Black sus­pects more at risk by black cops

Study up­ends racist of­fi­cer nar­ra­tive

The Washington Times Daily - - POLITICS - BY DAVID SHERFINSKI

De­spite an in­tense na­tional fo­cus on high-pro­file po­lice shoot­ings in­volv­ing white of­fi­cers and black men, a new study shows that white of­fi­cers are not sta­tis­ti­cally more likely to shoot and kill a black sus­pect.

Among a sam­ple of 2,699 fa­tal po­lice killings between 2013 and 2015, the study found that the odds of a black sus­pect be­ing killed by a black po­lice of­fi­cer were con­sis­tently greater than the odds of a black sus­pect get­ting killed by a white of­fi­cer.

“When ei­ther the vi­o­lent crime rate or the de­mo­graph­ics of a city are ac­counted for, we find that white po­lice of­fi­cers are not sig­nif­i­cantly more likely to kill a black sus­pect,” wrote co-au­thors John R. Lott Jr. and Carlisle E. Moody of the Crime Preven­tion Re­search Cen­ter.

The study found that among the sam­ple of those killed by the po­lice, 45 per­cent were white, 25 per­cent were black, and 16 per­cent were His­panic.

“White of­fi­cers are sig­nif­i­cantly less likely than black of­fi­cers to kill black sus­pects, and they are not sta­tis­ti­cally sig­nif­i­cantly dif­fer­ent from His­panic, other race, and un­known race po­lice of­fi­cers,” the study said, ex­cept­ing one model where His­panic of­fi­cers were marginally more likely to kill black sus­pects.

Since the Au­gust 2014 shoot­ing death of 18-year-old Michael Brown, a black man, at the hands of a white po­lice of­fi­cer in Fer­gu­son, Mis­souri, the Black Lives Mat­ter move­ment has made of­fi­cer-in­volved shoot­ings a na­tional po­lit­i­cal is­sue.

The is­sues of race and law en­force­ment also hit a boil­ing point amid a num­ber of high-pro­file in­ci­dents of po­lice of­fi­cers get­ting tar­geted in the line of duty. For ex­am­ple, the sus­pect in the shoot­ing deaths of five of­fi­cers in Dal­las over the sum­mer re­port­edly said he wanted to kill white peo­ple — and, in par­tic­u­lar, white po­lice of­fi­cers.

But Ron Hosko, pres­i­dent of the Law En­force­ment Le­gal De­fense Fund, said that data mat­ters when it comes to closely ex­am­in­ing the sub­ject.

“I think that more stud­ies like this, as well as the broader data-col­lec­tion ef­fort that some pub­li­ca­tions have un­der­taken, are go­ing to be valu­able,” he said. “My fear is that the main­stream me­dia loves to fan the sup­po­si­tion that these killings are by bi­ased, rogue, racist cops.”

With ten­sions between po­lice and their com­mu­ni­ties at an all-time high in some cases, re­searchers are quickly try­ing to delve into the topic with in­creased reg­u­lar­ity.

There was a 29 per­cent in­crease in po­lice killings from 2013 to 2015, ac­cord­ing to the study. The au­thors said the FBI leaves out cases and de­tails about the de­ceased in their own data, which showed a 6 per­cent de­cline.

A re­cent study au­thored by Roland Fryer of Har­vard Univer­sity and the Na­tional Bureau of Eco­nomic Re­search found that while blacks and His­pan­ics were more likely to ex­pe­ri­ence some sort of force in en­coun­ters with of­fi­cers, such as get­ting struck with a po­lice ba­ton, there were no racial dif­fer­ences when it came to of­fi­cer-in­volved shoot­ings.

Charles Wilson, chair­man of the Na­tional As­so­ci­a­tion of Black Law En­force­ment Of­fi­cers, said there is still sys­temic bias go­ing on, and such stud­ies don’t ex­cuse peo­ple to sim­ply con­clude there aren’t is­sues to be worked out.

“It doesn’t mat­ter what study you’re do­ing. It can be the most com­plete and ex­haus­tive study pos­si­ble [but] if peo­ple don’t pay at­ten­tion to what the data re­veals, then it’s a nice aca­demic study, OK?” he said.

Mr. Wilson said re­gard­less of an of­fi­cer’s race, they of­ten sim­ply as­sume a black male on the street is in­volved with drugs or crime in some way, which can feed into an un­seen sense of ap­pre­hen­sion even if a sit­u­a­tion doesn’t es­ca­late.

“I would have to tell you that it seems to be a sys­temic is­sue,” he said.

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