Bad policing, bad law, not 'bad apples,' behind disproportionate killing of black men

August 8, 2018, Rutgers University

Killings of unarmed black men by white police officers across the nation have garnered massive media attention in recent years, raising the question: Do white law enforcement officers target minority suspects?

An extensive, new national study from the School of Public Affairs and Administration (SPAA) at Rutgers University-Newark reveals some surprising answers. Analysis of every use of deadly force by police officers across the United States indicates that the killing of black suspects is a police problem, not a white police problem, and the killing of unarmed suspects of any race is extremely rare.

"There might be some bad apples in the police department, but white officers are no more likely to use lethal force against minorities than nonwhite officers," says Charles Menifield, lead author of the study and SPAA's dean. "Still, the killings are no less racist but will require a very different set of remedies if we are to change the culture and stop this from happening."

In the study, published on Wiley Online Library, Menifield; postdoctoral research associate Geiguen Shin; and Logan Strother, a visiting scholar in law and at Princeton University; and several graduate students created a database of all confirmed uses of deadly force by police in the U.S. in 2014 and 2015, the most recent years for which sufficient data were available.

They found that African Americans are killed by police more than twice as often as the general population. While only about 12 percent of the American population is black, 28 percent of people killed by police during this two-year period were black, according to the research, which also found that Latinos were killed slightly more than would be expected and white citizens less often.

The study also found that less than 1 percent of victims of police killings were unarmed. Across all racial groups, 65.3 percent of those killed possessed a firearm at the time of their death.

"The gun could be in their car, or on them, but it was there at the time they were killed," says Menifield. "This shouldn't be surprising because of the availability and ease of getting a gun in the United States."

High-profile killings of unarmed black men in the last few years—like that of 18-year-old Michael Brown in Ferguson, Missouri, in 2014, which gave rise to the Black Lives Matter movement—have led many to speculate that white police officers may target nonwhite suspects with lethal force, Menifield says.

The Rutgers-Newark research found, however, that white police officers actually kill black and other minority suspects at lower rates than would be expected if killings were randomly distributed among officers of all races.

The disproportionate killing of black men occurs, according to the researchers, because Institutional and organizational racism in police departments and the criminal justice system targets minority communities with policies—like stop and frisk and the war on drugs—that have more destructive effects.

"The question of the basic causes of racial disparities in police killings has profound real-world implications for policing a diverse society," Menifield says, suggesting that appropriate reforms for a fundamentally institutional problem would target racism in police department practices and criminal policy that result in over policing of minority populations.

"Today, we have politicians who are arguing for tougher stances on immigration," Menifield says. "These things have a way of trickling down to other things like tougher sentences on crime and policies that have a disparate impact on ."

Addressing the problem will not be easy. Menifield says the U.S. Department of Justice needs to enforce the Death in Custody Reporting Act of 2013 that requires police organizations to report data on police killings. This data will allow researchers to thoroughly investigate each case and determine if other variables are driving police behavior.

In addition, he says, need to bring in external reviewers to examine all of their institutional practices including hiring, promotions and training. The long?running racial discrepancies in the way that force is applied to suspects have significantly eroded trust between law enforcement and the public whom they serve, the researchers argue.

"There is definitely a problem when one race of people are being killed by at much higher rates than other populations," Menifield says. "This unfortunate state of affairs is unlikely to improve until fundamental changes in public policy and policing are undertaken."

Explore further: Police killings of unarmed black Americans affect mental health of black community

More information: Charles E. Menifield et al, Do White Law Enforcement Officers Target Minority Suspects?, Public Administration Review (2018). DOI: 10.1111/puar.12956

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JamesG
1.8 / 5 (5) Aug 08, 2018
"The disproportionate killing of black men occurs, according to the researchers, because Institutional and organizational racism in police departments and the criminal justice system targets minority communities with policies—like stop and frisk and the war on drugs—that have more destructive effects."

And what are police supposed to do? They need all the tools they can get to address the problem. They go into historically crime ridden areas expecting to face huge personal hazards. That's not racism. It's self defense. If it takes a war on drugs or stop and frisk to protect themselves, then they should have those tools and any others available to protect themselves. People who say the police are targeting minorities are making the problem worse. It gets people in those areas more angry and prone to use force. If you want to help, try helping to de-escalate situations, not make them worse.
Cusco
5 / 5 (1) Aug 09, 2018
They go into historically crime ridden areas expecting to face huge personal hazards.


Unfortunately that's not a realistic expectation. According to the Bureau of Labor Statistics being a police officer is not even in the top ten most dangerous jobs, either by injury rate or fatality rate (and 1/3 of police fatalities are car crashes). Perhaps if they accepted that their job is less hazardous than a construction laborer or taxi driver they wouldn't be so frightened.

Source: https://www.bls.g...0020.pdf
dudester
1 / 5 (2) Aug 09, 2018
"When the race of the offender was known, 53.5 percent were Black or African American, 43.9 percent were White, and 2.6 percent were of other races. The race was unknown for 5,574 offenders. (Based on Expanded Homicide Data Table 2.)" https://ucr.fbi.g...le-2.xls
So African Americans make up 13% of the total population but commit 53.5% of the total murders (when the race of the offender is known) and European Americans make up 70% of the total population (depending on how Hispanics self-categorize) yet commit only 43.9% of the total murders (when the race of the offender is known).
So that's a 28% share police killings in a group that commits 3 times the homicides (54%) as would be expected per capita (13%). Whites, who make up 45% of those killed by police, a slightly higher percent than their rate of actual homicide commission (43.9%), commit only 62% of the murders they should, all things being equal,
rrwillsj
1 / 5 (1) Aug 09, 2018
Three centuries of our 'Peculiar Institution' of African slaves raped by Brits and other European have rather muddled the whole race purity balderdash.

America is a violent teacher of bad behavior. Yet those claiming to be 'White' continue to violently react to any assertion of equal despicability by those claiming to be 'Black".

To paraphrase Samuel Clemens "The American Flag should consist of black and white stripes to honor our lineage of British convicts transported to America. And a Joly Roger skull & bones in the field, to honor our pirate ancestors."

White slavers sowed their wild oats among their slaves. And left a legacy of mutual fear and hate deeply impressed into the future generations of their victims.

American society defines "manliness" as abusing those weaker. Entitled to pillage and ravage those unable to defend themselves. Demanding obedience while denying the humanity of their victims. Showing charity to none and oppression for all who dissent.
barakn
1 / 5 (1) Aug 09, 2018
So African Americans make up 13% of the total population but commit 53.5% of the total murders (when the race of the offender is known) and European Americans make up 70% of the total population (depending on how Hispanics self-categorize) yet commit only 43.9% of the total murders (when the race of the offender is known). -dudester
Yes, that's how racists present the numbers when they are trying to spread fear, uncertainty, and doubt. In 2013, the following percentages of people (by race) didn't commit murder:
99.9898% (Black)
99.9977% (American Indian/Alaska Native)
99.9981% (Hispanic)
99.9986% (White)
99.9990% (Hawaiian/Pacific Islander)
99.9995% (Asian)
source: https://en.wikipe...d_States
You should approach any unknown person of any other race as if they are deserving of respect, because they - by overwhelming odds - are deserving of respect.
TheGhostofOtto1923
1 / 5 (2) Aug 09, 2018
"and the killing of unarmed suspects of any race is extremely rare"

-Its kind of hard to tell ever since the lying media has turned it into a political issue. And of course the term 'unarmed' is central to their lies.

Just one example, Michael Brown had reached into the officers car to try to get his gun when it went off, and was charging at him with the obvious intent of causing him harm, and refusing orders to stop, when the officer finally shot him in self-defense.

And he wouldnt have needed a weapon to do that.

And no, a cop doesnt need to let himself get hit or thrown to the ground to find out whether the thug is going to kill him or not.
TheGhostofOtto1923
1 / 5 (2) Aug 09, 2018
But the lying media used the issue for a year to foment RIOTS and police shootings before the truth finally came out, and the cop was fully exonerated. And they CONTINUE to use the term 'unarmed' even though it gives perps the idea that they can beat on cops and threaten them with bodily harm and not risk getting shot for it.

So how many people have been shot as a direct result of this media encouragement? And if survivors of these encounters were to testify that this reporter or that reporter gave them the impression that being unarmed was protection from getting shot, then shouldnt we be able to make these lying newspeople CULPABLE for the injury and/or death of these thugs?
dudester
1 / 5 (1) Aug 09, 2018
@barakn
So:
.1212% of blacks commit 53.5% of all homicides when the race of the offender is known.

and

.1129% of whites commit 43.9% of all homicides when the race of the offender is known.

"According to Fatal Encounters, the database created by former Reno News & Review editor and journalism instructor Burghart (which tracks all deaths resulting from interactions with police), a total of 1,388 people were killed by police in 2015, 318 (23%) of them black, and 560 (40%) of them white. So roughly 23 percent of those killed by any police interaction in 2015 were black and just over 40 percent were white. According to those statistics (adjusted for racial demographics), black people had a 2.7 higher likelihood of being killed by police than whites." https://www.snope...-people/

(cont.)
TheGhostofOtto1923
1 / 5 (2) Aug 09, 2018
You should approach any unknown person of any other race as if they are deserving of respect, because they - by overwhelming odds - are deserving of respect
So even if that cop had initially disrespected Michael Brown, did that give him the right to reach into his car and grab his gun? Or to beat him to death as he quite possibly intended to do?

How about trayvon martin? Did he have the RIGHT to beat george zimmermans head into the concrete because george had disrespected him?

Obviously, respect has no place in the discussion and understanding of these encounters. And anyone who implies that it does, is PART of the problem.
dudester
1 / 5 (1) Aug 09, 2018
Therefore, blacks (in general), while making up only 13 per hundred of the general population commit over 410%, proportionally, the number of homicides relative to their percentage of the population (53.5/13), while whites (in general-- I'll reduce their percentage of the population from 70 to 62% which is the most conservative number) commit only .70% of what should be expected (62/43.5), all things being equal.

If numbers shot by police were adjusted according to percent commission of homicide by race, 53.5% would be black and 43.9% would be white. Whether one uses the number from this article-- 28%-- or the number provided in the Snopes article I excerpt above-- 23%-- numbers of blacks shot by police are still lower overall (318 to 560) than whites, but more importantly while whites are shot by police at a negligibly lower rate in comparison to their commission of homicide (40% to 43%), blacks are shot by police at a quite distinctly lower rate (28% or 23% to 411%).

(cont.)
dudester
1 / 5 (1) Aug 09, 2018
Just this past weekend in one city-- Chicago-- there were 72 shootings and 12 homicides.
https://www.nbcch...631.html

Now, I don't dispute that small numbers of black people, overall, are committing these murders, just as small numbers of white people are:
"Mr. Cediel said that in his home city of Oakland, Calif., with 420,000 people, "between 250 and 350 people are responsible for a majority of the shootings." And at any moment only about 50 to 100 are responsible — depending on which disputes and grievances are running hot."
https://www.nytim...nce.html

(cont.)
dudester
1 / 5 (1) Aug 09, 2018
What I do dispute is that police officers, many of whom have families to go home to at night, and have the same basic human rights to life and self-defence that all human beings do, can be expected, as you suggest, to reject their everyday experience on the streets where they see blacks (albeit a relatively small percentage of a relatively small percentage) committing so much gun violence (remember, all these numbers I've used except for the ones from the Chicago article above deal only with actual homicides, not shootings in general which often result in crippling injuries and lifelong disabilities) and use their weapons only after weapons have been used against them. Real life is not like the movies and TV. You cannot shoot someone in the shoulder or the leg and expect them to be rendered harmless and give up their weapon, if they have one.

As the article says:

"Across all racial groups, 65.3 percent of those killed possessed a firearm at the time of their death."

(cont.)
dudester
1 / 5 (1) Aug 09, 2018
There are myriad problems involved in these questions. There are bad police to be sure, many are racist, as are many in the civilian population. I don't know what the alternative to having a police force would be but if you expect human beings to walk through dangerous areas, where they see shootings occur every day, and confiscate numerous illegal weapons, and override their primate hard-wiring such that they will give everyone, regardless of context, the benefit of the doubt and wait until they are attacked and/or killed before taking defensive action, then we will have to find some alternative to human policing going forward.
rhugh1066
1 / 5 (1) Aug 09, 2018
You can't repair or replace a poisonous culture with increased police oversight. Police killings of armed black men is a symptom, it's not the disease.

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