A new study confirms that groups like Black Lives Matter and their critics both have some valid points, but…The study was published by the National Bureau of Economic Research, and explored racial differences in how police use force against different racial groups and examined over 1,000 shootings in ten major police departments in California, Florida, and Texas. The study’s author, Roland G. Fryer Jr., is the youngest African-American to receive tenure at Harvard.
As for the results: the study did confirm that force is applied differently among racial groups – but even that differed by the type of force applied.
When it comes to the likelihood of being touched, handcuffed, pushed to the ground, or pepper-sprayed by a police officer, black men and women are more likely than whites to suffer that kind of treatment in altercations with police that have similar circumstances. See the table below, for some of the data:
That’s the evidence of mistreatment the study found. But at the same time, the study did dispel the main talking point of groups like Black Lives Matter – that blacks are disproportionately killed by police.
The New York Times reported:
When it comes to the most lethal form of force — police shootings — the study finds no racial bias.“It is the most surprising result of my career,” said Fryer, the author of the study.
The result contradicts the mental image of police shootings that many Americans hold in the wake of the killings (some captured on video) of Michael Brown in Ferguson, Mo.; Laquan McDonald in Chicago; Tamir Rice in Cleveland; Walter Scott in South Carolina; Samuel DuBose in Cincinnati; Alton Sterling in Baton Rouge, La.; and Philando Castile in Minnesota.
The study did not say whether the most egregious examples — the kind of killings at the heart of the nation’s debate on police shootings — are free of racial bias. Instead, it examined a much larger pool of shootings, including nonfatal ones. It focused on what happens when police encounters occur, not how often they happen. (There’s a disproportionate number of tense interactions among blacks and the police when shootings could occur, and thus a disproportionate outcome for blacks.) Racial differences in how often police-civilian interactions occur have been shown reflect greater structural problems in society.
Take Houston as an example, where police are actually nearly 25 percent less likely to shoot blacks than whites.
So in summary, mistreatment of blacks is still a very real problem, but the narrative that they’re being gunned down in the streets by law enforcement couldn’t be more false. In fact, this study is hardly the first to come to this conclusion. A great series of commentary at Unbiased America (where I am a contributor) demonstrated that when you adjust for the different rates at which blacks and whites are involved in alternations with police, and rates in which the races commit violent crimes, whites are killed by police at a higher rate.
There is still progress to be made – but there is also still progress to be made in how the media reports the news.
[Note: This post was authored by Matt Palumbo. Follow him on Twitter @MattPalumbo12]