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Monday, July 11, 2016
NY Times Exaggerates Implication of a Study on Police Use of Deadly Force
by Brian T. Lynch, MSW
Let's start with these facts:
- White people make up 63% of the country but only 48% of police action fatalities.
- African-Americans make up 13% of the country but 31% of these fatalities.
Recently, a single researcher found no racial disparity in the "extreme use of force-officer involved shootings" in Houston, Texas, based on that police departments self-reporting of incidents in which law enforcement officials believed a police shooting was justified. That is the actual extent of the finding of Roland G. Fryer, Jr., the researcher who also admits his data set is not "ideal".
Incredibly, police in the United States are not required to file any uniform reports when their actions result in civilian fatalities. The FBI compiles voluntary reports of "justifiable police homicides" but the most agencies don't participate. With no uniform reporting a detailed analysis of a single department has limited value. You can't conclude much from this study and you certainly can't generalize the findings nationally. But that is exactly what the New York Times did.
The more robust and pertinent question is whether there is a pattern of racial disparity in all civilian deaths that result from police actions. When reports of civilian deaths are compiled from local news accounts the answer is yes. Racial bias in which civilians end up dead in police actions is evident nearly everywhere. The only other bias more significant than a persons race is their gender. Civilian men are almost always the victims.