White police officers are not more likely to shoot minorities

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Reports of racially motivated, fatal shootings by police officers have garnered extensive public attention and sparked activism across the nation. New research from Michigan State University and University of Maryland reveals findings that flip many of these reports on their heads—white police officers are not more likely to shoot minorities citizens than non-white officers.

"Until now, there's never been a systematic, nationwide study to determine the characteristics of police involved in fatal officer-involved shootings," said Joseph Cesario, co-author and professor of psychology at MSU. "There are so many examples of people saying that when black citizens are shot by police, it's white officers shooting them. In fact, our findings show no support for the idea that white officers are biased in shooting black citizens."

The findings—published in Proceedings of the National Academy of Sciences, or PNAS - are based on an independent database Cesario and his team created that catalogued each police shooting from 2015. The team—led also by co-author David Johnson from University of Maryland—contacted every police department that had a fatal police shooting to get the race, sex and years of experience for every officer involved in each incident. The team also leveraged data from police databases by The Washington Post and The Guardian.

"We found that the race of the officer doesn't matter when it comes to predicting whether black or white citizens are shot," Cesario said. "If anything, black officers are more likely to shoot black citizens, but this is because black officers are drawn from the same population that they police. So, the more black citizens in a community, the more black police officers there are."

The data show that it's not racial bias on behalf of white officers relative to black officers when it comes to fatal shootings, and that's good news. The bad news, Cesario said, are that internal policy changes, such as diversifying police forces, may not reduce shootings of minority citizens.

Beyond officer race, the team drew other conclusions about details related to racial disparities in fatal officer shootings.

"Many people ask whether black or white citizens are more likely to be shot and why. We found that crime rates are the driving force behind fatal shootings," Cesario said. "Our data show that the rate of crime by each racial group predicts the likelihood of citizens from that racial group being shot. If you live in a county that has a lot of white people committing crimes, white people are more likely to be shot. If you live in a county that has a lot of black people committing crimes, black people are more likely to be shot. It is the best predictor we have of fatal police shootings."

By connecting the findings of police officer race, victim race and , the research suggests that the best way to understand police shootings isn't of the police officer; rather, by the exposure to through crime.

The vast majority—between 90% and 95% - of the civilians shot by officers were actively attacking police or other citizens when they were shot. Ninety percent also were armed with a weapon when they were shot. The horrific cases of accidental shootings, like mistaking a cell phone for a gun, are rare, Cesario said.

"We hear about the really horrendous and tragic cases of police shootings for a reason: they're awful cases, they have major implications for police-community relations and so they should get attention," Cesario said. "But, this ends up skewing perceptions about police shootings and leads people to believe that all fatal shootings are similar to the ones we hear about. That's just not the case."

One thing that was surprising to the researchers, Cesario said, were the number of mental health cases that resulted in fatal officer shootings.

"It was truly striking and we didn't recognize just how many there were," he said. "This shows how underappreciated mental health is in the national discussion of fatal officer shootings."

Nearly 50% of all fatal shootings involving white civilians were because of mental health; it also accounted for nearly 20% of black civilians and 30% of Hispanics. These included two types of mental health cases: the first was "suicide by cop," in which civilians intentionally antagonize the police because they want an officer to kill themselves; the second was a result of mental disorders, such as when a civilian is suffering from schizophrenia and poses a threat to officers.

Although white officers are not more likely than black officers to shoot black citizens when looking at all fatal shootings, the data are too uncertain to draw firm conclusions once different subtypes of shootings, such as shootings of unarmed citizens, are examined. This is because these types of shootings are too rare for strong conclusions to be drawn.

Cesario said that better record keeping—such as the FBI's National Use-of-Force Data Collection, which launched in 2019—will enable researchers to understand shootings in finer detail.


Explore further

Team finds police shooting racial disparities reflect segregation

More information: David J. Johnson el al., "Officer characteristics and racial disparities in fatal officer-involved shootings," PNAS (2019). www.pnas.org/cgi/doi/10.1073/pnas.1903856116
Citation: White police officers are not more likely to shoot minorities (2019, July 22) retrieved 21 September 2019 from https://phys.org/news/2019-07-white-police-officers-minorities.html
This document is subject to copyright. Apart from any fair dealing for the purpose of private study or research, no part may be reproduced without the written permission. The content is provided for information purposes only.
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Jul 22, 2019
'catalogued each police shooting from 2015'

Why only go back to 2015? Are they data constrained or just didn't want to find out? Well, it is behind a pay wall and probably not worth $10 to read.

Jul 22, 2019
Gee, so did they find out how many black people got shot vs. white people?

Just askin'.

Jul 22, 2019
Gee, so did they find out how many black people got shot vs. white people?

Just askin'.


police reports, how else.

Jul 22, 2019
The heck with scientific studies and to hell with facts. We know the politically correct answer, so this article is DEAD wrong.
Just thinking the article is right makes you a racist, regardless of the truth of the article.

Jul 22, 2019
"Reports of racially motivated, fatal shootings by police officers have garnered extensive public attention and sparked activism across the nation."

-No, theyve been used to generate a false narrative by the liberal media for entirely political purposes, starting with trayvon martin.

"New research from Michigan State University and University of Maryland reveals findings that flip many of these reports on their heads"

-And will the liberal media ever report these findings? Of course not.
Gee, so did they find out how many black people got shot vs. white people?
Well scheide, we already know blacks commit far more violent crimes proportionately, which is why theyre getting shot more.
Just askin'
No youre not. If you were genuinely curious youd already know these things. But you arent and dont care to find out.

Jul 22, 2019
Cops unfortunately join the cop bros. It's a toxic culture. It has nothing to do with the race of the cops, only the race of the people who get shot.

Jul 22, 2019
In related news

"A contentious, yearslong debate inside the Justice Department over whether to bring federal civil rights charges against an officer in the [chokehold] death of Eric Garner ended on Tuesday after Attorney General William P. Barr ordered that the case be dropped."

In related news

"Georgia Democrat Erica Thomas claims a "white man" told her to "go back to where I came from"... [but turns out] The guy is a Cuban Democrat and he says that he didn't say that and that she is doing this for political gain... Sparkes insists that he is not racist and that he cannot abide bigotry and racism, having experienced it himself as a boy whose grandmother could not speak English... Erica Thomas is now walking about her claim that she was told to "go back to your country."

Jul 22, 2019
In related news

"A corrupt judge had to be dragged out of a courtroom by police to beginn her prison sentence. Juvenile judge Tracie Hunter began her six months jail sentence Monday for illegally giving her brother, a former government employee, confidential records to help him keep his job... In 2010, Tracie Hunter became the first African American elected to Hamilton County's Juvenile Court. She has asserted that her conviction was politically motivated." -Yeah just like Kwame Kilpatrick.

-Hey its only tribalism. Theyre not really crimes are they?
It has nothing to do with the race of the cops, only the race of the people who get shot
Typical bigot tribalist dint even read the article... already knows the facts.

Jul 22, 2019
in related news

"On March 4, the U.S. Department of Justice announced Wilson would not be charged in the shooting. Its report said "[t]here is no evidence upon which prosecutors can rely to disprove Wilson's stated subjective belief that he feared for his safety," and that accounts that [Michael] Brown put his hands up are "inaccurate because they are inconsistent with the physical and forensic evidence".

Jul 22, 2019
In related news

"the Cook County inspector general's office is conducting its own investigation over why Foxx's office dropped all charges against Smollett at an unannounced court hearing in late March. That controversial move came less than three weeks after the Empire actor was charged with 16 felony counts related to making a false police report for allegedly staging the hate-crime attack."

-and on and on and on. Lie after lie after lie, every single day.

Jul 22, 2019
Good thing I have all these racist trolls on ignore or I'd have to read their white supremacist bullshit.

Jul 22, 2019
Good thing I have all these racist trolls on ignore or I'd have to read their white supremacist bullshit.


You should skip the article completely then, truth is white supremacist and racist these days.

Jul 22, 2019
"white police officers are not more likely to shoot minorities citizens than non-white officers."

"There is no support for the idea that white officers are biased in shooting black citizens."

...but those are 2 entirely different claims. You can't conclude one from the other.

For example, if (hypothetically) both white and non-white officers are 100% likely to shoot every single minority citizen they ever see, then "white police officers are not more likely to shoot minorities citizens than non-white officers" would indeed be true, but "there is no support for the idea that white officers are biased in shooting black citizens" would indeed still be false.

Jul 22, 2019
Not usually in PNAS, @Puzzled. Trump must have appointed someone over there.

Gee, is that like the Russians offering fake authorship of articles in the scholarly journals?

Jul 22, 2019
@TheGhostofOtto1923, what's with all the anecdotes? What good are they? They don't lead to a statistical understanding of issues at large.

You realize you're on a science website, right?

Jul 22, 2019
well, otto don't do science
he's made it clear for years that he prefers made-up steershit

deer otto, since you have decided that all them bucks are after your tender ass in a rampage of melanin-driven crime spree

please explain the genetic contribution to sexual frenzy your swishing ass inflaming others?
from three centuries of institutionalized rape against colored women & children, severely diluting their African lineage with overwhelming British & European heritage of white male entitlement&privilege with today's version of the Sacred Peculiar Institution

weren't whites suppose to be the superior, dominating per the dogmatic, pseudo-science of eugenics?
So all those centuries of white rapists have produced black rapists?
that's the best you can do for can excuse?
basically otto you are exposing yourself as a coward

a small-minded blinkered mirror view is an excuse for your knee-jerk fear of the not-you
it's a big, interesting world of people out here, otto

Jul 22, 2019
rr... I think you're a fool for not capitalizing the beginning of sentences and lack of period marks, as some defiance of western civilization I can only suppose.

Jul 22, 2019
This comment has been removed by a moderator.

Jul 22, 2019
DS, you respond with a question about black versus white people being shot, as if it is a monochromatic world. Keep in mind the continued existence of native peoples and the abnormally high rate of incarceration of native people compared to whites and others.

Jul 22, 2019
Yeah, I'll have to give you that one, @TrollBane. It's a shame we here in the US don't have the courage to admit it, like the Brits did with the £50 note and Turing. You know what happened to Turing, right?

I know the stories of the native Americans. I have to say that many of them are still alive in the US and aren't in Central and South America. Hopefully we get smarter. And better.

Jul 22, 2019
why don't cops shoot a lot of East Indians or Chinese? They've visible minorities. Oh yeah. Those minorities DON'T commit a huge number of CRIMES.

Jul 23, 2019
TheGhostofOtto1923, what's with all the anecdotes? What good are they? They don't lead to a statistical understanding of issues at large.

You realize you're on a science website, right?
So you want statistical evidence that lib news sources are biased then?

"Researchers from Arizona State University and Texas A&M University questioned 462 financial journalists around the country. They followed up with 18 additional interviews. The journalists worked for the Wall Street Journal, the New York Times, Washington Post, Associated Press and a number of other newspapers... a mere 0.46% of financial journalists called themselves "very conservative," while just 3.94% said they were "somewhat conservative." That's a whopping 4.4% of the total that lean right-of-center.

That's a ratio of 13 "liberals" for every one "conservative.""

-Of course that doesn't mean their actual reporting is biased. Or does it?
Cont>

Jul 23, 2019
Dependable statistics on media bias is very hard to come by. Many purported objective attempts are by liberal academies and news organizations, and are obviously biased. Take this chart for instance:
https://www.adfontesmedia.com/

-It places extremely biased sources like politico, wapo, and CNN in neutral, unbiased, fact-finding territory which, if anyone spends any time at all comparing their output with the facts, is nonsense. Just dig up their reporting on the few examples I've given above.

And it places fox in the 'unfair persuasion, hyper-partisan' region which is also nonsense. Fox routinely reports facts which make the real stories behind the smollett, garner, brown, or hunter cases clear, from the beginning.

The only way you can see this is by instantiation, not statistics. You've got to look at each case to see the bias. See if you can make your way through this:
https://www.realc...dia.html

Jul 23, 2019
Wow, I feel much better now knowing I am just as likely to be shot by a back officer as I am by a while officer.
This is like saying "German Nazi's are not more likely to gas Jews than other Nazi's."
(Someone does not get the point.)

Jul 29, 2019
I saw a Discovery Channel program for some years ago. They presented a study or experiment. Both black people and white people opened fire faster when the confronted threat was a black person. What happens here might be due to internalized psychological dispositions and/or a reaction to what is interpreted as a bigger danger. Both Caucasians and black people judge blacks as more dangerous than Caucasians.

Aug 02, 2019
You'll find the classic/boring 2 types of comments: the one who think the study is accurate because it conforts their opinion, and the one who dislike it because it bother their opinion.
Despite their conflict, these two are deeply similar: they aren't equiped to understand the science.

They haven't reach enlightement that occurs 350 year ago.
Fascinating.

Aug 02, 2019
Why only go back to 2015? Are they data constrained or just didn't want to find out? Well, it is behind a pay wall and probably not worth $10 to read.
@Tekram

https://www.resea...ings.pdf

or
https://www.pnas....full.pdf

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