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Bayesian Analysis of Racial Bias in Police Shootings in the United States (plos.org)
256 points by hunglee2 on July 8, 2016 | hide | past | web | favorite | 348 comments



> the probability of being {black, unarmed, and shot by police} is about 3.49 times the probability of being {white, unarmed, and shot by police} on average

What they really need to do is factor in the probability of encounters with police gI've race. That is, we want to know, out of all encounters with police, are they more likely to be fatal if the victim is black?

Without factoring in the rate of police encounters, the conclusion could just be indicating that black people are more likely to encounter the police, which is a problem in itself but is slightly different. That would point more to socioeconomic factors determining the rate of policing in neighborhoods, rather than police racism.


A study from the NYT addresses this, and finds that if arrest rates is a good proxy for police interactions (a reasonable assumption) the data supports the theory that the reason black people are more likely to be killed by police is because they are more likely to interact with police:

http://www.nytimes.com/2015/10/18/upshot/police-killings-of-...:

> This in turn suggests that removing police racial bias will have little effect on the killing rate. Suppose each arrest creates an equal risk of shooting for both African-Americans and whites. In that case, with the current arrest rate, 28.9 percent of all those killed by police officers would still be African-American. This is only slightly smaller than the 31.8 percent of killings we actually see, and it is much greater than the 13.2 percent level of African-Americans in the overall population.


But there could be a racial bias that causes police to be more likely to stop black Americans.


There could be, but why do you assume this is do to racial bias as opposed to the unfortunate fact that black people are more likely to commit violent crime? I assume that arrest rates should be a good proxy for police interaction, this is a logical assumption - if you disagree then you should give a reason of why your assumption is better, not just say that the assumption "could" be wrong. The unfortunate truth is that black people are more likely to commit violent crime in the US. To show racial bias you have to show that police are disproportionately targeting blacks relative to the rate of crime, if you make the false assumption that the rate of crime is equal between black people and white people then your conclusions will be wrong.

http://www.amren.com/news/2015/07/new-doj-statistics-on-race...

Even for something like traffic stops, you need to study whether or not black people are more likely to get pulled over because they are black or because they are more likely to be young and therefore more likely to speed. It isn't enough to just say that black people are disproportionately stopped, you have to show that the rate of speeding is the same to show bias.

http://www.nytimes.com/2002/03/21/nyregion/study-suggests-ra...


why do you assume this is do to racial bias

Because this is America and there is a continuous history of racial bias since the country was founded. Or did you think that all went away with the 13th amendment? Or the 14th? Or maybe the 15th?

The Department of Justice has reports detailing racist enforcement in Ferguson http://www.nytimes.com/2015/03/04/us/justice-department-find... and Newark http://time.com/3020180/newark-police/ and the New York Bar Association had a report on stop-and-frisk being a racist policy in NYC http://www2.nycbar.org/pdf/report/uploads/20072495-StopFrisk... [PDF] and a St. Louis police union is calling out racism in the department http://www.nydailynews.com/news/national/king-black-union-st...


There is already evidence of bias with arrests for other crimes.

Marijuana possession accounts for 46% of all drug arrests. In terms of marijuana use, 14% of blacks and 12% of whites have used marijuana in the last year, yet blacks are 373% more likely to be arrested for possession. In some areas of the U.S., like Cook, IL, the bias gets as high as 720%. [1]

If police are racially biased with arrests for one set of criminal behavior, isn't it likely there is some bias towards other types of behavior too? Like in stopping cars?

[1] https://www.aclu.org/files/assets/aclu-thewaronmarijuana-rel...


Wait, what do you mean black people are more likely to be pulled over, not because they're black, but because they're more likely to be young and hence more likely to speed? Which stat are you using, young black drivers as a proportion of all black drivers? Youn black drivers as a proportion of all drivers? And assuming we can assume all young drivers, regardless of race, are more likely to speed (unless you say otherwise), are the patterns of being pulled over amongst young black drivers similar to the patterns for young white/other race drivers?


"Wait, what do you mean black people are more likely to be pulled over, not because they're black, but because they're more likely to be young and hence more likely to speed?"

Speeding or not speeding - African Americans are significantly more likely to be involved in all crimes - according to arrest and conviction data.

I think there is probably some bias, for sure, but bias can't quite explain it all away. Neither can income or education. Even normalizing for those, there is still more violence within African American communities.

It's obviously a complex problem, god forbid I don't have the answer, but the more politically fearless research we can do the better.

A study of the likelihood of being shot while interacting with police, as opposed to a study of just the likelihood of being shot given race - is really not very helpful in this situation.


> African Americans are significantly more likely to be involved in all crimes - according to arrest and conviction data.

And according to studies in criminal behavior, African Americans are not any more likely to be committing crimes than other races. They're just more likely to be arrested by police and convicted for behavior than other races. If you don't believe me, you can look into marijuana use and possession arrests between the different races.


You're Wrong. And murder rates tell you that. MJ posession and murder are two different things. Per capita, blacks murder more than whites. AND in other countries, blacks also commit more than their "fair share" of crime including murders. Fortunately the United States still keeps the data on this. Canada is so bad now they purposely scrubbed racial information.


You're wrong, and it's because you're cherry picking yet again. Murder is highly race-on-race, and because blacks have a smaller percentage of the population, they only appear to be higher per capita [1].

Of course, since your last comment seems to hint at confirmation bias, I'm sure you'll dismiss any real statistical analysis as "scrubbing".

[1] http://qz.com/556988/here-are-four-charts-on-race-and-murder...


Ask any well-compensated black person who drives a reasonably expensive car how often they've been pulled over. The answer won't surprise me, but it might surprise you.


I'm a reasonably well compensated white person, and you might be surprised at how often I get pulled over. I don't get shot because I keep my hands on the steering wheel and I don't make any sudden movements.


If we're going to go with anecdotal data here, I had an A/B test experience in St. Louis some years ago.

As a white intern, I was pulled over for a speeding ticket on the commute to work and just given a ticket. That same morning a cop pulls over a black intern for speeding on the same route, but before giving him the ticket he pulls the intern out of the car and pats him down on the side of the car.

In hindsight we should have compared the tickets to see if it was the same officer, but we were both wearing boring business casual attire.


Another anecdotal story: I'm white, and been pulled over plenty. Never thought much of it. I lived in a mostly white nice neighborhood.

I was riding with a black friend, and when he was pulled over in the same town, it was a drastically different experience. He was pulled over for no reason, and ultimately got a ticket for "possible possession of drugs". We were told to leave the car, separated, and spent ~1 hour being drilled with questions.

A very eye-opening experience.


I love speeding ticket anecdotes!

I’m white, and live in CO. I was traveling the day before Thanksgiving and traveled through South Fork, CO (which is at the bottom of a mtn. pass). I was just following the car in front of me (at a 200m distance), doing ~40mph. Apparently, the speed limit drops to 35mph for a short stretch in the ‘business district.' I saw him in my rear-view, pulled over, and he pulled-up beside me. He rolled down his window and told me to follow him because he had someone else to ticket (I was clocked at 43mph he said). He gave us both tickets that were $100/ no points if paid quickly, it’s a total racket.

Also, I’ve been pulled over ~15 times in the last 20 years (mostly in Boulder), and I’ve never left my hands on the wheel. I immediately go to my glove box and get my registration/insurance, then grab my license. By the time the cop gets to my window, I just hand over all 3 documents at once.

One time, I was doing 90mph through Denver at 4am for a Crispy Creme run as the designated driver. On I-25, I think the speed limit there was 55-60mph. He gave me a warning.


Those are some super cool stories that you just enthusiastically listed. Thanks.

Do any of these involve anyone other than just you? You know, that offer a comparison and are relevant to the discussion?


It seems that you are questioning the relevance of my contribution. I believe the relevance is that in mostly-white CO these 'rules' that everybody seems to parrot about dealing with cops don't apply. I don't have to leave my hands on the steering wheel. So, my (perhaps erroneous) conclusion has been that when there is little racial diversity, these problems don't seem as prevalent.

Edit: Just to be clear, I do not appreciate the antagonistic tone in your comment.


The "rules" often cited aren't because there will be a problem in most cases if you don't follow them. Instead, its because they will be problem in a very small (much <1%) of cases if you don't follow them, and the potential cost is very high.

(I'm not -- at least, not exclusively, or in general perception -- white, have lived in parts of CA with lots of diversity, and have often failed to follow the "rules" without problem -- and don't think any of that is unexpected even with the "rules" being valid.)


>my (perhaps erroneous) conclusion has been that when there is little racial diversity, these problems don't seem as prevalent.

Even then you would need to have a cop-experience involving other races, in areas of "little racial diversity" to make this conclusion -i.e. Your black friend and you (white) were treated no differently than the other times you were pulled over alone.

Your stories really only involve you, which is weird that you think they're relevant.


what on earth is 'possible possession of drugs'?


Great question! It was thrown out of court in the end, but the cop really didn't have any reason to pull us over, and despite searching the whole car, he couldn't find any drugs. He had to write a ticket for something though, I guess.


It's a lie he's telling. That's what that is.


Yeah, but when you show me a video of a man getting shot by the police and you want me to show some sympathy, he better not be obviously resisting arrest. It's the "clean hands" principle. I feel bad, but I feel bad that nobody's there teaching these guys how to deal with cops in a civil manner that keeps you alive. Instead, we're just stirring the pot.


> nobody's there teaching these guys how to deal with cops in a civil manner that keeps you alive

Blaming the victim? Really?

That's what the protest in Dallas was about. That Philando Castile, an African american, was politely complying with police and was still shot and killed in his car with his fiance and her daughter.


It's interesting that you get to choose which victim I'm blaming. I didn't get to see the part of the video where Philando Castile got shot for doing nothing, so I can't really say that he was doing nothing. As silly as that last sentence sounds, it is you who is calling me the victim blamer in the absence of facts, strangely, while we are talking about bias.


If you re-read the comment, you'll see that I didn't choose anyone, and only referred to current issues. You know, these "facts" that you're eluding to that are absent from the conversation.

What is interesting is that you're choosing to deflect by accusing me of not knowing the "facts", even after you admitted to not knowing them (which qualifies as psychological projection). Perhaps you'd like to share these "facts" that justify your racially-based victim blaming instead?


If you re-read the comment, I wasn't talking about Castile: "he better not be obviously resisting arrest" - Alton Sterling. So, you can call me a victim blamer, erroneously. You can say it's racially based, erroneously. But you're the one with reading comprehension issues, Bud.

You might also want to note, that I'm clearly not blaming the victim. You yourself quoted it, "nobody's there teaching these guys how to deal with cops in a civil manner that keeps you alive". I'm not saying that Castile was to blame. I'm saying society needs to teach people to not do IDIOTIC things in front of police. And since this happens to people of all races, you saying it's racially based is completely baseless.


Sure, sure - just link which comment you were specifically referring to Alton Sterling and I'll re-read that. Otherwise you're psychologically projecting "reading comprehension issues" again, Micah.

You seem to be confused about what blaming the victim is, or you're intentionally trying to redefine it as "no, I was blaming society". It's interesting, because you're still trying to grasp the assertion that it's the behavior of the victim at fault for the the cops killing them.


Exactly, I'm in fucking Canada and I always look at the officer and get their go ahead before opening the glove box, reaching into my pocket.

I'm also the kind of person who gets into debates with cops out why I was stopped, etc. I'm by no means 'compliant' essentially refusing everything I'm not obligated to do.


>The unfortunate truth is that black people are more likely to commit violent crime in the US.

It doesn't make much sense to cite the proportion of black people convicted of a crime by US law enforcement as evidence refuting the claim that the US law enforcement's interaction with people changes according to their race. The proportion of black people convicted of [category] crimes could be high for many reasons, including actually higher incidence of such crimes among blacks, racial prejudices at various points along the legal path of alleged criminals, and any combination of those or other factors.


"It doesn't make much sense to cite the proportion of black people convicted of a crime by US law enforcement as evidence refuting the claim that the US law enforcement's interaction with people changes according to their race. "

It actually does.

The rate of violent crime among African Americans is massively disproportionate. There's no way any kind of racial bias on the part of police could account for it.

A major study done in the late 2000's actually showed that while African Americans did receive more punishment for similar crimes - once 'criminal history' was taken into consideration, the difference evaporated.

Given that there is a massive difference in 'recorded convictions' (which is arguably biased because of 'racist cops') and numerous attempts to study the prevalence of racism in the system - it's pretty safe to assume that there's no way on earth that 'racist cops' are why there is why African Americans are about 700% more likely to commit violent crimes than others.

It's a sad situation, surely, but it's important to keep the facts in check.

About 50% of violent crime in America is committed by African American men, though they are only about 7% of the population (about 13% including women). This is quite radically high and it's not even explained by poverty.

The sheer size of the discrepancy between ethnic groups is unsettling.

I wish I had answers.


Think about the impact of an arrest though. If one group is getting arrested at a higher rate and thus likely to be convicted of some type of offense, they could be more likely to later reoffend given they now have a conviction on their record and are less likely to be able to find a reasonable job. It is a vicious spiral. A while back, there was a police shooting at a traffic stop (the guy sped off) and it turned out he had been arrested 21 times. I have zero evidence, but my feeling is that the same types of infractions folks in one community are pulled over for are glossed over in others (missing front license plate, tail light out), which starts the vicious cycle.


You're right - it could be. But we don't like to make assumptions since we're having a rational scientific discussion. BTW, since the proportion of convictions is so high, it is going to require some pretty good explaining. Not some, off the cuff, hand-wavy, un-falsifiable, muh prejudice. Since our justice system is built on principles like "It is better that ten guilty persons escape than that one innocent suffer", you better have a whole pile of evidence that people are getting convicted erroneously here.


Pragmatically, criminal convictions of all individuals, race notwithstanding, requires a unanimous jury verdict. In those jurisdictions with high concentration of blacks, which is where the preponderance of black crime takes place, juries would be highly likely to include black members whose assent is required for conviction of a black defendant.

On that basis, non-black bias against blacks would not account for population rates of convictions in those localities, at least insofar as post-arrest procedures are concerned.

Conceivably other factors could be implicated in conviction rates, e.g., possible higher rates of plea bargaining among black defendants. Still, if the difference in crime rates (based on convictions) is great enough, non-jury convictions wouldn't explain it.


> Pragmatically, criminal convictions of all individuals, race notwithstanding, requires a unanimous jury verdict.

No, pragmatically the vast majority of criminal convictions are the result of plea bargains, with no jury involved; the calculus that goes into agreeing to a plea bargain certainly includes the expectations regarding a jury verdict, but it also includes the cost of pre-trial confinement and other factors.

> In those jurisdictions with high concentration of blacks, which is where the preponderance of black crime takes place, juries would be highly likely to include black members whose assent is required for conviction of a black defendant.

It may be more likely that this is the case, but its not guaranteed. Particularly given that jury pools are not guaranteed to be representative (typically, they are determined by means like voter registration and drivers licenses, which may not be consistent in participation across races.)

> On that basis, bias against blacks would not account for population rates of convictions in those localities, at least insofar as post-arrest procedures are concerned.

You seem to be saying that jury pool considerations would prevent racial bias in post-arrest conviction rates; while that's wrong for post-charge rates for the reasons stated earlier in this comment, its even more wrong for post-arrest rates because it ignores prosecutorial bias, which introduces potential post-arrest bias in the rates of criminal charges being pursued for like conduct.

> Still, if the difference in crime rates (based on convictions) is great enough, non-jury convictions wouldn't explain it.

Upwards of 90% of US criminal cases (not just convictions, but all cases; the share of convictions -- since all plea bargains are convictions -- is even higher than the share of cases) are resolved by plea bargains [0]. There's virtually no level of disparity in total convictions that could be explained by disparity in the plea bargaining process, which is overwhelmingly how criminal convictions are arrived at.

[0] https://www.bja.gov/Publications/PleaBargainingResearchSumma...


I think that your points about biases in arrest and prosecution being more problematic than I considered are likely correct. I knew plea bargains were common, though the rate you cite is high but not implausible. If there is significant plea bargain rate disparity among racial/ethnic groups it might affect conclusions about impact of racial biases.

While juries are not uniformly populated, in predominantly black communities I'd expect at least some jurors will be black. When there is a jury trial, a requirement for unanimous decision gives any juror "veto" power over a guilty verdict, which in principle mitigates racial bias against a black defendant.

Many years ago when I lived in Washington, DC, blacks were by far the majority. In that environment, racial bias against black residents should logically be minimal in all phases of the criminal justice process. It's not the sort of question I've researched, but someone experienced in that domain should tackle it if the question is still unanswered. In any case, if bias is detected in such a community seems there's a serious problem of a different kind.


I don't think the convictions rates indicate anything contrary to the alleged systemic racism here. The claim that was made in my undergrad criminal justice classes (so taken with appropriate grain of salt with that context) was "white people who commit petty crimes are less likely to end up in court at all, and for larger crimes you are more likely to be convicted if you've been previously convicted for petty crimes, leading to higher rates of conviction for both petty and major crimes" not at all "large scale cases of black people in court for crimes who are actually innocent".


hm, but it isn't built on those principles and not practiced in any consistency throughout the myriad of jurisdictions in the united states

the district attorneys and prosecutors have discretion on what facts [of the case] are relevant, have discretion on what crime to levy which influences the burden of proof, have discretion on what recommended sentence to pursue, and the judges have discretion on pursuing that sentence or not


That's all interesting, except you have to realize that DA are motivated by convictions. Convictions are hard because it requires a unanimous vote from a jury of your peers. So, yes, they exercise their discretion on what facts are relevant and which cases to pursue. But they do not drop cases because its a white guy and keep them because its a black guy as you are insinuating. At most, race is going to be a minor factor when compared with the gravity of the crime and the likelihood of conviction.


> But they do not drop cases because its a white guy and keep them because its a black guy as you are insinuating.

Actual studies of plea bargaining have shown that there are racial biases in what prosecutors offer in deals between black and white defendants [0]. It seems unlikely that the same bias would not also be reflected in decisions to charge in the first place.

[0] https://www.bja.gov/Publications/PleaBargainingResearchSumma...: "Studies that assess the effects of race find that blacks are less likely to receive a reduced charge compared with whites (Farnworth and Teske, 1995; Johnson, 2003; Kellough and Wortley, 2002; Ulmer and Bradley, 2006). Additionally, one study found that blacks are also less likely to receive the benefits of shorter or reduced sentences as a result of the exercise of prosecutorial discretion during plea bargaining (Johnson, 2003)."


The fact that there are racial biases in what prosecutors offer between black and white is misleading at best. It simply follows from the facts that we already have: blacks are convicted more often. If blacks are convicted more often, they have longer rap sheets on average. You are unlikely to get a better plea deal if you have a history of committing crime.

Now, if they had gone and showed that first time offenders, for example, had shown a racial bias between blacks and whites, you'd have me impressed.

In effect, you are going back to the original argument, that it's just systemic racism. Unfortunately, you have not provided any falsifiable evidence that this is true.


I was not insinuating anything.

My statements are purposely written to be read independent of the context in this thread to avoid your exact rebuttal. Maybe you were expecting someone else to reply to you.

Continuing, there is a saying that "prosecutors can get a jury to convict a ham sandwich", although more applicable in civil asset forfeiture proceedings that happen to involve a jury. They can give incorrect instructions, they can give arbitrary instructions, they can create any number of constraints for the jury to consider, and they also screen jury members out for various reasons such as a potential juror's affinity for jury nullification.

This allows for greater success in their conviction rate, especially in the idea of the complacent juror.


> there is a saying that "prosecutors can get a jury to convict a ham sandwich

The quote is that a good prosecutor can get a grand jury to indict a ham sandwich. The meaning is entirely different from your interpretation.


Good point

Having read enough appeals cases I will maintain what I mentioned about what prosecutors have discretion over.


What about using the proportion of black assailants as reported by the victims? Would that be relatively free of bias?


> What about using the proportion of black assailants as reported by the victims? Would that be relatively free of bias?

No. There is considerable history of victims not only misidentifying the perpetrator, but even inventing the offense to smear someone because of racial bias, personal animus, or other reasons. To the extent that there is a systematic racial bias throughout society, you'd expect it to be reflected in such reports.


A "considerable history"? You've got nothing here. And you're gonna have to deal with it. Victim of crime survey data is an actual thing we have. You're trying to make it untrue because of your own bias.


> To show racial bias you have to show that police are disproportionately targeting blacks relative to the rate of crime, if you make the false assumption that the rate of crime is equal between black people and white people then your conclusions will be wrong.

> Even for something like traffic stops, you need to study whether or not black people are more likely to get pulled over because they are black or because they are more likely to be young and therefore more likely to speed. It isn't enough to just say that black people are disproportionately stopped, you have to show that the rate of speeding is the same to show bias.

http://washingtonmonthly.com/magazine/janfeb-2014/driving-wh...

> The key influence on who is stopped in traffic safety stops is how you drive; in investigatory stops it is who you are, and being black is the leading influence. In traffic safety stops, being black has no influence: African Americans are not significantly more likely than whites to be stopped for clear traffic safety law violations. But in investigatory stops, a black man age twenty-five or younger has a 28 percent chance of being stopped for an investigatory reason over the course of a year; a similar young white man has a 12.5 percent chance, and a similar young white woman has only a 7 percent chance. And this is after taking into account other possible influences on being stopped, like how you drive. Police focus investigatory stops on younger people, and so as people grow older they are less likely to be stopped in this way. But a black man must reach fifty—well into the graying years—before his risk of an investigatory stop drops below that of a white man under age twenty-five. Overall, black drivers are nearly three times more likely than whites to be subjected to investigatory stops.

> Being black is also the leading influence on how far police officers pursue their inquisition in investigatory stops. In these stops, full-blown vehicle searches are relatively common. After taking into account other possible influences, black drivers in our survey were five times more likely than whites to be subjected to searches in investigatory stops. Searches are remarkably rare in traffic safety stops, and the driver’s race has no influence on whether the driver is searched in these stops.

Fyi, investigatory stops means the cop pulls you over for reasons that don't involve a traffic violation.


Could you edit your post to make it clearer where you are quoting a user and where you are quoting something else?


Sorry didn't notice this in time, edit window closed.


"But there could be a racial bias that causes police to be more likely to stop black Americans."

Even if this is true (and it's probably true to some extent), by focusing on 'interactions only' we can isolate the degree to which cops may be racially biased in at least those incidents wherein there is interaction.

This would yield much more valuable results than the paper in the link.

The linked paper is almost useless because there is a very large divide in who cops interact with. So many factors there including police density, income, poverty, education etc..


Could be is an understatement in certain places in the US


Perhaps it has something to do with the crime rate in the black community being through the roof.


Perhaps it has something to do with them being stopped more and thus arrested more.


Blacks commit higher rates of murder, rape, and other violent crime. These are crimes that you're caught for afterword and don't have to do with a single interaction with police. FBI crime statistics show many types of crime broken down by race. Despite being a minority, blacks commit the majority of murders, and black-on-white crime is higher than white-on-black, for example.

One resource is: https://www.fbi.gov/about-us/cjis/ucr/crime-in-the-u.s/2011/...

This table shows that blacks are responsible for more than 50% of all murders in 2015, and a greater absolute number than white-committed murders. Blacks make up around 10-12% of the population, so the rate at which they commit this crime is far higher than whites.

It's likely that there are also biases in how police interact with blacks and whites. However it's hard to say with certainty what magnitude of effect there is. I find it hard to believe that the entirety of the difference in these statistics is due to bias.


I think it's reasonable to remember that Blacks (and especially young Black men) commit proportionally more violent crimes; it is also useful to remember that black people in general are much more likely to be the victims of crime. The latter point is a much more reasonable way to view the experience of being black in America -- constantly in danger of crime, and then being treated like a criminal by the people who are supposed to protect you from crime.

The police -- and I do believe that the vast majority are well intentioned -- too often think that aggressive tactics are the answer, because the way to reduce crime must be to catch more criminals, right? So, when a police officer is assigned to a rough area with lots of crime, he tends to treat the citizens like criminals instead of victims. Maybe not everyone is treated this way -- but young, poor, black men certainly are in many cases, especially when they're involved in petty criminal activity like selling bootleg CDs that leads to tense interactions with police.

It's a really tough problem, and I don't have a good idea about what could be done to solve it -- but local governments are failing these communities, and we should demand something better from our leadership.


The leadership that's failing them most is the leadership of the black community. They're laser focused on selling a victimhood narrative that reduces all problems to racism and oppression by the white man. Meanwhile, black children are raised in single-parent homes in record numbers, are joining gangs due to poor parental supervision, and very often grow up in an environment that frowns upon success as some kind of racial betrayal ("acting white"). Blacks who speak out about the social and cultural problems within the black community are labeled Uncle Toms and ignored (see Thomas Sowell and Clarence Thomas, for example).

Second to that is the leadership and elite of the country, that accepts this victimhood narrative out of misinformation, political correctness, and political expedience. There's no better way to get 90% of a population to vote for you than to convince them that the other side is the mortal enemy that hates them for the color of their skin and wants to keep them down.


It's much easier to sell such a narrative when the entire history of your country backs it up. When a close advisor of a previous President admits they started the war on drugs to target hippies and negroes, for example.

Oh, that same president was strongly anti-abortion except in extreme circumstances. His example of such a case when abortion was warranted? Mixed-race babies.

He also reset the fundamental strategy one of your political parties for the last few decades to appealing to racists with "the southern strategy". Which Trump, with his flirting with white supremacist groups continues to this day.


Believe what you want. Even if everything you say is true, which I seriously doubt, it doesn't change the fact that victimhood politics is the road to continued ruin.


Unfortunately it is true:

http://edition.cnn.com/2016/03/23/politics/john-ehrlichman-r...

http://www.npr.org/templates/story/story.php?storyId=1058326...

https://en.m.wikipedia.org/wiki/Southern_strategy

Why shouldn't a victim acknowledge the reality of being targeted? What other groups do you expect to follow this bizarre recommendation?

Thus is a nice historical overview that ties a lot of this stuff together:

http://www.theatlantic.com/politics/archive/2016/07/is-ameri...


I don't buy that America is a substantially racist country today. I especially don't buy that racism is even in the top-ten list of problems facing black people.

History sucks. It landed my grandparents in America, having fled Cuba, with the clothes on their backs. They had built lives for themselves and had it all pulled from under them. Somehow, the Cuban-American community has done phenomenally well for itself. Definitely not by blaming the past for their lot and demanding nebulous reparations.


"In order to provide aid to recently arrived Cuban immigrants, the United States Congress passed the Cuban Adjustment Act in 1966. The Cuban Refugee Program provided more than $1.3 billion of direct financial assistance. They also were eligible for public assistance, Medicare, free English courses, scholarships, and low-interest college loans." says wikipedia. Seems like they were lucky to be on the right side of a political battle to me.


You realize that's all dwarfed by the welfare state that we now have for everyone, right?

It's also not the root of the Cuban-American community's success. The earliest waves of migrants were almost all from the middle and upper class. They did correspondingly well in their new home. Wealth is not really a number in your bank account, it's the knowledge and virtues that guide of the process of producing value.

If you took everyone in America's money away and started over, the resulting classes would look a lot like today's. Culture is almost everything.


Blacks are convicted of committing higher rates of murder, rape, and other violent crime. Considering that nearly 40% of homicides go unsolved, it's entirely possible that the actual rate is much different.


Really?

Given that the vast majority of violence is white-on-white or black-on-black, are you seriously suggesting that the police are spending _more_ of their time and resources investigating murders of blacks than of whites?

The vast majority of the unsolved murders are inner-city, where often the police don't care who kills whom. The vast majority of the murders in the suburbs, in otherwise peaceful neighborhoods, get tons of police attention.

So no, I think it is is exceedingly unlikely that the actual homicide rate skews more white than the statistics show.


Perhaps I didn't get across what I was trying to say. My point was that legally, it's going to be easier for the courts to convict a poor person with a public defender on murder/non-neglient manslaughter charges than a rich person with an expensive lawyer.

What would be interesting to see is the rate at which charged persons of certain socioeconomic tiers successfully defended their case, or were able to plead down to a lesser charge if they were originally charged with homicide.


There are almost twice as many white people living in poverty in the USA than black people. Why would we assume that white people who commit murder will be rich and can afford an expensive lawyer, while the black people who commit murder will be poor?

It's true that more black people live in poverty than white people per capita, but it's also true that crime is not evenly distributed across all people per capita, and has a connection with poverty level. My point is that there are more white people living in poverty, and they commit crimes at lower rates per capita and also total than black people.

I don't have data for all of these arguments handy, but here's one resource on poverty levels by race and region: http://kff.org/other/state-indicator/poverty-rate-by-raceeth...

Also note that controlling for poverty does not eliminate the effect where blacks commit more crime than whites:

http://www.udel.edu/soc/faculty/parker/SOCI836_S08_files/McN...

> > As a means to assess these possibilities, I estimate separate regression equations for the black and white block groups in Atlanta. [...] Consistent with previous research, percent black retains a strong, significant effect on violent crime net of the effects of other controls. [...] Although this finding appears to provide partial support for the racial invariance assumption, the fact remains that for a large proportion of the black neighborhoods, the effect of disadvantage on violence is weaker than is the effect evident among all of the white neighborhoods in the analysis

We could speculate that lots of things might be true, but if we're going to approach this topic scientifically, we should analyze data that we have, and not simply posit hypothetical after hypothetical. E.g. speculation like: "maybe all the unsolved murders are committed by whites"or "maybe white defendants are getting off when blacks aren't" -- a fine train of thought to explore and validate with data, but it's just speculation unless/until there are data and evidence to back it up.


Whoa whoa, it's not that police don't care who kills somebody. That's way off. Problem is in many cities, snitches don't just get stitches, they get killed along with whoever might be living with them. ASK homicide detectives or better yet watch one of the hundreds of episodes of 'The First 48' and you'll see that investigators get very little help in these tight knit urban communities.


And to carry forward your good point -- black people are committing more murders, but also being killed by murderers more often, as well as growing up in neighborhoods where murders happen and losing family members -- etc. Communities with more criminals have more victims as well. To pretend like it's not the case is to turn your back on the large number of victims, who deserve better regardless of the race of the perpetrator.


you've got it wrong. Investigators do so much work to help these families. No cop wants a murderer to walk, that's why they get into the job in the first place. If you haven't talked to police before, especially investigation units, you need to recognize your assumptions are wrong.


You're deep in conspiracy-theory territory. No one seriously disputes that the actual black violent crime rate is much much higher than the white violent crime rate. This is accepted fact. Unfortunately, this kind of conspiratorial fact-free thinking has been embraced by movements like BLM and their supporters.

To expect equal outcomes is absurd. The black and white communities in the US have very different histories and cultures. Their economic conditions are also wildly different. The different crime rates and outcomes are completely consistent with this.

And yes, for some crimes, blacks probably get caught at a higher rate. Black neighborhoods tend to be high-crime areas, so they tend to have greater police presence. This is totally rational policing. Liberty City in Miami needs a strong police presence to protect the inhabitants. The super ritzy and quiet parts of Coral Gables don't. Guess where you're more likely to get picked up for a low level stuff like speeding, smoking weed, or loitering? And who's more likely to get caught? The white guy selling drugs to his buddies at school or from home, or the black guy selling drugs on the corner? Different communities, different dynamics, different outcomes.


Thank god we have a system that it's really hard to convict innocent people. You know, a unanimous vote of a jury of your peers is required to convict and all.


I genuinely thought this comment was sarcasm, until I read your other comments.


This is only true in the case of murder. Other violent crime is much closer.


They could normalize for reported crime rates and compare --but take into account tendency to overreport as well as underreport crime by some groups (ie undocumented/illegal status).


Its been found before that police are more likely to stop African Americans, so this may still be racial bias.


I have no doubt this is true, but I suggest the story is much more complicated than that.


We could further look at bias differences by studying areas of police encounters in predominantly poor areas with similar rates of crime but with different racial profiles.


> We could further look at bias differences by studying areas of police encounters in predominantly poor areas with similar rates of crime but with different racial profiles.

Or we could conduct simulations and put police officers through them, in which the only differences were race.


I liked Trevor Noah's take on this: "This isn't a black problem, this is a US police problem. Why is the US police shooting people who are already subdued? Why are people getting shot in the back?"

To support his claim, he shows both a video of police killing black people and a video of police killing white people. Each time the perp was already on the ground and immobilized. Then shot.

At this point I'm terrified of ever interacting with the US police in any way for any reason.Starting to think it's time to vote with my feet and move to a different country again.


If you are terrified of ever interacting with the police, I would recommend that you go and meet some of them. The super majority of them are just normal people trying to do good for a community.

Your fear, I think, has far more to do with an availability bias of these relatively few stories getting plastered everywhere. You're much more likely to be killed in a gang or drug related shooting than you are by a cop.


While most of my interactions with police have been fine, I have been subject to, and been witness to, several that were less-than-professional.

- I've been hassled and cursed at by an officer.

- I've watched a friend who was doing nothing wrong be roughed up by an officer.

- I've had police give false evidence against me on a traffic citation.

- As a child being physically bullied, a friend and I went to a cop for help. When we told the cop that these other kids were trying to beat us up, the reply was "you'd better watch out, they'll probably hit you again".

So while it's true that not all cops are bad, my personal experience shows me that the bad seeds aren't all that rare.


Terrified is probably a strong word and I'm sure media bias has a strong influence on my perception.

But I definitely don't feel safe about interacting with the police. From all the advice on how a cop is never your friend and you shouldn't talk to them, to all the deaths all over the internet ... how else am I supposed to feel?

I'm sure all of them are upstanding citizens and perfectly awesome when off duty. I'm sure most of them are amazing when on duty. But the overall climate and police procedures or whatever it is, sure make them seem thuggy. I believe a lot of it is because they have to be thuggy in order to stay safe.

But it doesn't make me feel safe.


I appreciate your honest perspective. The statistics indicate that you're much less likely to be assaulted by the police than ordinary citizens, whatever your race.

> I believe a lot of it is because they have to be thuggy in order to stay safe.

Perhaps then we should be focusing our attention on improving the environments they work in? For example, cracking down on violent crimes, perhaps especially those that target police?


I don't know why you seem to be getting downvoted - this seems to me to be the most important question. Perhaps one of the downvoters can provide some explanation. In particular, why is it wrong (and, I assume, perceived as racist) to ask whether the problem can be described as "those in power are abusing that power"?


> (and, I assume, perceived as racist)

Funnily Trevor Noah is both black and recently immigrated from South Africa. Doesn't get more african-american than that.


This statement doesn't make any sense to me?

A fair bit of his early stand up concerns the complexities of being a mixed race child in South Africa and then the extra layers of complexity that occur when transplanted into the US.

From watching that I think he'd disagree with your conclusion.


I don't understand why, when they do shoot, it's often five or more times. Why not just once or twice, then get out of the way?


Actually, if we assume that force really was appropriate, then what they're doing is correct.

Real life firearms are NOTHING like those on TV. First, your chances of actually hitting something from any non-trivial distance isn't that great. Even 10 yards is far from a sure hit, and just hitting doesn't necessarily count for much.

Second, the fact that the bad guy took a hit doesn't mean he's going down. In fact, he almost certainly will not. Anything less than a headshot destroying the brain (sorry to be graphic) may well have them still shooting back at you, even if the wound will ultimately prove fatal. Even severing the femoral artery or aorta isn't going to have the bad guy dropping in his tracks.

And in such a situation, your goal is to stop the threat. As you can see, ensuring that the treat is stopped requires a lot more than a double-tap.


In the St. Paul case he fired 5 rounds from just outside the window of the car. Literally just a couple feet away from the guy, not 10 yards. In the Baton Rouge case the guy was on the ground with the cops on top of him.

In the UK they manage to subdue dangerous suspects without unloading the entire clip.


Because they are carrying 9mm when they should be carrying .45


Ultimately, it can be traced back to the war on drugs, as can many of our societal ills.


This is true, but a very, very small sub-set of people being shot. IIRC, greater than 80% of people shot by police have a weapon and are actively resisting.


Since the U.S. does not collect any statistics on police shootings, it's hard to see how you could know that.


Evidently from, "... news reports, public records, Internet databases, and original reporting"[1]

Going by their data, of the 258 Black people shot by police in 2015, 188 were armed with a deadly weapon, 20 with a vehicle, 5 wth a toy weapon, and 45 either unarmed or unknown.

If you accept toy weapons and vehicles as being armed, that is 82%, which is what I remember hearing.

[1] https://www.washingtonpost.com/graphics/national/police-shoo...


What you are pointing out is that there seem to be a huge problem with the quality of the police force in at least parts of the USA. I might be naive, but I refuse to believe that the US is such a violent country that the number of people killed by the police is justified. What the US deserve is a police force that is better trained, less militaristic and skilled in deescalating confrontation. It might be a bit more expensive, but it should be worth it.


I'm not sure I agree with you - having a higher encounters rate need not be limited to simple neighborhood selection for policing (although there is likely bias there too) - rather simply choosing who to interact with may exhibit bias (e.g. is the police officer more likely to have an encounter with a black person even in a predominantly white neighborhood)?


I'd have to agree with the GP.

To your point, a bias in the encounter rate (assuming it exists) is a significant problem, and one that would need to be addressed. But it's also a distinct problem, and there's no reason to believe that the violence problem and the disproportionate-encounter problem would be amenable to the same solution.


Just to clarify... GP = GrandParent (comment) = akud's comment ?


Yes, sorry if I was cryptic.


No problem. I just haven't picked up on the local lingo yet. Thanks for verifying.


What are the numbers for being a policeman being shot by a black person? The PC crowd won't like those numbers but its higher than the reverse. We have a police violence problem but it is no where on the scale of the crime rate of one community whose statistics blow everything out of proportion.

We need a culture change. We need politicians not afraid of using the truth. Instead it benefits politicians to exploit the issue for political gain. The real crime is that political manipulation leads to more minorities deaths because they will not act on the real damage and instead go for the sensationalist side.


Are those statistics available?

Does the probability per-encounter increase?

I don't know the answer to those questions, but if the original bias comes from the elevated amount of interactions (rather than the percentage that ended in shootings) in the original case I would be surprised if it there was a statistically significant deviation here either.

Disclosure: I have no idea what I'm talking about.


I've seen some stats for racial breakdown of perpetrators firing on police - for example, for NYC 2011, it was 72% black, 67% hispanic - No white.


It's approximate 4:1. A police officer (of any race) is 4x more likely to be killed by a black person than a white person.


> There is no relationship between county-level racial bias in police shootings and crime rates (even race-specific crime rates), meaning that the racial bias observed in police shootings in this data set is not explainable as a response to local-level crime rates.


Can you ELI5 this sentence. I don't understand it despite staring at it for a while.


Well Timmy, an unarmed black person is more likely to be shot by the police then that of another skin color. Some people are saying this is because the crime rate for blacks is much higher, and it may indeed be higher. But what we see is that regardless of the crime rate, some counties are just more likely to shoot blacks then others. So one part of America might have a lower crime rate then another but is still more likely to have the police shoot an unarmed black person.


And why isn't prevalence of guns factored in as well?


Is your hypothesis that the prevalence of guns increases the likelihood that police will treat a situation as a possible armed conflict? They are comparing the ratios of armed suspects to unarmed suspects being shot by police, so perhaps they thought that was sufficient in factoring in the prevalence of guns.


> They are comparing the ratios of armed suspects to unarmed suspects being shot by police, so perhaps they thought that was sufficient in factoring in the prevalence of guns.

I'm not seeing why ratio is important compared to magnitude. There is certainly a relationship between number of armed suspect shootings and number of unarmed suspect shootings but it is not clear what that relationship is. It can't be a constant, that just doesn't fit human threat response. Rather, I would expect that the higher the armed suspect shootings (numerator) in an area, the smaller the ratio, meaning that nonproportionately more unarmed suspects are shot as a direct result of a large number of armed suspect shootings. But if that's the case, that will increase the likelihood of unarmed suspect shootings without there being any necessary racial bias. A smaller ratio just reflects a larger denominator increase due to numerator.

If we have equal numerators for each race, but the denominator differs, than that seems like a clear indication of racial bias. But if the numerators are different at all, that potentially reflects an entirely different police interaction dynamic. The expectation that one race is more likely to be armed than another race is, strictly speaking, a racial bias but could also be a rational bias based on encounters rather than prejudice.

What are the numerators? This whole issue may be of course be misguided but I'm simply unable to find the actual numbers from the paper.


The fact that the officer believes the person he's dealing with is (more) likely to have a firearm can have an impact on the outcome of the interaction. The fact that the person doesn't have one doesn't mean the officer doesn't have to worry that they do, it just hasn't come into play yet.


I think we could answer that question with the data they have:

> County-level race-specific crime rates (1. aggravated assault, and 2. weapons possession)?

So they are categorizing weapons possession into race-specific crime rates.

> There is no relationship between county-level racial bias in police shootings and crime rates (even race-specific crime rates)

Which is to say crimes related to weapons possession does not correlate with racial bias.


If you can't back this up with evidence and sources then you just sound like a racist.


Probably because in the cases being discussed, it is the police who have the guns, not the citizens. I don't think even the most hardcore gun control zealots are advocating for the American police to give up their guns (at least not their sidearms, I suppose the military weapons are a subject of a different debate).


Actually in both cases the citizens had guns. http://www.theatlantic.com/politics/archive/2016/07/alton-st...

And I advocate for police not carying guns. They don't need them. No one else in society needs them during normal interactions. They should be reserved for the swat team and only used for that level of situation. A regular police officer's only job should be to give tickets and directions - and those interactions don't seem very dangerous.


>* I don't think even the most hardcore gun control zealots are advocating for the American police to give up their guns*

Why not? This works great in other countries...


It does work great in the UK and Norway. Very, very few countries have unarmed police.

I'm Norwegian and I live in the UK, and while I think the US would have been in a much better place if the US had followed a similar policy a long time ago ("US conditions" is a standing term in Norwegian politics used to scare voters - almost nobody wants "US conditions" in almost any context), I still think the US would find it extremely hard to introduce such a policy now.

It works in Norway and the UK for a number of reasons:

* Low sentences for crimes without weapons combined with huge additional sentences if using a weapon. E.g. you could easily get 4-5 years for participation in a relatively serious robbery, but risk tacking on up to 10 extra for an armed robbery.

* Criminals rarely risk meeting armed resistance. Lots of people have weapons, but the weapons law requires weapons to be stored locked down in an inoperable state (so detach a part and lock it down in a different location).

* Criminals know very well that if they are reported to be likely to be armed, they will face a large manhunt with armed police, while if they don't carry a weapon anyone coming after them will be hunting them without firarms.

The problem with introducing this elsewhere is that you have an existing situation where criminals have a strong incentive to arms themselves, which in turn maintains a strong incentive for other people and police to be armed. Changing that around without the risk of a lot of harm in the process would be incredibly challenging.


'tptacek does just that here: https://news.ycombinator.com/item?id=12057079


Are you suggesting that there is a correlation between legal firearm ownership rates and a more aggressive police reaponse? I would think that the probability of an individual having an illegal firearm would be more of a driver of an aggressive response but that's hard to measure.


This is one of those "awkward statistical analysis" moments where the outcome of the analysis should be...well...as an analyst, i think, ridiculously obvious before its even carried out... if you have any familiarity with the topic/history/culture. But I also can respect its a topic that needs careful interpretation and isn't likely to go down well in everyday english.

So what we'd expect to see is:

1) A bias is present: any study based on american society at large that DOESN'T find a bias in its behaviours/outcomes involving the black community, in terms of either wealth, incarceration, shootings, education, employment, etc etc etc must be so off you'd be more likely to disregard the evidence collected rather than believe the study/conclusion.

2) This is because, not surprisingly, all those things are so highly correlated and historically caused.

3) While I respect that it MIGHT be an interesting question to study whether, controlling for all confounding cultural and obviously explanatory variables, police are more likely to shoot black people in america, and you might even find a very very very weak effect there explained by the low pay, the correlation between low pay/racism/education, and the tendency of police as a career to attract authoritarian personalities, this is in many ways a politically pointless conclusion, because I'd bet good money that you both need to have quite sophisticated statistical understanding to really "get" what such a study is saying, it would be a horrendously complicated statistical study to almost swamp any practical implications and raise very valid questions about its methodological valididty, and I think any effect you may find will likely be swamped statistically by all other factors of black bias in american society.

4) It does no practical good to be able to go up to black groups and say "No no no, its not that police are particularly biased against you because you're black and police are racists, its just that because the higher-order causes of racism and racial history in american society: i.e. you're poor, uneducated, encounter the police more often, commit more crimes, american historical wealth disparities and racial wealth disparities, americans are more likely to carry and be afraid of guns, etc, means that you're just more likely to encounter them and therefore they're more likely to shoot you...so just go home and chill."

That socioeconomic/historical/political factors are the main determinant of things here strikes me as both:

a) Statistically and historically obvious

b) Totally irrelevant to the actual question of whether institutional bias is outrageous/real/needs to be fixed/the reality of black experiences on the other side of that equation.


Another point is how do you factor out the possibility that blacks are significantly more likely to resist arrest and fight with the police officer in a manner that would justify a shooting such as grabbing at the officers' weapons, beating the cop with his own equipment, etc?

From the last time I checked into it, blacks where on the order of 10 times more likely to resist arrest than whites, and 4 times more likely to kill a cop.


And where did you get your "facts" from? Source?


These are not hidden facts. You can find them quite easily with simple queries...

http://www.sfgate.com/bayarea/article/African-Americans-cite...

"African Americans in San Francisco are cited for resisting arrest at a rate eight times greater than whites even when serious crimes are not involved, according to statistics drawn from court records."

Here is also a good overall source (but the author has a label on him).

http://www.colorofcrime.com/2016/03/the-color-of-crime-2016-...


You can be arrested for resisting arrest, without being charged with any other crime. If the entire crux of this debate is a systemic racial bias on the part of law enforcement, it stands to reason that you shouldn't use statistics from law enforcement to argue against law enforcement's bias, doesn't it?


The report explains why the law enforcement statistics are trustworthy, and specifically why arrest rates (especially for violent crimes) are likely to be particularly accurate. The report itself is very thorough.


The statistics quoted above do not relate to this particular case. Overgeneralizing much?


I wasn't overgeneralizing anything. I was responding to "you shouldn't use statistics from law enforcement..."


Except if you dig deeper into those stats, you'll see that something like 5% of the same cops account for over 40% of "resisting arrest" charges, and 15% account for ~75% of those cases [1]. So most of it seems to come down to the police and how they approach making arrests.

[1] http://project.wnyc.org/resisting/


Does that take into account the type of police officer making the arrest (patrol, traffic, detective, narcotics, transit, desk/administrative, etc) and also the deployment and arrest location?

If the same cops patrol the same demographic and the same high crime areas it would reason that the same cops (and same type of specific category) will be making the majority of the arrests. Which will skew the mentioned statistic to them.


Now you're reaching. Read the accompanying story for more information. This is a widely recognizing problem.


Alton Sterling was obviously resisting arrest - that's a fact.


Where did you get your fictitious fact from? Where is your evidence? Just making things up as usual right?


It's on the video, Bro. Watch the video. Even the most liberal talking heads admit that he was resisting arrest, as you can see if you watch the video. BTW, if you watch the video, you will note that he is resisting arrest. It's a key factor that watching the video will show that he is resisting arrest. In conclusion, Alton Sterling was resisting arrest. So, don't forget, Alton Sterling was resisting arrest.


Some of the comments here are pointing out the questions about data quality etc. that affect a study like this. And those are real concerns, and obviously analytical studies could only be improved if they had better data to work with.

But let's not make the mistake of looking at this study only in isolation. It is a recent addition to a large collection of observations and evidence that support a theory that personal racial bias affects American policing.

The evidence includes other studies, criminal investigations, criminal cases, federal investigations and reform agreements with police departments like Cleveland and Seattle, videos and photos of violent police encounters, and of course decades of stories and statements from minority communities about how the police treats them.

The last one is important because it gets at trust, which is the heart of the issue. Minority communities, many of them, do not trust the police to protect them in the same way they protect whiter/richer communities, and they have stories that explain why not.

If you are depending solely on data-driven studies to inform your opinion on racial bias in policing, then you're implicitly saying that you distrust or reject what minority people and communities say. Why is that? It's worth thinking about IMO.

Which brings us back to the data. Why is it so lacking? You can't answer that question without coming back around to bias, because until recently, it was the police forces themselves who supplied the data, or not, or only part of the data. So discounting the bias reported in this study because of data problems is getting toward begging the question, logically speaking.

The essential question, when it comes to whether you agree that racial bias affects policing, is: what level of evidence will convince you?


The value of studies like this, for future, is the ability to determine if mitigation, correctional measures are working.

"what level of evidence will convince you?"

We need to learn to ask this more frequently, upfront. Persuasion doesn't work. Finding your tribe and organizing does.


This analysis is based on crowd-sourced data on shootings. I'm not saying that makes it invalid, but I'd need to know more about the dataset before trusting the results. It seems hard to have it be complete. The official FBI data has the same problem. We need to require local departments to report all shootings in a standardized way.

Edit: the author acknowledges the incompleteness of the data in the conclusions section. Oddly, he doesn't think that's likely to affect the mean "since the sample used herein is a large and random subset of the to-be-completed data set". That doesn't really make sense to me. How would random sampling of incomplete data improve the results?

http://regressing.deadspin.com/deadspin-police-shooting-data...


"How would random sampling of incomplete data improve the results?"

It doesn't. The author means there is some actual population of shootings, and this dataset is a random sample of them. Since there are no systematic biases in the collection of the data, ie, it's not the case that the shooting of a black is more likely to be recorded than that of a white, the random sampling of the full set is sufficient. That's an assumption, of course, but given that assumption the rest works.

It doesn't improve the results, it just doesn't harm them.


What seems to be missing to me is any support for the "random sampling" claim. My starting assumption is that reports on police shootings would be full of systematic biases running in all sorts of directions.

Without some actual argument that this data isn't horribly biased by exactly the issues it's trying to investigate, I'm not sure what worth to give it.


Specifically, random sampling assumes that data points are independent and identically distributed: https://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Independent_and_identically_di...

As others have pointed out, that is not a great assumption in this case.


It isnt, and indeed it is rarely satisfied. The real question is how sensitive the resulting model may be to violations of this assumption.

Greg Ridgway looked at a natural experiment (proportion of drivers pulled over 1 hour before dawn, when the color of the driver is very hard to determine a priori, vs that proportion 1 hour after dawn, where it is easy) back when he was at RAND, and came to a similar conclusion. Ymmv.

Obviously, "pulled over" is not the same as "shot" but the objective data is easier to come by. Especially if you don't tell the LAPD what specifically you're studying beforehand.


I'm not sure that's what he's saying: "the sample used herein is a large and random subset of the to-be-completed data set". I read that as meaning database is to-be-completed, and he's sampling from that.


Finally, analysis of police shooting data as a function of county-level predictors suggests that racial bias in police shootings is most likely to emerge in police departments in larger metropolitan counties with low median incomes and a sizable portion of black residents, especially when there is high financial inequality in that county. There is no relationship between county-level racial bias in police shootings and crime rates (even race-specific crime rates), meaning that the racial bias observed in police shootings in this data set is not explainable as a response to local-level crime rates.

With the disclaimer that the conclusion might still be correct, I think looking at the county level is completely absurd. You leave yourself open to the Simpson's Paradox at a neighborhood level.

For argument's sake, let's say that the majority of police shootings happen in poor neighborhoods. Let's also assume, sadly, that the ratio of black/white people in poor neighborhoods is high.

Their analysis would imply that their is a racial bias to the shooting, when in fact, the racial bias could be entirely explained by the demographics. Or it might not, but doing it at a county level completely washes out all useful signal.


So add a per-county term to both fixed and random effects and see if that fits substantially better. This isn't rocket surgery.

Simpson's paradox can be straightforwardly addressed if the stratifying or confounding factor can be identified, and here that is clearly the cases.

It appears that the authors did in fact address this.


If I understand what you saying (apologies if not, it has been a while since I did modelling), that would only give a better fit if the level of segregation/crime was consistent between counties and not already taken into account by their other variables (like inequality). Or the paradox segments were at a county level instead of locally.

If be happier if they just got the police records for all 721 cases, and did a more local analysis.

Let me know if I'm missing something (I probably am).


If you fit a multilevel mixed model, either the intercept or the slopes can vary, but the model fit at each level (and accuracy of predictions on held-out data) will improve substantially if the terms matter and you include them.

In this case I would only believe the result if it led to across the board improvement. Contrarily, if a stratified fit's cross-county predictions were dramatically shittier than within county, I might believe it, but by pooling information in a Bayesian framework these authors appear to have aimed at a happy medium.

The multilevel aspect is important (country -> county -> locale) because of the shrinkage you get as a side effect of propagating each estimate. If time permits I will look at their code and data (available in the supplement, the author appears to have used Rstan for the fit, although a Python person could probably get a similar result with PyMC or PyStan) and try fiddling some of the dials.

The write up is a little wordy, but the model and data is all there for anyone genuinely interested in sensitivity analysis or alterntive fits. They're not hiding anything that I can see.


Analyses like these are always helpful, and often raise lots of questions, maybe even more questions than they answer. As the parent of a black child, I have a personal interest in this data -- the statistic that some counties have 20x higher risks for unarmed blacks is pretty terrible.

In my mind, I tend to assume that criminals, active or former are more likely to be shot at than non-criminals, whether or not they are armed. I'd really like to see the data normalized against prior convictions or in-process-of-a-crime stats; that would help me understand:

1. Is the effect magnified or dampened by some sort of differences in black and white criminality in these areas?

2. Are these shootings happening while people mostly commission crimes, or are they, a-la Minnesota this week, something that appears to be just wholesale adrenaline-based killings by police officers?


I looked for (but did not find) the researcher's definition of "armed." E.g. is that any weapon, such as a knife, club, tire iron, etc? Or just a firearm?

One thing to understand is that police are trained to take defensive action against an aggressive individual who is within a certain distance. Within that circle, an unarmed individual can reach and overpower an officer before he can draw his weapon. So even if you are unarmed, if are acting aggressively and you approach an officer you are likely to get shot or at least tased/pepper sprayed. If you ignore an order to stop where you are and put your hands up, and you continue to approach you are likely to get shot.

Now, at least on the surface this does not appear to be exactly the situation in the recent Minnesota case. But we only know what's in the media, and the media likes to sensationalize and report half the story.

That said, if a cop has his weapon drawn on you, do not move. Do not twitch. Keep both hands in view. Do not do anything that you are not explicitly asked to do.


This might be good advice, but it's terrible that we live in a country where this is good advice.


> This might be good advice, but it's terrible that we live in a country where this is good advice.

Actually, it would be terrible to live in an environment where it was not good advice.

After all, its good advice if and only if you have some confidence that deadly force will not be used if you cooperate, otherwise, the advice to cooperate when a gun is drawn is bad advice. Otherwise, you should only superficially cooperate while actively looking for an opportunity to overpower or escape (neither of which has a good probability if the attacker has a gun already drawn, but if you don't expect cooperation to be effective protection, you've got no good options.)

Now, it might be terrible live in a place where it is not less likely than it is to be useful advice -- because where we live now, the circumstances in which people might need the advice come up more often than they should. But it would be good advice (with the caveat above) even if it were less frequently needed.


In what country would it be good advice to move aggressively towards a police officer with his weapon drawn?


In many European countries officers don't draw guns in the first place. They're trained to de-escalate situations, not make them more dangerous.


I've seen this in action in Amsterdam and was amazed. Rather than charging into the situation guns drawn and yelling police in Amsterdam, seeing that the situation was not dire, first simply made their presence known. They slowly and calmly moved in talking to the perps the whole time. In the end, the situation was peaceably defused.

In America, we are so used to violent interaction with authority that most cannot imagine it working any other way.

One of the first steps we should adopt in the US is the mandatory changing of police uniform color. Green or light blue uniforms are less menacing than the typical US all black uniform. I believe this simple change would reduce police violence.


I was once stopped by a cop in San Francisco for accidentally running a red light on my bicycle. I don't know if he was intentionally intimidating, but I nearly shat my pants.


Police uniforms are navy, not black.


Have you tried pulling a knife on an armed officer in Europe? I've lived in Europe and I would not feel safe doing that.


I haven't and I wouldn't. I don't imagine it would be much fun from me. But I would most likely survive the encounter.

If you google "uk police subdue knife", you can find many examples. Here's one: http://www.huffingtonpost.com/entry/london-police-knife-wiel...

Quote from the article: "In San Francisco, the suspect died in a hail of bullets. In London, the suspect was subdued."

Different situations, different people, I'm sure they're not directly comparable. But in general people are not expected to die from police action in Europe unless they're actively shooting at police officers or hostages or something similar.


What about running away? I would think that in most cases, you should probably assume that if you are fleeing, you won't be shot in the back. But in reality, well..


But what do you do when you have two cops with weapons drawn and one wants you to hold still and the other wants you to drop to the ground?


Hold your arms still, drop to your knees, and hope someone is filming.


From the abstract:

> There is no relationship between county-level racial bias in police shootings and crime rates (even race-specific crime rates), meaning that the racial bias observed in police shootings in this data set is not explainable as a response to local-level crime rates.


I missed that sentence -- I'm not 100% sure, but I think that's not quite what I was talking about.

That statement says that areas with higher-than-normal black or white crime rates vis-a-vis the other, that there is still anti-black racial bias in terms of shootings.

I'm saying I'm wondering if people stopped during commission of a crime are 10x more likely to be white per capita, and 90% of police shootings are unarmed blacks and shootings happen in 10% of crime stops, and the population is 90/10 black and white (call it 10000 people, with 1% involved in crime stops and once per person), then we would have the following stats: 90 white people stopped, 10 black people, 10 shootings, 9 of them black.

What is the 'race bias' here? Do we normalize to population, or criminal population, or stopped population? Those stats look like: no bias: (9 / 9000 blacks shot, 1 / 1000 whites shot), incredible bias( 9/10 black criminals vs 1 / 90 white criminals), and we don't know because we don't know if there's any stop bias.

I'm not clear we get an answer out of the abstract or the study for this question. But, it's an important one to me for a variety of reasons, not least which is that I'd like to know if risky / criminal behavior statistically carries higher penalties for some race or socioeconomic groups in our country.


Do they break that down by type of crime? "Crime rate" is a pretty broad term.


> As the parent of a black child, I have a personal interest...

As a human, I have a personal interest in this data.


I applaud that. For myself as a white man, I became much more personally interested in statistics like this when my family became multi-colored.


Factors increasing police shootings - Large metropolitan counties - Low median incomes - High financial inequality - Sizeable portion of black residents.

Factors which did not affect police shootings - Local level crime rates - Race specific crime rates

Crazy takeaways - A black unarmed individual 3.49x more likely to be shot than a white unarmed individual on average across america. - Some counties showing 20x more likely

I'm interested to see this data in relationship to gun accessibility and gun ownership stats. Would less access to firearms affect police shootings? Is there a racial connection to gun ownership and carrying?

I'm not american and the idea of civilians with guns seems just so crazy to me.


Facts that you don't much analysis to see: (CDC) - From 1999-2011, 2,151 whites died as a result of being shot by police compared to just 1,130 blacks.

(DOJ) In 2013 black criminals carried out 38% of murders, compared to 31.1% for whites (despite blacks being only 13% of the population and black males 18-35 being 3%)


Yes if you adjust for homicide rate OR the rate at which police officers are killed by civilians (black vs white) you get:

“Adjusted for the homicide rate, whites are 1.7 times more likely than blacks die at the hands of police,” he said. “Adjusted for the racial disparity at which police are feloniously killed, whites are 1.3 times more likely than blacks to die at the hands of police.”


Your point?

IIRC, blacks are 13% of the population yet 30% of the police killings.

Lies, damned lies, statistics.


> IIRC, blacks are 13% of the population yet 30% of the police killings.

Yes, and blacks are 13% of the population but 38% of the murderers (to use your & the OP's numbers). The point is that in two random encounters with two random people (one black, one white), the black person is more likely to be a murderer than the white person. That's not racist: it's just a fact.

As an example, I'll use the 2013 FBI crime statistics (https://www.fbi.gov/about-us/cjis/ucr/crime-in-the-u.s/2013/...) and 2015 U.S. Census data (https://www.census.gov/quickfacts/) — yes, there will be some inaccuracy due to using different years' data, but the 2015 crime data isn't yet available by race that I could find. In 2015, 77.1% of the U.S. population — 247,813,910 people — were white; 3,799 whites were arrested for murder in 2013, for an arrested-murderer rate of 1:65,200. In 2015, 13.3% of the U.S. population — 42,748,703 people — were black; 4,379 blacks were arrested for murder in 2013, for an arrested-murderer rate of 1:9,760.

Assuming the correctness of those numbers, and assuming that black and whites are fairly arrested for murder, any random black person one encounters is 6.68 times as likely to be a murderer as a white person.

Now, there are no doubt some very powerful arguments that blacks and whites are not equally treated when it comes to murder arrests, but even if only half of all blacks arrested for murder are guilty and as many white murderers are never arrested for murder as are, the multiplier would still be 1.67, and honestly those assumptions are a stretch.

Given the previous assumption of fairness, police killing blacks 3.49 times as often as whites would indicate that they are actually almost twice as cautious of killing blacks (or twice as quick to kill whites) as the actual random-encounter risk would predict: 6.68/3.49 = 1.91.


So police killing a higher proportion of unarmed blacks vs unarmed whites is okay because, um, reasons.


> So police killing a higher proportion of unarmed blacks vs unarmed whites is okay because, um, reasons.

The evidence which appears to indicate that blacks are more likely to be dangerous is a pretty reasonable reason for law enforcement to be more alert when dealing with blacks.

The fact that the proportion of blacks killed is less than the proportion of dangerous blacks seems to indicate that law enforcement is actually showing restraint.


"From 1999-2011, 2,151 whites died as a result of being shot by police compared to just 1,130 blacks." That is meaningless without adjusting for population sizes.

"In 2013 black criminals carried out 38% of murders, compared to 31.1% for whites" I think what you mean to say is that blacks were convicted of 38% of murders compared to 31.1% for whites. I'm not saying that judicial injustice is enough to close a gap that wide, but you shouldn't present those facts without context.


Thanks for the downvotes with no explanation. Did you know that blacks and hispanics make up about 59% of the prison population compared to 32% for non-hispanic whites (a ratio of 1.84), but yet the Innocence Project has exonerated (as of 2010) 172 black and hispanic persons compared to 82 whites (a ratio of 2.1)? Unless my math is wrong, that is about a 14% discrepancy.


Why do you assume that the rate of actual innocence is constant across race/ethnicity of prisoners?


The entire point of my statistics is to show that there is judicial injustice based on race. I show the opposite of your assertion by comparing prison demographics to exoneration demographics. So either the Innocence Project is racially biased (DNA evidence) or our judicial system is racially biased.


>The entire point of my statistics is to show that there is judicial injustice based on race.

I don't believe you have enough information to show that with just racial information.

A different study is needed that shows initial judicial justice based on dollars spent on defence. Essentially we need to know the likelihood of injustice based on each $10,000 spent on lawyers. If our findings show that defendants that spend larger amounts on their defense have a lower number unjust rulings then race is a lower factor and poverty is a larger factor. Since blacks in America are more apt to live in poverty, a simple black and white racial analysis will fail in showing causation.


Yes, you're right on that point.

I suspect we would find that they are both large factors, though. Keep in mind that the statistics I showed actually undersell the prevalence since I compared the prison population to exonerations. Exonerations typically require DNA evidence and there are any number of crimes that can land you in prison where DNA evidence is a non-factor. Even the appeals process isn't immune from racial bias.


> So either the Innocence Project is racially biased (DNA evidence) or our judicial system is racially biased.

For some reason, I misread your post as arguing the former and implying the assumption that the latter was not true, but I can't for the life of me see why I did that looking back at it.


It seems the question we should be concerned with should not be 'is there racial bias in policing', to which the answer would surely always be 'yes' because there's one bias or another in everything human and police are human.

The question we should be concerned with should be: 'How is policing/governance structured in a way that enables or encourages people to act upon their biases to detrimental results?'

The distinction is important because eliminating bias/whateverism will never happen, but making it possible for the justice system to operate fairly given the biases of its constituent members should be a desired outcome.


>The question we should be concerned with should be: 'How is policing/governance structured in a way that enables or encourages people to act upon their biases to detrimental results?'

That begs the question, though, of whether the structure is actually set up in such a way. Blacks in the US commit murder at a rate eight times that of whites. Wouldn't you expect them to be shot comparatively more often by police?

I don't think it's reasonable to take a handful of incidents where police were clearly in the wrong and then try to extrapolate that based on statistics relating to incidents in which we have no reason to believe that's the case.


> There is no relationship between county-level racial bias in police shootings and crime rates (even race-specific crime rates), meaning that the racial bias observed in police shootings in this data set is not explainable as a response to local-level crime rates.


I'm not sure that addresses the point.


Exactly!

Furthermore, is the goal to make sure that all races will be shot equally or is it to achieve justice for all victims of overaggressive police?


They talk about comparing probability of {black, unarmed, and shot by police} vs {white, unarmed, and shot by police}. Is this not meaningless without adjusting for relative frequency of black vs white in the community? Shouldn't we be comparing P(shot by police|white & unarmed) vs P(shot by police|black & unarmed)?

Am I missing something from their methodology?


Unarmed doesn't even really help here. Cops in certain areas have serious problems with ham sandwiching suspects.


ham sandwiching

This idiom is new to me, care to elaborate?

I've definitely had my fair share of "why was I even approached in the first place" with police officers, in Austin Texas-the part of Texas everyone and their mother swears is liberal, progressive and not at all like the rest of Texas.

If that's what you mean.

It probably didn't help that I was walking down the street from the gas station at 1 in the morning in an area that was established as "Exclusively for white people" (http://kxan.com/2015/08/20/exclusively-for-white-people-a-hi...) as a black man-a neighborhood that still to this day is almost entirely white....still watching a cop pass me going down the road, whip a u-turn, come back and stop me just to ask "Where are you going?"

Or the time an officer stopped me on my way to a UT football game and before even asking to see my license or registration asked who I stole my Honda Civic from.

Armed only with tickets and a case of beer for tailgating.


A "ham sandwich" is evidence, often a handgun, placed at a crime scene by law enforcement.

See: http://www.pbs.org/wgbh/pages/frontline/law-disorder/blog/20...


Ahhh so a plant. Got it. Thanks for that!


I didn't understand it all. For instance, they admit some results may be due to more interactions with one population or another. I would have assumed to be useful, we'd want it normalized by population or total interactions by group, right? Else this all becomes just a heatmap of population.


It's particularly a heatmap of ... certain demograhics as outlined in the article.


Relevant part:

Across almost all counties, individuals who were armed and shot by police had a much higher probability of being black or hispanic than being white. Likewise, across almost all counties, individuals who were unarmed and shot by police had a much higher probability of being black or hispanic than being white. Tragically, across a large proportion of counties, individuals who were shot by police had a higher median probability of being unarmed black individuals than being armed white individuals. While this pattern could be explained by reduced levels of crime being committed by armed white individuals, it still raises a question as to why there exists such a high rate of police shooting of unarmed black individuals.


Two concerns I don't see addressed in the study:

1. Whether suspect is unarmed is only known for certain after the incident.

2. Differences in levels of crimes by race.


> Whether suspect is unarmed is only known for certain after the incident.

Not even then, really; this can be manipulated in either direction after the incident, and there are enough incidents where its become known that it has been that one should not assume that this is even certainly known after the fact in general.


re: 2, this is covered quite clearly in the abstract: "There is no relationship between county-level racial bias in police shootings and crime rates (even race-specific crime rates), meaning that the racial bias observed in police shootings in this data set is not explainable as a response to local-level crime rates."


Why does it have to be explained at "county-level"?


If it's true at the county-level, it's true at the national level (which is also stated in the abstract). By specifying it's additionally true at the county level, it makes a much stronger claim -- that high racial bias does not exist only in high-crime areas, and as such, racial bias is not explainable by crime rates.


What I think is more horrifying, is the use of deadly force in general. For example, based on a quick Google search, 41 police were killed by shooters last year, while roughly 1,000 civilians were killed.

Police should not be using deadly force unless necessary, 41:1000 seems like some pretty bias reactions on the side of police.

The reason different races are shot at different rates can be based on anything including racism, likely hood to commit an offense, which race is more likely to have mental disease, whether or not it's more difficult to identify facial structure. Blaming race outright is kind of silly, it's trying to simplify a multi dimensional problem that needs all of it's dimensions to reach a conclusion.


Yet it should be noted of the 1000 only 102 (by one count http://mappingpoliceviolence.org/unarmed/) were unarmed, and in at least some of the cases were still acting violently (aggressively trying to reach for the cop's weapon). For instance:

"Deputies say Browning, 30, fled when they were attempting to arrest him for a DUI. They claim he put deputies in a "bear hug" and reached for a firearm before being shot by deputies."

Is use of deadly force not necessary here? I am not sure, depends on the actual details of the encountered. It seems use of deadly force is inevitable, so the best we can do is try to quantify how often it gets misused and try to lower that amount.


Very frequently police claim the deadly force was inevitable until a video surfaces that completely denies that. Take every police account of a shooting with a bag of salt.


Very true, I am not claiming otherwise. Precisely the reason to argue for body cams or other means to enforce honesty and transparency about reports. Just making the point that the 41:1000 ratio does not take into account the fact that many of the 1000 are indeed armed and aggressive, and it is the officers' jobs to subdue them even if deadly force is necessary. More training or non-lethal weapons will only go so far to change this, it seems.


So assume all police are lying and the people fighting them had good intentions?


Assume that people are rational actors that will have no problem lying when their career and/or freedom are at risk. Especially if they aren't aware of any contradictory evidence.


Always assume those with power over you are lying to you. It's sort of a reverse Pascal's wager.


Then we should get rid of all police?


"Get rid of all police" is the sort of reductio ad absurdum silliness that brings this discussion down. Don't do that.

But, for an example of how we can counteract the likelihood of those in power lying to the people they serve? In urban and suburban areas at least (rural policing is a little bit of a different thing), consider a twofold approach:

1) Provide body cameras that cannot be turned off while in uniform under any circumstances (sew them into the uniform top?), with draconian penalties in any case where they're disabled or obscured in the field. Multiple battery slots to allow hot-swapping, a low-battery warning informs dispatch, all of that. Allowing your camera to go offline is a strict-liability federal offense; the only disproof is another officer's video evidence that an assailant removed the camera from the officer. (This is not a cheap tool, and it does imply that officers should be dispatched in pairs or more. I am OK with that. We should be willing to spend money for better policing.)

2) Remove all weapons that are not less-lethal from beat police. Batons, tasers, OC spray. You can kill someone with these weapons, but it takes a hell of a lot more work (and it's harder to obfuscate when a suspect has surrendered and is complying than when you can shoot them to death at range). If you need someone with a gun, you should be calling in backup dispatched directly from a station.


"Get rid of all police" is the sort of reductio ad absurdum silliness that brings this discussion down. Don't do that.

Fair enough. I felt that I was responding to something that was absurd on the face of it, but I appreciate that you offered suggestions to try to keep it from being absurd. That said, if we assume that all people in authority are lying to us, we have a really poor system of governance that relies on putting people into authority positions who we assume are all lying.

For your suggestions: 1) Strict liability if a piece of electronics fails in a way that the officer can't prove was a technical malfunction? I would never ever accept that kind of liability for myself without a great deal of compensation and some form of insurance to protect myself from the inevitable glitch. While I expect LEO to be held to a strict standard, it has to be reasonable.

2) I've seen that suggestion. I don't know how well it would work given the prevalence of guns in the USA, but I'd be interested in some form of experiment being conducted in a metropolitan area to see what kind of statistics could be drawn from it. Personally, you couldn't pay me enough to be police officer in the USA. If you'd want to send me out there unarmed, you'd need to triple my salary.


> That said, if we assume that all people in authority are lying to us, we have a really poor system of governance that relies on putting people into authority positions who we assume are all lying.

Sure. But that's basically the heart of every non-autocratic (and even some autocratic!) system of government in the history of the world, though. Having the people with the levers of power lie to the populace goes back to Greece.

> Strict liability if a piece of electronics fails in a way that the officer can't prove was a technical malfunction?

This is the one thing that gives me pause about that approach, to be fair. And I'd be willing to flex on the details, but any unrecorded police interaction with the populace that must trust them must be strictly proscribed. There must be eyes on the police at all times, and they must be impartial. How we get there, we can discuss, but that's the goal.

> Personally, you couldn't pay me enough to be police officer in the USA. If you'd want to send me out there unarmed, you'd need to triple my salary.

That's a fair way to feel. I wouldn't want to be a police officer under any circumstances, because I understand that I could be tempted by that power. To that end, I feel that we need to remove the attraction of policing from the bullies and power-trippers of the world. Policing should not be a glamorous job (and I don't really feel it should be well-respected, except insofar as any profession should be), but in turn it should be well-compensated.


Some distrust of those in power is not always assuming that everyone with authority is lying. That's the absurd part, although I do admit that approaching it as though lying by authorities is common is a good way to build the system -- similar to designing your internal network assuming that attackers have already breached your firewall.

because I understand that I could be tempted by that power

Interesting. I don't look at it that way at all. I don't really want more power in my life except for the power to live without people messing with me. Power over others has little appeal or temptation to me.

Policing just looks to be a dangerous, thankless, under-compensated job to me. Imagine having to walk up to someone's car to give them a ticket. Your job is to be "that guy" who pisses on someone's day because they were speeding, had a tail light out, whatever. Then add to that mix the probability that they'll try to manipulate you, possibly by insulting you and taking their frustration out on you. Finally, that person may have a gun and be waiting for you to get into the right position to blow a hole in you. Makes me happy that I earn my living by programming in my house.

I'm torn on your comment about respect. I think that there are some jobs in the world that are more deserving than others of respect. Doctors who save lives, for example. Most jobs that involve a lot of physical risk for little pay like the military and policing, for another. Sitting on my butt writing software is not really one of them and I'm okay with that.


Would you rather trust someone in power to act based on their self-interest or on their personal morality? That's the question.


Conflating "take every police account of a shooting with a bag of salt" to mean what you just said is intellectually dishonest, and probably deceptive.


> Deputies say

There are very strong incentives for the Deputies to paint themselves in the best possible light in this situation. I would go as far as to say there is literally no value in what the Deputies say happened. Video of the incident, uninvolved bystander reports are what's needed.


A couple weeks back one of the officers involved in catching (and ultimately killing) the San Bernardino shooters gave an extended interview on NPR.

AFAIK there was nothing about the incident that anyone's got a problem with, where the police are concerned. He defaulted to using language so biased that it amounted to lying anyway. Every single time an officer fired in his story, they "placed rounds downrange", while the shooters invariably "fired indiscriminately", even when that was plainly not true from his story (he proceeds in one case to name a target and state that he's certain they had opened fire, in that case, specifically to shoot a given officer, which is the opposite of indiscriminate).

It seems like he was so set on using a kind of template for biasing anyone listening against the accused that he couldn't turn it off, even when that language made what he was saying plainly incorrect. This is in a case where he wasn't trying to defend himself or any other officers against accusations of wrongdoing. If you pay attention this kind of thing is really common when cops discuss events. Biased language that can easily slip into outright lies is built into police culture, even when there's not (direct) pressure to lie.


Bystander reports are often worth about as much as a deputy's report.

People can't remember how things actually happened.


This is exactly true even people with the best intentions trying to explain exactly what happened in an unbiased way will still screw up a ton of things.


aka: eyewitness testimony is unreliable because our memory rewrites our memory every time we access it again, our current biases affect how we remember it next time.


In the age of smart guns that only the owner can fire, why is "he was reaching for my gun" a valid reason?!? How many wrongful death lawsuit settlements does it take to retrofit or replace the existing firearms?


Because smart guns aren't even close to 100% reliable yet. A "false negative" locking you out of operating your weapon at a key moment will likely mean your death, so there's a VERY high bar for adopting new mechanisms like smart guns.

The iPhone has probably the best, affordable, fingerprint sensor out there, and yet if ever time it failed to unlock (wet skin, dry skin, dirty skin, oil on your skin, etc...) you might end up dead... you wouldn't want to trust it..


I'm not sure what the "right" number is, but you would expect that someone trained to use a weapon would "win" in the majority, if not the vast majority of cases. The ideal ratio would be zero police deaths compared to a much smaller and truly unavoidable number of civilian deaths, but even in that ideal case, the ratio would be incredibly skewed toward civilian deaths, so perhaps this number doesn't tell us much.


I have to wonder how many of those civilian deaths prevented police deaths? Obviously we have seen plenty of news about bias and wrongful deaths of civilians, but how many of the rest were life saving defensive uses of deadly force? I don't actually know the answer, but I would think that contributes to the bias of the numbers.


I was wondering the same thing, and did some back-of-the-envelope calculations to get a feel for that.

Surprisingly, when compared to British officers who (for the most part) are not armed, providing officers with guns seems to decrease both their own survival AND the survival of civilians, percent-to-total.

I did make several gross assumptions, such as only counting deaths and not injuries, and that 100% of US police officers are armed and 0% of British officers are, but for a rough calculation, I think it's okay. (Note that British officers are much more likely to be assaulted, and injured in those assaults, than U.S. officers.)

If I had to guess, it could be because the presence of guns (on both sides) tends to escalate the situation. For example, regardless of whether you're a police officer or a criminal, you're naturally going to be much more likely to shoot if you believe you are about to be shot yourself.

If British police officers CAN'T shoot, then potentially British criminals are less likely to shoot them, because there's no need to do so - just knock them over the head and then run away.

This is purely speculation on my part, of course, but it seems plausible, does it not?


> providing officers with guns seems to decrease both their own survival AND the survival of civilians,

I don't find that surprising at all. The glaring omission in the posted article is accounting for prevalence of guns. It would make sense that more unarmed people would be shot in an environment in which guns are more common.


> Surprisingly, when compared to British officers who (for the most part) are not armed, providing officers with guns seems to decrease both their own survival AND the survival of civilians, percent-to-total.

The question becomes, does the arming of officers cause the lower survival rates, or does the violence level cause both the arming of officers and the lower survival rate. (I suspect that arming officers is a big contributor, but the correlation alone doesn't tell you the causal relationship.)


Agreed. But, it could also be a training issue. From what I understand, police departments do not have enough funding to adequately train their force.

I believe around here (Northern Virginia), the police are trained to shoot if the situation seems 'threatening' (subjective). However, recently a couple of notable cases (that I know of) seem extreme.

1) police responded to a teenager who was threatening suicide. Apparently, the teen raised the knife, and the police shot and killed him.

2) police responded to a Costco employee that was acting erratic. The employee raised a knife, and the police shot and killed her.

As a tax-paying citizen, I would rather the police are trained to first try to diffuse the situation, then try to neutralize, then shoot as last resort. It seems instead that they panic and shoot immediately.


I agree 100% that police could use more training, and more skills around defusing situations, people management, and frankly hand to hand combat. That takes budget and you CAN help this process along in your town!

Please do keep in mind, for folks who lack this training, a person with a knife can very easily injure or kill and absolutely poses a deadly threat (to the officer or nearby civilians). The old metric is the 21 foot rule (if your gun is in your holster a person with a knife who is 21 feet or closer can kill you before you can defend yourself with your firearm) so if you are within 21 feet of someone with a knife (acting erratically, raising a deadly weapon, etc...) then you are SUPPOSED to have your gun out and ready. That said it should be at a low ready, not pointing and shooting...

I'm not defending the police in those incidents, I don't know enough about the details to defend or attack their actions from here. But I feel like people very often forget that most police are under-trained, and put in life threatening situations that most people commenting have no real experience with.


As a taxpayer, you should also ask questions about what you are getting for your money. Simply throwing money at the problem isn't the solution.

http://www.sacbee.com/site-services/databases/article2573210...

There are plenty of examples where police in other countries are taught to de-escalate rather than escalate as a first order so it's a shame that this does not happen here.


I think a great follow up to this is, what would these numbers look like if the majority of police didn't carry guns?

I'm not sure how you'd get a sense of this though. Maybe data from other countries and comparison of security guard death rates. Both of these ideas are long shots.


I did some (very quick) comparisons to Britain's police force, which for the most part is not armed. I ignored the confounding effects of the illegality of guns, assuming that most hardened criminals will be able to get one anyway (a convenient assumption, since I wasn't sure how to account for it any other way).

British police are significantly less likely to be killed, or to kill, than U.S. officers. However, they are also much more likely to be assaulted, and injured in those assaults, than U.S. officers.


What role does a land border with Mexico play in that though? Many of these shootings happen near the southern border - are the police more aggressive because of the proximity to the cartel violence?


Unfortunately, incidents are virtually certain to recur so long as the first line of monitoring and compliance policing is performed by armed officers.

In short: we must disarm most police officers.

The Castile shooting occurred at a stop due to a broken tail light. Consider: the city of Chicago uses cameras to asynchronously ticket red light violators. Running a red light is objectively more dangerous than driving with a broken tail light, but Chicago will allow you to continue driving unimpeded after doing so.

Further, consider: any number of other violations in Chicago --- expired plates, bad stickers, poor selection of parking places, failure to pay parking fees, outstanding warrants on your car --- are performed by parking enforcement officers who are not armed. Chicago also routinely deployed traffic direction officers who are themselves not armed.

The police force we have today will not allow itself to be disarmed. The realistic medium-term answer to this problem is not to change the culture of existing police --- we should do that, but we should be pragmatic about how far that will get us. Instead, cities that want to reduce police violence should stop hiring assault officers, and begin programs to replace them with monitoring and compliance officers who will accept jobs with a description that includes doing the work unarmed. Smart cities should find ways to offload monitoring and compliance work from assault officers onto unarmed officers. Police forces can be disarmed through attrition.

Cities are incentivized to do this anyways: assault officer hires come packaged with intractable pension problems. New job descriptions don't.

Consider also: "armed" and "unarmed" isn't binary. When approaching Philando Castile's car to inquire about the broken tail light, the officer was by default no more than 20-30 seconds away from being able to fire a bullet into Castile. Smarter public policy can increase that delay from 20 seconds to something far greater. For instance: general-purpose patrolling assault officers can be (are, in fact, today) issued rifles and shotguns stored in their trunk. Those officers can remain armed; just, not with handguns, and not wielded by default.

Modern assault officers are in a double bind. They're routinely required to work in high-crime neighborhoods, often minority-dominated, and thus subjected to constant cognitive strain: they're put into contact with far more minorities at work than at home, and those minorities are sampled from a cohort anomalously likely to include criminals. Further, assault officers are acculturated and in fact trained to believe (irrationally) that routine job activities, like making traffic stops, are among the most dangerous things that can be done in America. They're stuck in a vicious circle of cortisol spikes and negative reinforcement. It is not reasonable to expect them to safely handle continuously-available firearms.

I suspect we'll discover that confrontations between unarmed officers and armed suspects are less dangerous than confrontations between armed officers and armed suspects. Most (not all) suspects who shoot at cops aren't doing it out of spite, but instead of out self-preservation. Regardless, I think we already know what would happen if we reconstituted police forces to be 20% assault and 80% compliance, down from 90% assault: far less police violence, far fewer shooting incidents, less expense, and a greater civic recognition of the real risks of policing.

Disarm most police.


This is a brilliant analysis. Someone I know visiting from Germany freaked out because a Maryland highway patrol officer pulled a gun on her during a routine traffic stop. That's unthinkable in Germany. It's gotta stop.


I can only second that. When I was on vacation in the United States with my family as a child, we saw a traffic stop and I was really confused by the way it worked, with a hand on the holster and a second police officer covering the first. That's movie stuff!

Off-topic: The other strange thing was construction work on some road. Many workers, most of them just standing there holding up signs and regulating traffic.

In Germany most of them wouldn't be there. Instead we'd have a temporary, mobile traffic light.


"I drink water out of the tap in NYC. I find it silly that people don't do that in Flint"[0]

When you switch lanes on the Autobahn, people behind you slow down to let you go. If that happened on US highways, I'd agree that a temporary traffic light would be a better solution. "We can do it, so can you!" is rarely a useful approach, given that nearly everything is different in day-to-day life.

[0] https://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Flint_water_crisis


I don't know why you're talking about highways and I'm not interested in debating with you if you are hell-bent on ascribing an "you should do as we do" attitude to me.


Aren't most (all?) German police officers armed, though? They just don't tend to shoot people as much. Deutsche Welle writing about it a couple of years ago doesn't mention unarmed officers at all.

http://www.dw.com/en/why-german-police-officers-rarely-reach...


> When approaching Philando Castile's car to inquire about the broken tail light, the officer was by default no more than 20-30 seconds away from being able to fire a bullet into Castile. Smarter public policy can increase that delay from 20 seconds to something far greater. For instance: general-purpose patrolling assault officers can be (are, in fact, today) issued rifles and shotguns stored in their trunk. Those officers can remain armed; just, not with handguns, and not wielded by default.

The problem with this is that in some occasions the police are required to respond much more quickly. There are numerous videos on youtube/reddit/liveleak of routine traffic stops that go from normal to the driver shooting in seconds. I have no issue with the police being armed, that is just the world "we" live in. I do however have an issue with why a routine traffic stop involved even having a firearm unholstered.


It seems to me there are all kinds of ways to make these encounters much safer. Maybe I am missing something, but why can't the police, at a distance, ask the driver to come out of the car with his hands in the air?

To me the crux of the matters with these confrontations, which few seem to recognize, is that it is all about power and the perception of power relations between the police supposed "criminals" elements, such that these quake in fear whenever they interact with police. The police imagine "criminals (especially of the minority type) taunting them and mocking them, and cannot stand the thought; the larger society must see police to be more powerful than criminals. So their idea of effective law enforcement is of an overwhelming force that subdues all opposition, ostensibly for the larger good of society.

Whether this perspective is good or bad is up for debate, but I it explains a lot of what has been happening.


Why doesn't that happen when suspects confront parking enforcement? Because it's pointless: parking enforcers aren't armed. If stopped by clearly marked traffic compliance officers who aren't armed, how likely is it that a suspect will fire a weapon at them?

Even when faced with self-preservation concern, suspects are already extremely unlikely to fire on police.


Two infants were just shot in a mini van not far from where the shooting in Minnesota occurred. There were also multiple shootings overnight in Minneapolis that resulted in at least one fatality. The Police aren't armed just for traffic enforcement.


I don't know who you're arguing with, but it's not me. I'm not advocating for total disarmament.


If I'm not mistaken "routine" traffic stops are the single most (maybe fell to #2 this year?) dangerous thing for a LEO to do (i.e. the highest number of officer fatalities occur during a traffic stop). So asking officers to go do the most dangerous part of their job without a weapon is unreasonable (IMHO).


The odds that a police officer will be attacked in a traffic stop are spectacularly low. Further, it's important to remember that traffic stops are the primary way that police officers confront strangers in their day to day work. Assaults at traffic stops are probably a reasonable proxy for all police encounters. From that perspective, the dangers of these stops seems mythologized.

Equally important: armed confrontations at parking stops occur in large part because subjects are cornered. Reactions to the situation on both sides are fueled by cortisol and adrenaline. An armed subject confronted by unarmed traffic enforcement officers (specially marked, and with different uniforms) isn't cornered, and can in fact just drive away --- or, for that matter, brandish a firearm.

My public policy suggestion is not that we do away with assault officers altogether! There are currently 13,000 assault officers in the Chicago Police Department. A force constituted of 20% assault officers would still have ~2,500 assault officers available to handle escalations.


I don't know how disarming traffic cops would alter this statistic, but there were 42 officers shot and killed in the line of duty in 2015 and over 13 million traffic stops.

That puts the risk of death in a traffic stop at 0.0003%.


_At the most_. How many of those 42 officer deaths occurred _during_ traffic stops?


7


I don't disagree. I'm not sure that the firearm should be out of it's holster by default though? Even if the shooting in MN was just a tragic accident, there needs to be some reform that addresses why people are pulled over and why the officer had the firearm up and ready to shoot. I've been pulled over by the police in MN for similar reasons and they didn't even have a hand on their holstered firearm.


You have to do a cost benefit analysis. Yes, sometimes police are shot at when they perform a traffic stop. But it's very rare. I can't find statistics on the number of times police were shot at during a traffic stop, but only 42 officers where shot and killed in the line of duty last year, and there were 13 million traffic stops.


These are possibly great points, but you didn't back up your Chicago example with any numbers.

Chicago has unarmed parking LEOs--statistically, how does that work for them? What other kinds of effects does it have?

I'm also not a fan of making up terms like "assault officer" to further a point.


> Disarm most police.

It's easier, politically, to disarm America than disarm police. Disarming everyone can be widely viewed as making everyone safer, but disarming only those who protect the public against violent crime will be widely viewed as making everyone less safe.


Strong disagree, for three big reasons (and several more small ones I'll try not to bore anyone with).

1. There is huge public support for firearms ownership in the US (it's important not to confuse support for gun control with gun prohibition). Further, significant changes in gun ownership rights would require radical political change. We're governed by an ideologically sorted 50/50 split legislature, and gun ownership is a valence issue for one of those halves. Radical changes to gun ownership rules in the US is unlikely.

2. Changing the composition of police forces from 90% assault to 20% assault requires no nationwide political consensus, and minimal local consensus. As I noted, it tracks well with other municipal priorities: funding the retirements of the assault officers we have now is already untenable. Using attrition instead of direct change mitigates the impact of public sector unions.

3. "Disarming" the American public doesn't address the officer safety concerns that lead to armed confrontation. Even if handguns were outlawed nationwide, handguns would continue to be universally owned by criminals.

Disarming most police officers will make everybody, including the police, more safe.

I strongly support gun control. I'm pretty close to "in a well regulated militia" only, in my gun views. But gun control is not the answer to this problem.


If its ideology that supports gun ownership, the same ideology supports tough crime laws and a well-armed police force. Fear explains why we want weapons, but fear also explains why we want a heavily armed police force. Those who are most afraid are not at all concerned about the police occasionally shooting unarmed minorities. Politically, you're still looking at 50/50 here at best it seems to me. But gun control at least makes it plausible that decreased weapons use in crime means police don't need to focus so much on assault.


I completely agree with you, but I don't think this will happen until we end the war on drugs and civil asset forfeiture. If traffic stops were really just about public safety then you wouldn't need armed officers to execute them.


Why is a traffic violation even de facto probable cause [0] to search someone for completely orthogonal concerns? That has been a massive end-run around the fourth amendment!

Creating a class of disarmed traffic officers could be a great way to help restore the concept of privacy - make them powerless to enforce or provide testimony on anything besides traffic laws. This would have similar effects to deillegalizing personal possession of substances, including the non-politically-favored ones.

Then, prevent the armed group from doing any traffic enforcement - they're solely reserved for already-escalated situations. Furthermore, this could reduce the perverse incentive of a highly paid position doing overtime traffic duty.

(And furthermore while we're exploring this fantasy of defascizing automobile transport, let's change license plates to e-ink with a privacy-preserving blinded number that changes every hour)

[0] By mandating that the person stop, open their window, etc, with any non-compliance escalating to legal probable cause.


Traffic violations aren't probable cause for searches. The police cannot search your car at a traffic stop simply because you've violated traffic law.


That's the reason I said "de facto". Read my footnote.

If I were to communicate with an officer by written messages shown through the glass (to avoid a search of my cabin air), do you think it would go well?


"Non-compliance" doesn't "escalate to probable cause".

What you're probably trying to say is that arrest generates cause for search, under the rules for "search incident to arrest".

But arrest is a big deal, far bigger than traffic stop or even roadside detention.

As for trying to communicate with officers through glass: I'm not sure what you're trying to accomplish, but there are tens of videos of people rolling their windows down minimally to respond to traffic stops, so that police can't put their heads in the car. ACLU even publishes one of them.


Arrest generating cause for search is only half of it - what is that arrest based on? Presumably it's often based on noncompliance with orders that constitute a de facto search, with the only original cause being a traffic violation.

Do you dispute that it's a common occurrence for people to be pulled over for a civil traffic violation yet to end up arrested for possession of something? This phenomenon flies in the face of the fourth amendment, the courts' function of finding logical justifications for the status quo notwithstanding.


To arrest someone, you have to have probable cause, and then you have to actually arrest them.

People are routinely searched at traffic stops because they aren't taught their rights properly, and comments that say traffic stops provide "de facto" probable cause for searches don't help (the harm is obviously marginal, but still.)


Your comments imply that there is a legal flowchart that can be followed to definitely keep a traffic stop confined to just a traffic stop, and if not at least the case will be thrown out. I'd say this is a bit naive and more harmful than my slight discouragement of people investigating their assertable rights.

I certainly support people who go through the effort of asserting their rights (and do some of this myself, but I also realize that game is more than just a legal one). If I were into divisive identity politics, I would say that perhaps the various legal chess moves just work most of the time for privileged people (the videos you referenced etc). But alas that's a losing race-to-the-bottom framework, and we're better off talking about rights.

I like your original post. I'm expanding on it and pointing out how we could completely avoid all of these issues with separate roles - I don't think that parking critters are particularly concerned with searching one's possessions either. Can we agree that it would be better if maintaining one's own rights did not require a law degree and constant vigilance?



Everyone should watch these. But what the videos brush up against but don't really explore is that if you do assert your rights in these various manners but they are still violated, your only real recourse is to have any resulting evidence dismissed at trial. That's a tough sell for someone who is being routinely hassled, as things like "keep calm while they're assaulting you" just end up sounding like more of the same authorituh.

If you ask a lawyer about receiving compensation for eg false arrest/imprisonment/tangible damage, they'll just chuckle. So these videos are more practical advice for people engaged in actual lawbreaking [0], rather than an avenue of justice or reforming the police from their unaccountable thuggery.

I mean, taking a step back from immediate practical advice - it's patently ridiculous that a public servant purporting to uphold the law is expected to lie and trick you about that law. What then exactly are they upholding?

[0] which admittedly is all of us in some manner, and go grey market entrepreneurs!


That makes almost no sense to me. Routine traffic stops often bring LEOs and "bad guys" or folks with open warrants out for them, etc... in close contact with short notice and little planning. Bad guys often panic and shoot, or drive off dangerously, etc...


> Bad guys often panic and shoot, or drive off dangerously, etc.

The problem is, what is you're definition of often? And how effective is a (likely holstered handgun) in these situations?

Is an armed officer more or less likely to be shot at? Does the presence of an armed officer in all routine traffic stop increase safety overall (not just for the officer, but for non-violent civilians as well).

If you look at it from a cost benefit analysis, giving all traffic cops firearms may result in a small decrease in total deaths of officers during traffic stops [1], but a small increase in the total number of deaths of civilians (both innocent bystanders, and belligerent civilians who had no intention to seriously harm anyone).

That's probably not enough to justify arming all traffic cops. However if you add in the benefit of a firearm as a tool of compliance to aid in traffic cop's abilities to confiscate drugs and cash, you tip the balance towards arming them.

1. Even this is a big assumption, because we don't know if criminals are more or less likely to fire at armed vs. unarmed traffic cops.


But without the war on drugs, the number of bad guys goes way down, doesn't it?


Probably not. Contrary to popular perception, the drug war is not a major factor in incarceration in the US. We do incarcerate thousands of people for drug crimes, and we do need to radically reform drug prohibition, but "ending the drug war" will have only a marginal impact.


> Contrary to popular perception, the drug war is not a major factor in incarceration in the US.

46.3% of federal prisoners (nearly 85,000) are imprisoned for drug offenses -- not quite an absolute majority, but nearly triple the next highest category (Weapons, Explosives, and Arson.) [0]

Fairly recently, it was only 17% for state prisons [1], which is still quite significant -- about 1 in 6.

But both of those understate the degree to which the drug war drives imprisonment, because drug crimes (which tend to have a shorter sentence than violent crimes) account for nearly 1/3 of prison admissions, despite accounting for a lower share of total prison population. [1]

[0] https://www.bop.gov/about/statistics/statistics_inmate_offen...

[1] http://www.brookings.edu/blogs/social-mobility-memos/posts/2...


Federal prison inmates make up less than 8% of all incarcerated persons in the US. The overwhelming majority of all prisoners in the US are in state prisons, and they aren't imprisoned for drug crimes. The Pfaff survey study shows that most of them haven't ever been imprisoned for a drug crime.


Nothing in your post contradicts, or even addresses, anything either in my post, or the point it responds to from upthread.

The contention upthread was that "Contrary to popular perception, the drug war is not a major factor in incarceration in the US."

Drug offenses alone (and the drug war produces, and includes imprisonment for, other, non-drug offenses) account for about 1/6 of the total prison population and 1/3 of total prison admissions (sources addressed in my previous post in this subthread.) Ending the drug war -- even if you consider only drug offenses, would eliminate a significant share of the total prison population, and a much larger share of total prison admissions.

The facts clearly show that, while drug offenses alone are not the majority of incarceration in the US (either by population or admissions), the Drug War is a very significant contributor to incarceration in the US.


The overwhelming majority --- almost 70% --- of the growth of incarceration from 1995 to 2013 comes from harsher prosecution of violent and property crimes. We should reform drug prohibition simply for humanitarian reasons, but we should not delude ourselves that the solution for police violence or violent crime will come from changing the rules about drugs.


> The overwhelming majority --- almost 70% --- of the growth of incarceration from 1995 to 2013 comes from harsher prosecution of violent and property crimes.

Which is an interesting factoid, but irrelevant to the issue of whether or not the drug war is a significant factor in incarceration. That 70% of the increase from 1995 to 2013 is from that source (which, while it isn't specific to drug offenses, overlaps, rather than being disjoint from, the drug war) is almost entirely irrelevant to the issue of whether the drug war is a significant in the overall level (whether stock or flow) of incarceration, which it is and remains. (Basically, the main change is longer sentencing, which means simply increases the "stock" contribution of violent/property crimes to incarceration, without doing much to the "flow".)

> but we should not delude ourselves that the solution for police violence or violent crime will come from changing the rules about drugs.

Since no one has suggested that the solution to either of those would come from that source alone, that -- while true -- would seem to be a complete strawman.


Sorry, I'm not interested in this discussion. If you disagree with anything I've said about disarming police officers, I'd be very interested in hearing about that.


That's an excellent point. Some percentage of the criminals who shoot at cops during traffic stops are doing so because they don't want to get caught with the drugs they are carrying.


Maybe when self driving cars are common, traffic officers will no longer be need.


> Disarm most police.

that's what leads to mumbai where 10 guys with guns hold an entire city hostage, killing 164, wounding another 300+.


Disarming most police still isn't disarming all police. The situation you describe is what SWAT teams are meant for.


Like in England?


What percent of the 1000 was engaged in criminal activity that endangered the officer or others? The raw ratio of deaths doesn't tell us much.


The number one thing that kill police in the US is suspects disarming them and using their own firearm against them.


Hrmm. FBI says:

Of the officers killed in 2014, most (46) were killed with firearms. Of these, 33 were killed with handguns. (A breakdown of the types of weapons used in these slayings is provided in Table 29.)

6 officers had their weapons stolen.



If the 1000 are all drug dealers defending their stash, it seems justified. In fact, I'd encourage that ratio to get as low as possible, so many many more drug dealers are killed than police.

If the 1000 are all innocent elderly grandmothers, I'd want the ratio as high as possible.

Everything in between depends on the makeup of those 1000 people. How many of those 1000 pulled a gun on the cop?


This sentiment is quite common: "I don't care if 'bad people' die. Fairly or unfairly, doesn't matter - they're bad people."

I would equate this to "I don't care about privacy because I have nothing to hide. Only bad people have things to hide, and if their privacy is taken away, so what, they're bad people."

If you can understand why privacy is a 'Good Thing', or better, a Human Right, then you should be able to comprehend why extrajudicial killings are a Bad Thing, or better, a violation of Human Rights.


There's a limit to how presumed innocent people can be. If all 1000 people were involved in a shootout and fired on the police first, then it's not unreasonable that they were killed.

If it makes you feel better, there are contexts where your right to privacy should be suspended too. If the police see you kidnap a child and put him in your underwear drawer, it seems like there should be a procedure for them to violate the privacy of your underwear drawer without needing to call a judge.

And if there were 10,000 privacy violations nationwide and all of them were well-documented emergency circumstances, I'd hesitate to even call it a problem(or at least, not a problem with the police's behavior; there's clearly a childnapping problem).


It's strawmen all the way down...

> If all 1000 people were involved in a shootout and fired on the police first...

These are quite specifically NOT the kinds of incidents at issue.

> there are contexts where your right to privacy should be suspended too.

Again, we're not talking about these specific contexts where evidence and investigation are thorough. We're talking about exposing biases when evidence and due process are either minimal or nonexistent.

> And if there were 10,000 privacy violations nationwide and all of them were well-documented emergency circumstances, I'd hesitate to even call it a problem.

Yes, of course. This is clearly not a problem because of "well-documented emergency circumstances." The original article is about revealing trends from circumstances that are very poorly documented, and rarely or selectively reported.


Innocent until proven guilty. Judge, jury and executioner in one.


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