So every 2-5 years, when there is another wave of civil unrest and the media narrative is that police are hunting blacks and killing them in mass numbers, I’ll pull whatever appears to be the most cited scientific study on the matter and put up a summary. Like I did in 2015 and 2017 in the wake of similar anti-police movements. This is also the study that The Washington Post and Wall Street Journal based their recent articles on.
If you want to follow along at home you can download the entire study here.
Here is the summary:
The study took data from four sources: NYC’s Stop and Frisk data. Houston Police’s officer involved shooting data. The National Police-Public Contact Survey. Police reports in which officer discharged their weapons at civilians from the following cities: Austin, Dallas, Houston, the six larges cities in Florida and the six larges from LA County.
In the study they look at three general things. The racial disparity between police contacts, the racial disparity between the use of force by race and the racial disparity when it comes to officer involved shootings. But unlike the news media that often reports only the raw data that help prove their narrative, this actually uses MATH and STATISTICS (Lego Batman reference) in order to attempt to account for the circumstances of the interactions and the behavior of the suspect, or as they refer to them, “controls”.
First police interactions. the study demonstrates that “blacks are almost 4 times more likely to be stopped by the police relative to their population proportion”, but that “racial/ethnic groups are not equivalent in the nature and extend of their law violating behavior”. It goes on to talk about what stops prove to be more “productive”, meaning a crime is established and the suspect is arrested. The study found, “that stops of blacks are more ‘productive’ than whites and thus, if anything, police should be stopping more blacks at the margins” and when the stop leads to an arrest, “there seems to be no bias against blacks in police stopping behavior.” But how about consent stops when cops “feel” something might be up and initiate a contact with no knowledge of a crime. The study found, “black stops are significantly less productive than whites and thus is evidence for potential bias.” It sums up the section by say, “if one assumes that police are non strategic in stopping behavior there is bias. Conversely, if one assumes that police are stopping individuals they are worried will engage in violent crimes, the evidence for bias is exceedingly small.” It should be noted that they author explains that statistical coding of police “interactions” is problematic, since there is no hard and fast rule for recording such interactions across the country. There are numerous additional “interactions” that are quick and not documented.
How about Use of Force: First the study notes that in only .26 percent of all police interactions, regardless of race, does an officer remove his gun from the holster. Thinking back to my career, that sounds about right, with my experience being slightly less because I worked in Scottsdale, AZ. Controlling for behavior, black are 21 percent more likely to have an officer remove is weapon. So for blacks, .31% of all police encounters involve the officer pulling his gun. In general use of force, 15.3% of police contacts with white involve some use of force “blacks are 53% more likely to experience any use of force relative to a white”, thus about 1/3 of all interactions involve some use of force. To note, a use of force is everything from a police touching someone to gain control, all the way to a police shooting. When you account for the behavior of a suspect, in other words the use of force is reactionary, that number falls and “blacks are almost eighteen percent more likely to incur any use of force.” How about multiple uses of force (ie., OC spray and handcuffs), that are often perceived at excessive force? “For blacks, the consistency of the odds ratios are striking. As the use of force increases, the frequency with which that level of force is used decreases substantially.” They study finds that white are much more likely to have multiple types of force used against them. But in all, the author writes,” But overall, the study concludes that overall blacks are 2.7x more likely to experience a use of force against them. They explain “the odds ratio is 2.769” and is both statistically significant and shows signs of possible racial bias.
How about officer involved shooting (OIS)? The stats are the most reliable since national reporting is often mandatory by state law. “In stark contract to non-lethal uses of force, we find that conditional on police interaction, there are no racial difference in officer-involved shootings on either the extensive or intensive margins”. in fact, Frye found that “blacks are 27.4 percent less likely to be shot at by the police relative to non-black, non-Hispanics” and “we find no evidence of racial discrimination in officer-involved shootings . . . the timing of shootings or hot many bullets were discharged in the endeavor.” [Timing in the study refers to how fast officers escalated to deadly force from their initial encounter with the suspect]. It continues, “Yet, the data does more to provide a more compelling case that there was no discrimination in officer-involved shooting than it does to illuminate the reason behind the racial differences in non-lethal uses of force,” building on the finding of the section mentioned above. How about unarmed blacks? “Finally, when we include whether or not a suspect was found with a weapon or year fixed effect, the coefficients still suggest that, if anything, offers are less likely to shoot blacks suspects . . .” When interviewed, “officers report that they are 46.6% less likely to discharge their firearms before being attacked if the suspect is black”.
They sum up their findings: “On non-lethal uses of force, there are racial differences, sometimes quite large- in police use of force, even after accounting for a large set of controls designed to account for important contextual and behavioral factors at the time of the police-civilian interaction. Interestingly, as use of force increase from putting hands on a civilian to striking them with a baton, the overall probability of such an incident decreases dramatically but the racial difference remains roughly constant . . . on the most extreme use of force – officer involved shootings – we are unable to detect any racial differences in either the raw data or when accounting for controls.”
So there is a summary of one of the most cited, statically-based, scientific studies involving police interactions with blacks, the use of force and officer involved shootings.