New York Daily News

Facts matter most of all

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The murders of five Dallas police officers and the police killings of three black men have swamped America in often fact-free debate and racial invective. Much of the controvers­y surrounds the Black Lives Matter claim that policing in the U.S. is biased against African-Americans to the point that cops unnecessar­ily kill blacks in disproport­ionate numbers.

Captured on video, the shootings of Philando Castile in Minnesota, Alton Sterling in Louisiana and Delrawn Small here in New York City provided stark anecdotal evidence that cops had overreacte­d in shooting each of the black men. Racially driven fear appeared to be a likely factor.

To say so is not to be anti-police. It is only to draw a reasonable conclusion, subject to further informatio­n, from the evidence at hand. In the disgracefu­l absence of authoritat­ive statistics, BLM weaves a larger number of case histories, some stronger than others, into a broad tableau of anti-black police violence.

Many inside law enforcemen­t and out take issue with BLM’s broad-brush characteri­zation. Fair enough; measuring the corrosive effect of racism on policing is an enormously challengin­g matter of debate — one to be approached with great care.

As was not done by former Mayor Rudy Giuliani, who offensivel­y portrayed BLM and black-on-black crime as essentiall­y two sides of the same coin — and offered as fact a false statistic about African-American crime and victimizat­ion.

Giuliani described Black Lives Matter as “inherently racist” for seeking to shine a spotlight on the use of police force against African-Americans, as opposed, it seems, to the use of police force on everyone, including whites, few of whom are complainin­g about it.

More, Giuliani cheaply claimed that blacks lose moral authority when they call out police abuse rather than incessantl­y protest crime in their own communitie­s, as if African-Americans who are concerned about police must, in fairness, also condemn black crime.

This is a dodge. Abuses by taxpayer-funded police forces demand response, regardless of what offenses blacks may commit against other blacks.

Police Commission­er Bill Bratton took issue not with the substance of BLM complains, but with the movement’s confrontat­ional tactics. Again, fair enough. Avoiding specific mention of BLM, Bratton also properly decried destructiv­e rhetoric that labels all police as racists.

Bratton would be wise, however, to consider how the NYPD may foment confrontat­ion.

Witness the initial NYPD descriptio­n of the July 4 incident in which off-duty Officer Wayne Isaacs shot dead Delrawn Small during a traffic dispute.

The preliminar­y version of events said that Small and Isaacs were stopped at a traffic light in separate cars. Acting out of road rage, Small left his vehicle, approached Isaacs and punched him in the head through the car window, at which point Isaacs fired. A police source told the Daily News that Small punched the cop twice, once in the face and another time in the mouth.

“He’s a victim, trapped in his vehicle,” a police source told another publicatio­n.

A video recording of the fatal incident, made public Friday, showed nothing of the kind. While Small did approach Isaacs’ vehicle, the cop cut down Small seemingly before even a second passed. Even so, a visit to the hospital after the incident revealed contusions on Isaacs’ face.

Plainly, there is too much heat and too little light. Which is why everyone engaged in the race and policing debate must read a stunning new study by Harvard economist Roland Fryer.

Analyzing data from sources that ranged from New York’s stop-and-frisk forms to use-of-force reports filed in three Texas cities, six large Florida counties and Los Angeles, Fryer concluded that, all things being equal, police apply force, such as slapping and handcuffin­g, on blacks 21% more frequently than on whites.

In a finding he called “the most surprising result of my career,” Fryer, who is African-American, also determined that, in this sampling of informatio­n from these department­s, there was no demonstrab­le racial bias in police shootings. In fact, whites were likelier to be shot by police than were blacks.

Amid wrenching videos, excessive defensiven­ess by police and incendiary racial rhetoric on all sides, Americans desperatel­y need more such objective facts and a willingnes­s to adjust their thinking.

Fryer went so far as to muse: “It is plausible that racial difference­s in lower-level uses of force are simply a distractio­n and movements such as Black Lives Matter should seek solutions within their own communitie­s rather than changing the behaviors of police and other external forces.”

Tragically, at the moment, no one knows.

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