a conservative, Tweeted the following:
“2019 Police-Involved Shooting Deaths of Unarmed Civilians: 19 White 9 Black. Everyone has skin in the game. Propagating the falsehood that this is exclusively, or primarily, a problem for black folks, is a bad look. I’m pro-police reform. I’m against fact-free anti-racism tropes.”
Harris’ June podcast “Can We Pull Back from the Brink” is also highly recommended, reflecting much of the base reasoning this post is attempting.
Other freethinkers like Coleman Hughes started using the updated 55 total of unarmed people killed in 2015 in his new role at City Journal by mid-June.
I have a suspicion that WaPo editors were notified that the less favored pundits (i.e. those in the Intellectual Dark Web or conservatives) were using their data and felt compelled to finally double-check. The Washington Post did post the updated numbers on June 8 with this headline, “Protests spread over police shootings. Police promised reforms. Every year, they still shoot and kill nearly 1,000 people.” Somehow I missed it in the chaos. It’s not a terrible article, except for once again omitting crime rates and research indicating no racial bias in outcomes. But I have problems with the headline, because my answer would be rather austere and resigned to the status quo to some: “Maybe this indicates you can’t really lower that number very much.” How so? Deduct 14 unarmed deaths from the black total of 250 and you still have 236 black lives (armed) taken by police. You’re not going to move the bar much. And this year we may very well have more than 10,000 black homicides (CDC) as we experience a potential “Floyd Effect” like the Ferguson Effect of the past resulting in hundreds if not thousands of extra lives taken.
Yet we have “Black Lives Matter” lettering on public streets sanctioned by Washington D.C. city officials that apparently can be seen from space.
I surmise The Washington Post is investing less resources in keeping the Fatal Force database up-to-date. For example, there are inconsistencies from one page to the next — at one point in mid-June showing 1003 total deaths on one page and 1033 on another. They also have a backlog of 144 of “Unknown” races, far more than they’ve had in past years. Most of those “Unknown” I surmise will be categorized “White” in the end to match the past five years’ consistent demographic outcome of people killed by police: 500 white, 250 black, and 250 Other (Latino/Asian/Indigenous).
Also left unsaid throughout media is any discussion of gender bias involved in police shootings when 95% of those killed are male. Men aren’t even 95% of people arrested, just 73% — women are 27% of arrests. Yet 6 in 10 Americans now support Black Lives Matter and their argument that violent outcomes with police are driven by racism because of disproportionate outcomes. This is how the use (or abuse) of the popular term “intersectionality” works in modern politics and social justice. Don’t expect consistency. You’re expected to only highlight males lives if they’re black, and female lives if they’re black.
It’s no surprise that the #SayHerName movement which focused on so-called police brutality against black women was started by the civil rights academic Kimberlé Crenshaw who coined “intersectionality.” But it may be a surprise to most Americans inundated with activist propaganda that black women are only 1% of people killed by police while white women are 3%. This fact is omitted by Crenshaw in her celebrated Ted Talk with nearly 3 million views, and for good reason: Facts get in the way of narrative. Because women are arguably more oppressed than men there’s virtually no one with a public platform pointing out disproportionate outcomes of men as a group compared to women and decrying that as a form of sexism. It’s possible a red-pilled men’s rights activist is making that claim somewhere. We know what the response would be: “Well, men are more violent, and that’s driven by toxic masculinity.” OK, but try saying the same around race and see if you get away with it without being called a “bigot.”
To me, the textbook example of the 21st century’s collective insanity is expecting a racial or ethnic group that commits 800% more murders and robberies per capita than another group should also be 0% more likely to be killed by police.
Our focus in society should be about lowering all violent rates and helping those historically marginalized by racism, even if they can never quite be “proportional.” Because nothing ever truly is.
The FBI also plans to release new data on police use of force this summer. Will that change conversation? Without essential context being added by a cowed media and overly cautious academy, that new and important conversation remains in doubt.
Bottom line: The black-white use-of-force disparities will continue as long as the violent crime disparities continue.