Police Brutality – The Myth

Update: Youtuber Sargon Of Akkad does a much better analysis of the statistics than I in this Youtube video. Please check that out if my attempt to explain the lack of bias is unclear.

Let me make clear that I do not in any way condone violent acts by officers in situations that do not call for it. I saw the Alton Sterling videos. I saw a man that appeared to be subdued get shot. In that same vein, I’m still going to exercise healthy skepticism until all of the details are in. That said, this event has brought all of the BLM wannabes out of the woodwork, so we’re going to set the record straight.

First, I’d like to direct your attention to two websites.

killedbypolice.net and The Guardian’s Police Fatality Counter

Isn’t The Guardian a British publication? Why are they involving themselves with the United States’ domestic issues? I guess the world loves to laugh at us gun nuts.

The numbers differ between the two, so we’ll use The Guardian’s numbers since they have a breakdown by race. 566 people have been killed by the cops in the United States. I wish that number were lower, but I don’t know the situations that led to every shooting. I don’t know if I would agree that each shooting was justified. So I won’t comment on it. The Guardian has the tab set to “Per Million (capita)” so it looks like Native Americans get the raw end of the deal followed quickly by blacks. I don’t like this type of comparison. Consider the following situation.

The population of Goldville is 100 people. 30 are Red, 70 are Blue. Crimes are committed entirely by Red people. Whatever the living situations of these Red people are, it just drives them to commit crime. Now Goldville has some cops, some Red, some Blue. Sometimes when they go out to stop the Reds from committing crimes, they shoot them. Sometimes the Red people shot by the Goldville police die. But since only Red people are committing the crimes prompting a police response, only Red people are killed by police. So 100% of police kills are Red people, but Red people account for only 30% of the population. So the natural conclusion is that the cops are racist for only shooting Red people, right? It would be, if you’re a Red Lives Matter activist. But it seems a bit of a poor comparison. Why would you ever expect a Blue person to get shot by the cops when the Blue people aren’t committing crimes that would prompt a police response? Seems batty to me.

So instead, we will do the following comparison. We will compare the percentage of people shot by race to the percentage of people committing crimes. This is a far more appropriate comparison. If we go back to my prior example, if 100% of crimes are committed by a race, and 100% of police fatalities are attributed to that very same race, it makes sense. So I found a table of crime statistics by race for 2013. This comes straight from the FBI so I would be inclined to trust that source. We see from the table that the arrests rates are as follows:

White: 69.8%
Black: 28.3%
Native American: 1.6%
Asian: 1.2%
Pacific Islander: 0.1%

(There’s also another column labeled Hispanic vs Not Hispanic. In which, Hispanic folk are 16.6% of arrests.)

You may have noticed that this adds up to 101% This is likely due to rounding errors in everything being given by the tenths place. Bear in mind that this seems to just be arrests. What we are doing with the following comparisons is assuming that no criminal gets away from the police. Realistically, this is false. Several people kill in a year but do not get arrested until several years later. However, for the purpose of demonstration, this will perhaps suffice.

Let’s compare the percentages of police kills by race.

White: 49.3%
Black: 24.0%
Hispanic: 15.5%
Other/Unknown: 7.1%
Native American: 2.3%
Pacific Islander: 1.8%

Now we run into the issue of ‘hispanic vs. not hispanic’. But let’s see if we can work around it. About 4.8 million arrests are in the hispanic set of columns. The question is whether or not that total (which we’ll call Total2) is a subset of Total1 (the number of arrest reported at the far left) or its own set of arrest, leading to a total of 14 million arrests in 2013. A Google search has led me to believe that they’re to be two separate totals with some kind of intersection of 2 million arrests. Which coincidentally enough is close to the number of arrests for drugs according to the DrugWarFacts.org link I used. But they also cite a different number of arrests compared to the FBI chart. But drug related arrests are accounted for in the FBI table. How inconvenient.

So long story short, my charts are far too different and I have 2 million arrests unavailable for comparison. Since hispanic isn’t included in the FBI table in the full range of races, I assume that ‘hispanic’ is split among what is listed in some way (after all, 2 million arrests are unaccounted for). My guess? The hispanic people are factored primarily into the white column. Why? Because The country is primarily white, so if there are mixed children, the probability of them having a white parent is much higher. Second (and this is anecdotal), latino folk can often pass as ‘white’ to a first glance. But they can also count as black-white mixed as well. In the case of mixed-race, I suspect the attribution to go to black. This is because there’s a culture associated with being black that’s often described as inspiring. Whereas the culture associated with being white is conquering countries and owning slaves.

For the purpose of demonstration, I will focus on black vs white in the following example. In our police kills by race percentage list, we have 22.6% of police killings locked up by hispanic and other.The country is 63.7% white, and 12.2% black (2010 census). If we split 75.9% of that 22.6% between the blacks and the whites, what do we get? Well first is that the black kill percentage goes up to about 25% which matches quite the 28% of crime committed statistic better. And the white kill percentage goes up to about 65% which is also comparable to the 70% of crimes being committed by white people statistic. Which turns out nicely, but again, this is all off of a guess of the ‘hispanic’ and ‘other’ distribution between whites and blacks.

So at the end of the day, I don’t see that much in the way of racism. If anything, Pacific Islanders get the raw end of the deal. Of course when we look at the actions cops take, there’s a ton of racism. Cops take 0.23 seconds longer to shoot black people. Cops are three times less likely to shoot unarmed black people. But that’s all based off of one study, so I don’t want to read into it too much.

Is there racism in the police force? Definitely. Is that a problem? I would not say so. I don’t have any problem with people holding racist ideals (or any ideals for that matter) if they don’t use those ideals to harm other people. I will trust a racist surgeon to operate on me just as much as I would trust a non-racist surgeon to operate on me. Because the racism shouldn’t be relevant to how well you can do your job. Even though the cops may hold racist views, it’s clearly not making them shoot more black people. Don’t hurt our cops. Thanks for reading.

Artemis Hunt

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Police Brutality – The Myth

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