Pundits ignore the real reason for the racial disparity in deaths by police shooting.
CNN is making a desperate pitch to further enflame the ideological war on cops while it still has a sympathetic ear in the White House. The CNN website is promoting a laughably incomplete study of police use of fatal force under the headline “Black men nearly 3 times as likely to die from police use of force, study says.” Utterly ignored in the study and in CNN’s write-up is any mention of violent-crime rates, which vary enormously by race and which predict officer use of force. Absent such a crime benchmark, analysis of police actions using population data alone, as this latest study has done, is worse than useless; wielded as a bludgeon in the current anti-cop crusade, it is dangerously irresponsible.
James Buehler, a public-health professor at Drexel University, found documentation in public records for 2,285 civilian deaths at the hands of the police from 2010 and 2014. Of those deaths, 96 percent were among males. This gender disparity is magnitudes greater than any racial disparities in officer use of force, but no cop-hater ever complains that males are massively overrepresented in police-civilian interactions. The reason for this double standard is that when it comes to males, it is acceptable to acknowledge, however implicitly, the vast gender disparities in criminal offending; it is not acceptable, however, to acknowledge racialdisparities in criminal offending. And the victimology racket, of course, takes no interest in males per se unless they are minorities or gender-fluid.
Buehler’s public-health-data sources presumably contain no information on the circumstances around the deaths — whether the decedents had been attacking the officer, for example, or threatening another civilian. Nor does he suggest that such information would be relevant. He simply reports that even though non-Hispanic white males account for the largest number of deaths at the hands of the police, the number of deaths per million of population was “2.8 times higher among black men and 1.7 times higher among Hispanic men, respectively.”
This finding, CNN tells us, is “disturbing.” CNN is apparently not “disturbed” at the fact that blacks die of homicide at six times the rate of whites and Hispanics combined. Who is killing them? Not the police, and not whites, but other blacks. Black males between the ages of 14 and 17 commit homicide at 10 times the rate of white and Hispanic male teens combined. Black males between the ages of 18 and 24 commit homicide at 9.3 times the rate of white and Hispanic males of the same age. The elevated black death-by-homicide rate is overwhelmingly a function of the astronomical black homicide-commission rate; in fact, a much smaller proportion of black homicide victims (4 percent) die from police shootings than the white and Hispanic homicide victims (12 percent) who die from police shootings.
Perhaps CNN could send some reporters to Chicago to understand violent street crime and its consequences for officer use of force. Last weekend, there was a quadruple fatal shooting; 15 other people, including a 9-year-old boy, were shot over a 24-hour period. Three of those 19 shooting victims were shot inside a “party bus” after an argument escalated and one of the arguers pulled out a gun and shot a 22-year-old man in the head and a 33-year-old man in the chest. A third man was shot in the hand. Just ordinary party behavior. So far this year, 4,257 people have been shot in Chicago, one person every two hours. The police have shot 25 people, about 0.6 percent of the total, almost all armed and dangerous. Does CNN think that the police shootings victims should mirror the city’s population ratios, even though whites commit 1 percent of all shootings and blacks commit 80 percent? (Blacks and whites are each a little less than a third of Chicago’s population.)
The elevated black violent-crime rate is responsible for the fact that blacks overall are three times as likely to die from police shootings as whites are. That disparity is actually less than what black violent-crime rates would predict. In other words, the incidence of violent crime is what is driving the incidence of police interactions that can lead to officer use of force. Over the last decade, black males made up 42 percent of all cop killers whose race is known, though they are only 6 percent of the nation’s population. A police officer is more than 18 times more likely to be killed by a black male than an unarmed black male is to be killed by a police officer. Should police officers avoid dealing with black males? In fact, they put their lives on the line every day to protect the law-abiding residents of high-crime neighborhoods.
There is zero chance that that massive racial disparity in civilian murders of police officers will not repeat itself in the rate at which black gun offenders come into contact with officers, and the rates at which blacks assault officers and resist arrest. In New York City, blacks commit 75 percent of all shootings, though they are only 23 percent of the population. Add Hispanic shootings to black shootings, and you account for between 97 percent and 98 percent of all shootings in New York City. Whites commit at most 2 percent of all shootings, though they are 34 percent of the population. This means that virtually every time a New York City cop is confronting a suspect in another mindless drive-by shooting, with the attendant risk that the officer will himself use lethal force, he is confronting someone black or Hispanic.
CNN and its left-wing academic sources can come up with only two possible explanations for the Buehler findings: racism or poverty. Jack Glaser, a public-policy professor at UC Berkeley, opines that it is almost impossible to “generate an explanation” for Buehler’s results that “does not include an influence of racial bias.” Glaser invokes “implicit bias” shoot/don’t-shoot lab experiments, in which civilian subjects are quicker to shoot armed black targets than armed white targets. Glaser does not mention the fact that police officers do not exhibit such alleged “implicit bias.” Buehler himself tells CNN that poverty may be the explanation for racial disparities in death-by-officer rates. But black violence far exceeds that of other ethnic groups that are similarly poor, such as recent Asian immigrants.
Buehler tells CNN that his study, published in the reliably left-wing American Journal of Public Health, shows that “ongoing attention to the underlying reasons for this disparity [in officer shooting deaths] is warranted.” Don’t expect CNN or the criminology profession to ever address the actual reason for the disparity: black crime rates, which produce unacceptably high black victimization rates. And in the meantime, activists will be certain to use CNN’s write-up to spew more poisonous anti-cop propaganda into the body politic.
— Heather Mac Donald is the Thomas W. Smith fellow at the Manhattan Institute and the author of The War on Cops.