Police and the “Black Lives Matter” Movement

A recent edition of The Economist featured an article on a series of studies conducted by Roland Fryer, a tenured African American economics professor at Harvard. Fryer was concerned that his own encounters with police as a teenager might color his views on the use of force by police officers in dealing with blacks and other minorities. His first study reviewed and analyzed five million cases from New York City from 2003 to 2013. The raw data indicated that blacks and Hispanics were 50% more likely to encounter non-lethal uses of force than were whites. Even after analyzing the data to account for factors such as attempted assault on an officer or flight to avoid arrest, blacks were still some 17% more likely to incur the use of force than were whites, and even in the case of blacks reported to be perfectly compliant by police, such blacks were 21% more likely to have some force used against them than were whites.

Another study, by Ted Miller of the Pacific Institute for Research and Evaluation, reached a similar conclusion about the disproportionate stopping and harassing of minorities.

But the most shocking figures to Fryer were those uncovered when the two separate research teams he supervised looked into the over 1300 shootings by police in ten police departments from 2000 to 2015, including the cities of Houston and Los Angeles. The raw data found that blacks weren’t any more likely to be shot by an officer than non-blacks. Fryer then dug deeper, looking through 6000 incident reports from Houston, looking at all incidents involving shooting, Tasers, or other situations where lethal force could have been justifiably used, but was not. The result remained the same. Black suspects were actually less likely to have been shot than non-black subjects, and similar results appeared in the other police districts studied.

In effect, racial bias appeared in all kinds of situations – except in the case of shootings or where police used or might have used guns or Tasers. Why was there this difference?

Fryer suggests that the reason is that incidents involving guns and Tasers all require higher-level review and that all police officers are well aware of that, and therefore take more care in dealing with such incidents, whereas less violent situations seldom see that kind of review. If that is the case, then the growing use of body cameras by police may also lead to a more equal treatment of blacks and other minorities.

But the problem of violence between police and those detained or arrested isn’t exactly one-sided. Miller pointed out that on average, every day, three people die and 150 people are treated at a hospital because they are injured by police, for total number of 55,000 annually. At the same time, Miller’s study showed that in 2012, an estimated 67,000 law enforcement personnel were assaulted, with 18,600 medically treated for injury and 48 killed. All of this shows, at least to me, that, yes, there’s a definite problem, and remedying it will be anything but quick or simple.

16 thoughts on “Police and the “Black Lives Matter” Movement”

  1. aleciaf says:

    For me, the difficulty of trying to compare the number of police being injured with the number of minorities is the same as one would have in comparing the number of civilians injured versus the number of members of the military. The job of the police, like that of the military, requires them to put themselves into dangerous situations. This is not true – and should not be – for the rest of us, and it should never be the expectation of a minority driving a car, or walking down the sidewalk, or whatever they, (and other non-minorities) are doing that they are at risk of injury from those sworn to protect them. I cannot understand why people use statistics like these in this manner – there really is no basis for comparison – at least that is how I see it.

    1. The problem is that a considerable number of “civilians” do attack police, and a great number of those attacks are unprovoked, just as a considerable number appear to be provoked… and unlike the military the police are dealing with what is supposed to be a largely friendly population.

      1. invah says:

        >The problem is that a considerable number of “civilians” do attack police

        We don’t have reliable information on this as police officers interpret lack of instant obedience and submission as aggression, as compared to either physical or verbal attack.

        We are also coming to a greater awareness that police signalling of an event, such as “resisting arrest”, is not reliable; either through outright lying/collusion, the (toxic) authoritarian interpretation of what constitutes an ‘attack’, or the Ben Franklin effect, e.g. I acted this way toward this person, therefore they deserved it.

        >a great number of those attacks are unprovoked

        This has not been established. As I discussed in my (deleted) comment on the other post, we simply don’t have consistent, reliable information here.

        > just as a considerable number appear to be provoked

        Considering that your last post on this topic was essentially as screed on how the “black community” isn’t cleaning up its own house, this appears to be hedging language designed to emphasize your ‘reasonability’.

        >unlike the military the police are dealing with what is supposed to be a largely friendly population

        Source, please. Your last post, and subsequent comments, basically positioned this as police v. the “black community” because

        * “When a group has a far higher crime rate than other groups, there will be more of a police presence.”

        * “Police are supposed to be there to stop crime and catch offenders. Black culture, like it or not, has a much higher crime rate.”

        * “the crime rate among young black males is unacceptable. Other impoverished minorities face a great many of the same structural and social problems, and the crime rate of their young males comes nowhere close to that of young black males.”

        where you then concluded that:

        >The problem has to be addressed on both sides.

        I’ve already mentioned that police do not have a duty to “serve and protect” – http://www.nytimes.com/2005/06/28/politics/justices-rule-police-do-not-have-a-constitutional-duty-to-protect.html – nor are police acting that way with aggressive policies such as stop-and-frisk, increasing militarization of the police force, and extreme reactions to anyone who criticizes toxic policing culture, or retributions against those who attempt to hold officers of the law to the law.

        As I said before, police officers operate at the intersection of social ills and violence; often equipped only with an authoritarian, entitlement-driven paradigm that views citizens as the enemy. (This has been a DISASTER for children with behavioral issues or trauma in schools. See: school-to-prison pipeline.) There are strides to remedy this, specifically CIT officers, or crisis intervention team officers.

        The conflict we see regarding police and policing is the result of mis-identifying their role in our society, lack of education and resources. Instead of shifting our perspective and acknowledging that conflict-oriented policing doesn’t work, instead of their shifting perspective, everyone is doubling down, using dubious conclusions to justify a paradigm that isn’t working.

        1. Would you please stop saying my position is one of placing “the black community” in conflict with the police? I’ve never said that or meant what I said that way. When I say both sides have problems, that is a fact. It doesn’t mean more than that. You seem to think that stating a fact posits a conflict. The causes of high crime rates among black youth don’t rest entirely with policing weaknesses, although the Fryer studies suggest police procedures and behaviors are a strong contributing factor, but they can’t explain the high rate of black on black murders.

      2. aleciaf says:

        How does one define ‘provoked’? How was a 12 year old with a toy gun provoking within less than 15 seconds? How was a woman, standing with her hands up, invoking her Constitutional right to free assembly provoking? In too many cases, the police react with a hair trigger in cases where there really is no – or very little – provocation. For me, that is the major issue that the recent videos of police actions have uncovered. A television program on a local station had a story on training police in non-violent response (or something to that effect) and they found the number of cases where there were violent interactions between the police and the populace went down a lot – thus there are, apparently, things that do work in this area, and until all police forces start adopting this approach, I doubt that anything will change. I also believe the there should be much better screening of candidates who apply for this profession – we have too many police who immediately use a gun, or violence rather than mediation, which should always be the first approach, unless faced with an AK-47 that is.

        1. That’s a rhetorical question, and I’ll reply in kind. How was the local policeman here who approached barehanded a car that had skidded off the road in a snowstorm and asked if the motorist needed help doing anything to merit the shotgun blast that nearly killed him and disabled him for life? How were the Dallas police protecting a protest provoking anyone? I admit, freely, and have done so all along, that there are real problems with the way too many police abuse authority, particularly with regard to minorities, but the problem isn’t one-sided.

  2. invah says:

    >Would you please stop saying my position is one of placing “the black community” in conflict with the police?

    You are the one asserting that there are two sides to this dynamic and have repeatedly referred to “each side”. You categorized these sides as “police” and the “black community”.

    See: http://www.lemodesittjr.com/2016/07/15/everyones-shouting/

    >I’ve never said that or meant what I said that way.

    And yet, even in this comment, you continue to do it:

    >When I say both sides have problems…

    As I stated before, your positioning, intended or not, created a false equivalency. There aren’t *two sides* here. YOU are positioning the sides as “police” and “black culture”, and specifically identified that ‘there are significant numbers in black communities who seem unable and unwilling to recognize the problems within their own “culture”‘.

    >You seem to think that stating a fact posits a conflict.

    It is NOT a fact that there are two sides. Policing culture, by your own resource, affects citizenry in toto. Black Lives Matter happens to be a vocal subset of the citizenry identifying a specific iteration of toxic policing culture.

    >The causes of high crime rates among black youth don’t rest entirely with policing weaknesses

    Would you like me to re-post my deleted comment on this issue? Because, again, you are defining “crime” very specifically while asserting it against a group of people very generally.

    1. You’re playing with semantics. Fine. Both the police culture and the black community are subsets of a larger community. At times, whether you like it or not, they come into conflict. The violence and the demonstrations on both sides indicate a conflict. Both groups have problems. Whether or not there’s an “equivalency” is largely irrelevant to the need to resolve the problems and to the fact that both groups have problems. You seem far more interested in denying these problems and fitting them into a specific semantic/political definition than in addressing them.

      1. invah says:

        This isn’t semantics, this is important, and language shapes our understanding and cognition.

        A false equivalence authoritatively acts as if there are “two sides”, and their responsibilities and contributions are equal. Since each ‘side’ is to blame, or each ‘side’ is responsible, blame and responsibility is diffused.

        Specifically, positioning “police” and “black community” in this way imputes equality of power and agency that is not an accurate model of reality.

        It mis-characterizes agency and power dynamics. It also completely erases other subsections of citizenry that are affected by toxic, authoritarian police culture – people with mental impairments, people with physical impairments, people who do not speak English as their first language – anything that is a legitimate barrier to instant obedience and submission to the officer.

        Due to toxic, authoritarian culture, officers interpret lack of instant obedience and submission with *hostile attribution bias*.

        This is not relegated to the “black community”, and your continual (erroneous) statements about the ‘high crime rate of young, black males’ and the ‘lack of willingness to address their own problems’ misdirects the responsibility, and therefore obscures actionable problem-solving.

        Stepping back under a guise of reasonability and stating that there are two sides that have problems and “violence” on both sides, and hey, everyone needs to stop yelling about this and be reasonable, uses reasonability to obscure the reality of this situation.

        Police are the internal enforcement arm of our government; they are not required to protect-and-serve, they are not held to equal standard of the law, they are conflict- and dominance-oriented, and they operate with no legitimate oversight.

        To compare this to a group to which the law is routinely applied and where there is copious oversight of this group, and where this group does not have legitimizing authority and power over other citizens is disingenuous.

        1. RRRea says:

          Under your rubric of comparison, there really isn’t any ever, is there? Since all comparisons have to be between two groups that have been defined in a way that creates (false) equivalency, and you aren’t providing a means by which to set up such controls, there is, effectively no possible comparison in any case. Not that there aren’t issues with defining groups in such a way that comparisons can be made. There are. But, by saying “differences mean there can be no comparison” you are effectively shutting down the possibility of analysis and offering no alternative. It’s a discussion ender. It’s a problem solving (e.g. political) ender. It’s a social science negater. Constructive consideration would be defining the differences by considering the comparisons variables and the controls and constraints on the analysis. This tactic is the equivalent of throwing one’s hands up in the air and saying, “Since I can’t see exactly how anything can be done, there is obviously no way anything can be done.” Which is belied by the fact that applied anthropology and sociology and economics do fact do accomplish actual change routinely.

          1. invah says:

            >But, by saying “differences mean there can be no comparison” you are effectively shutting down the possibility of analysis and offering no alternative.

            How is it possible we are having this conversation? I am truly amazed.

            We are analyzing a *system* and elements within that system, as well as the transmission of violence within that system.

      2. invah says:

        >You seem far more interested in denying these problems and fitting them into a specific semantic/political definition than in addressing them.

        This is not accurate. Your perception of the “problem”, your narrative, is essentially bystander denial and it actually perpetuates violence by obscuring the realities of power, and shifts the locus of agency from one group to another.

        The underlying premise for your position is that there is a (legitimate) reason for police violence, that there is cause and effect.

        What I am pointing out is that there is violence *because* of police entitlement-orientation. Police violence is not limited to “black communities”; all-white communities are not examples of violence-free policing culture.

        Police are crisis-oriented social workers with an extremely low tolerance for risk/danger who hold beliefs that are often in direct opposition to the rights of citizens under the law because of how they perceive their role and what they are entitled to.

        Police officers are underpaid, and therefore people who are attracted to police-work are often attracted to the non-monetary benefits of police-work.

        Police officers do not receive adequate support or resources for what they are expected to do.

        There are many factors which need to be objectively assessed, and cannot be when the problem is egregiously misrepresented.

  3. Andreas says:

    Please provide some reference or basis for this statement “Police officers are underpaid, and therefore people who are attracted to police-work are often attracted to the non-monetary benefits of police-work.”
    I know many people who work for the police because they want to help, because they want to make a difference, you seem to be saying many people are drawn to police work because it gives them power and the ability to inflict violence, or did I misunderstand your statement?

    1. invah says:

      I had three things in mind when I wrote that:

      * People who go into police work for altruistic reasons.

      * People who go into police work for respect and/or power.

      * People who go into police work for family legacy reasons.

      Ones I did not consider, but see there has been research on are:

      * thrill seeking

      * authoritarian personality type (assumption disproven by research)

      and “anecdata” regarding:

      * favorable ratio of schooling to salary potential

      * ex-military

      Resources of note:

      * On Sheep, Wolves, and Sheepdogs – Dave Grossman: http://www.mwkworks.com/onsheepwolvesandsheepdogs.html <—– non-academic; police officer perspective on honor/warrior culture of police work

      * Lester, D. (1983). Why do people become police officers?: A study of reasons and their predictions of success. Journal of Police Science and Administration, 11(2), 170–174. <—– indicates that people choose careers in policing for an opportunity to help other people, a good salary and job security, a job that is exciting, and the prestige that comes with being a police officer

      * Foley, P. (2007) Reasons for Choosing a Police Career: Changes over Two Decades. International Journal of Police Science & Management March 2008 10: 2-8.

    2. invah says:

      You may also find this resource interesting:

      * Career Paths of Police Officers: http://www.sagepub.com/sites/default/files/upm-binaries/50820_ch_5.pdf <—– has a bias toward higher education for police officers

  4. John Prigent says:

    Can we, just for a change, focus on ‘Innocent Loves Matter’ and ignore skin colour? Let’s face it, for most law-abiding citizens in any country Criminal Lives Don’t Matter.

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