A dangerous myth propagated by the media that there is an epidemic of racially biased shootings of black people (primarily black men) in America, by the police. The false narrative claims that individual police officers, motivated by overt racism or implicit racial bias, are rampantly targeting black Americans. Some go further to allege these shootings are proof of “systemic racism” within American law enforcement. Nonstop broadcast of the anti-police message by radical activists, Hollywood celebrities, professional athletes, politicians, academics, and most mainstream media outlets have made this myth pervasive. The myth, and the powerful voices who perpetuate it, are rarely challenged — even by law enforcement leaders. The result has been fear, distrust, hatred of the police, and a breakdown of the rule of law.
Following the George Floyd shooting, Obama stoked the coals by tweeting that for millions of black Americans, being treated differently by the criminal justice system on account of race is “tragically, painfully, maddeningly ‘normal.’ ” Mr. Obama called on the police and the public to create a “new normal,” in which bigotry no longer “infects our institutions and our hearts.”
Joe Biden released a video the same day in which he asserted that all African-Americans fear for their safety from “bad police” and black children must be instructed to tolerate police abuse just so they can “make it home.” That echoed a claim Mr. Obama made after the ambush murder of five Dallas officers in July 2016. During their memorial service, the president said African-American parents were right to fear that their children may be killed by police officers whenever they go outside.
However, this destructive delusion has been completely demolished by a recent study that demonstrates there is no epidemic of racially biased police shootings of black people, that black citizens are not more likely to be shot by white officers, and that the shooting of unarmed people of any race is extraordinarily rare. In fact, an individual American citizen is substantially more likely to be struck by lightning than he is to be shot by the police while unarmed.
Cesario and Johnson’s study, finally, corrects a broader misconception the media has ingrained in the public imagination — the false impression that there are rampant shootings of unarmed black people by the police. Simply put, police shootings of unarmed citizens of any race are extraordinarily, vanishingly rare. Fewer than 1,200 people total are killed by police in a typical year, per major databases like www.killedbypolice.com. Moreover, of all citizens shot by police, 90% are armed with a weapon and between 90 and 95% are attacking the police or another citizen. However, sensational and selective media coverage has resulted in the wildly mistaken belief that unprovoked shootings of unarmed citizens are common events.
“If anything, black officers are more likely to shoot black citizens,” Dr. Joseph Cesario, co-author and professor of psychology at Michigan State University, wrote in the report. “But this is because black officers are drawn from the same population that they police. So, the more black citizens there are in a community, the more black police officers there are.”
The “systematic nationwide study” from MSU and University of Maryland — described as the first of its kind — debunks the commonly-held belief that white police officers unfairly target black and brown citizens in use of lethal force. A flurry of media reports over the span of a few years and the efforts of two major media outlets, the UK’s Guardian and the Washington Post, roiled both the nation and the political theater.
“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,” Dr. Cesario wrote.
The findings of the study are published in the Proceedings of the National Academy of Sciences (PNAS), incorporating data about every officer-involved shooting since 2015. Researchers collected the age, sex, race and experience level of each officer who was found to have shot a suspect.
“We found that the race of the officer doesn’t matter when it comes to predicting whether black or white citizens are shot,” Dr. Cesario said.
The study also found that diversifying police forces with members of certain minority communities has no effect on decreasing minority 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,” said Dr. Cesario. “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.”
The public treatment of law enforcement officers has deteriorated over the past couple of years with slogans like “Pigs in a blanket” and “fry ’em like bacon” becoming popularized in anti-police brutality protests.
Similar research in years past has echoed some of the findings found in Dr. Cesario’s report. A study from Harvard conducted back in 2016 showed that police may have gotten physical with minorities more often but were more likely to discharge their weapons “without provocation” at white suspects.
On Fox News, faux republican host Chris Wallace mentioned a handful of cases that he thought showed a racist pattern. He pointed to Ahmaud Arbery, a black man who was shot dead by a retired police officer in February while out jogging in Georgia. He also mentioned a recent disturbing incident in New York’s Central Park, where a Caucasian woman who was walking her dog called police to report that she was being threatened by “an African-American man.” The man simply told her that the law requires her to keep her dog on a leash.
The media’s coverage of police shootings has often had a negative bias toward law enforcement. A Caller analysis found that news outlets such as The New York Times and The Washington Post have buried the races of police officers when they are black or brown but highlight the race of officers when they are white. During the height of tensions regarding the Ferguson, Missouri shooting of Michael Brown, New York Times Public Editor, Margaret Sullivan had to apologize for defending the myth that the teen had held his hands up before he was shot by a police officer, as the “Hands up, don’t shoot” aspect of the story was revealed to be false.
Taking a moment to analyze the totality of police-citizen interactions further illustrates how extremely rare these incidents really are. There are, at minimum, 50 million police-citizen encounters in the USA annually. If multiple contacts with the same citizen or police interactions with multiple citizens (e.g., domestic disputes) are counted, the annual total might be as high as 150 to 200 million police-citizen encounters. In comparison, fatal police shootings of unarmed citizens who do not actively pose a direct threat — as a result of tragically mistaking a cell phone for a gun, poor decision-making or training, or criminal police misconduct — total about 50 per year. The odds of an unarmed American who does not pose a direct threat being shot by the police are fewer than one-in-a-million — again, less than your chances of being struck by lightning, or killed by bees or wasps.
Also, as every half-trained fighter knows, being “unarmed” is not always the same thing as “not being a deadly threat.” This was best shown by Attorney General Eric Holder’s Department of Justice (DOJ) investigation into the 2015 fatal police shooting of Michael Brown in Ferguson, Missouri. The DOJ report, widely ignored by the media, debunked false reports that Brown had been gunned down for no reason by police officer Darren Wilson, allegedly a trigger-happy racist cop. To the contrary, the investigation revealed the truth that Brown, a 6’4”, 292 pound 18-year-old who had just committed a robbery was shot after he attacked Officer Wilson and grabbed the officer’s gun.
However, many still mistakenly believe Brown was murdered by the police just as they mistakenly believe the story that Brown raised his hands and said, “Hands up, don’t shoot!” — another bogus claim exposed by Holder’s DOJ investigation. The effect of the media’s false take on Ferguson remains strong, and the enduring myth that Brown was the victim of a racist police shooting has been effectively used to undermine the people’s trust in the police. But that entire narrative was a lie.
Public safety and social order rely primarily upon citizens acting lawfully because they recognize their government as legitimate and see police as legitimate representatives of that government’s authority, worthy of respect and compliance. But the unending misinformation campaign that claims the police are racist killers has convinced many Americans that police authority is illegitimate. This dangerously mistaken belief erodes public trust in the police, undermines the rule of law, breeds hatred, and results in violence. After years of such erosion, it is not surprising to see police officers in New York City doused with water, officers in Philadelphia bombarded with bottles, or the Minneapolis police pelted with containers of warm human urine.
Such anti-police violence is just the tip of the potential iceberg. The worst consequence of the relentless and baseless media claims the police are racist killers — as politicians publicly compare the men and women of American law enforcement such as ICE officers to Nazis — is that deadly violence against the police becomes justified in some people’s minds. After all, we executed Nazis after Nuremberg, didn’t we? Why can we not legitimately kill “Nazis” now?
The demonization of the police grants moral permission to kill and is the mentality underlying an all-too-real “War on Cops,” which has seen 275 American police officers murdered in the line-of-duty since 2015 and fully 41 gunned down in 2019 alone. The ambush-style assassinations of 10 police officers in Dallas, Baton Rouge, and New York City, were directly motivated by this police-hating propaganda and ideology. Most media give scant coverage, if any, to murders of police officers.
To sum this up: anti-police media bias is unjustified. Hundreds of thousands of cops in the United States put their lives on the line to serve their fellow citizens and keep American communities safe, every day. Never in history has so much thought, effort, and resources been poured into recruiting police officers to better reflect the communities they serve, developing cutting-edge training for officers, and partnering officers positively with the public. Never have police been called upon to do so much and never have we done it so successfully, with such professionalism.
Police are people. While we strive for excellence, we are not perfect. But, we almost all do hold ourselves to the higher standard of conduct demanded by our position of authority and trust. Sometimes good police officers make mistakes. When they do, they should be held accountable and corrected. Sometimes bad police officers commit crimes. When they do, they should be prosecuted for their crimes, for betraying the public, and for dishonoring the badge that it should have been their privilege to wear. These are expectations that both the police and the communities we serve should, and mostly do, welcome and support.
What cannot be accepted, however, is the continued repetition of the lie that American policing as an institution is systemically racist, backed by the false claim that there is an epidemic of racially biased shootings of black Americans by the police. Professor Cesario was asked during a radio interview where he would advise Colin Kaepernick, and other celebrity protesters of alleged racial bias in police shootings of black men, to focus their influence and energy if they wanted to really reduce the number of deadly encounters. Cesario cut to the chase, “The number one way to reduce fatal (police) shootings of anybody — black, white, or Hispanic … is the reduction of crime. Not being involved in criminal activity is far and away the best way to not be shot by the police.”
We must speak truth to power. Cesario and Johnson performed a great service in demolishing the false and dangerous myth of racist police shootings. To restore public trust in the police and save lives, the truth must be brought to the American people.
Maurice Richards has been chief of the Martinsburg Police Department in West Virginia since 2015 after serving 24 years as an officer and lieutenant in the Chicago Police Department. Chief Richards holds a doctorate in Adult Education from Northern Illinois University.
Statistics reveal that “systemic racism” in policing simply does not exist. Here are seven stats from the DailyWire proving this point.
1. Police are more likely to shoot whites than blacks.
As The Daily Wire reported earlier on Monday, a recent Harvard study concluded that 1,332 police shootings over the 2000-2015 time frame reveal that blacks are actually 20 percent less likely to be shot at by police than whites, despite the fact that blacks and whites are just as likely to be carrying a weapon.
This is further confirmed by a study conducted by John Jay College of Criminal Justice assistant professor Peter Moskos, who determined that when the homicide rate is adjusted, “whites are 1.7 times more likely than blacks [to] die at the hands of police. 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.”
2. Police are also less likely to shoot at unarmed black suspects than unarmed white suspects.
This is according to a study conducted by Washington State University, which took 80 police officers–most of whom were white males–from the Spokane Police Department and put them in over 1,500 simulated scenarios “involving both armed and unarmed suspects who were both black and white.” The researchers concluded that the officers were three times less likely to fire at unarmed black men than unarmed white men.
Papaherakles came to his conclusion after examining FBI data from 2007-2012 as well as a Wall Street Journal report highlighting “hundreds of homicides by law enforcement agencies” that aren’t in the FBI’s database and compared it to the 7,440 blacks killed by other blacks in 2007:
The Journal analyzed “the latest data from 105 of the country’s largest police agencies,” and “found more than 550 police killings during those years were missing from the national tally or, in a few dozen cases, not attributed to the agency involved. The result: It is nearly impossible to determine how many people are killed by the police each year.”
Assuming this discrepancy is correct, the adjusted yearly death tally would rise to 492 police killings per year, bringing the number of blacks killed by white police officers per year in the U.S. to 105.
Putting these figures in perspective then, for every black killed by a white police officer in the U.S. every year, there are about 71 blacks killed by other blacks.
Worse, if you take—on average—9,252 black-on-black murders every year for the past 35 years, you arrive at a staggering 323,820 blacks killed by other blacks on America’s mean streets in just three-and-a-half short decades.
4. Blacks do get pulled over for traffic stops more often than whites, but that’s because blacks commit a disproportionate amount of traffic offenses.
As Heather Mac Donald writes in her book The War On Cops: How the New Attack On Law and Order Makes Everyone Less Safe, the Department of Justice tries to assert that racial bias in the Ferguson Police Department was inherent in the fact that blacks consisted of 85 percent of all traffic stops between 2012-2014, despite only being 67 percent of the city’s residents, while whites consisted of 15 percent of all traffic stops while being 29 percent of the city’s residents.
“Such figures are meaningless unless we know, just for starters, what the rate of traffic violations is among black and white drivers,” writes Mac Donald. “Though most criminologists are terrified of studying the matter, the research that has been done, in New Jersey and North Carolina, found that black drivers speed disproportionately. On the New Jersey turnpike, for example, black drivers studied in 2001 sped at twice the rate of white drivers (with speeding defined as traveling at 15 mph or more above the posted limit) and traveled at the most reckless levels of speed even more disproportionately.”
This is confirmed by a 2013 National Institute for Justice report that determined that three out of four blacks said they were pulled over for a “legitimate reason” and a National Highway Safety Administration report concluding that “blacks simply violated traffic laws at higher rates than whites.”
Additionally, the DoJ report found that blacks were more likely to be searched after a traffic stop than whites, as 11 percent of blacks stopped were searched as opposed to five percent of whites, but as MacDonald points out, blacks tend to have a “higher rate of outstanding warrants,” which explains the discrepancy.
5. Racial activists accuse stop-and-frisk of being racist, and yet the percentage of blacks stopped is actually underrepresented when compared to the percentage of blacks that commit crimes.
According to Mac Donald in a Wall Street Journal column, black persons comprised 55 percent of all of the New York City Police Department stops in 2012, even though 66 percent of violent criminals in the city are black as well as 78 percent of shooting suspects and 74 percent of shooting victims.
It is true that most stop-and-frisk subjects in New York City are minorities, but that’s because most crime in the city is committed in minority neighborhoods.
6. Blacks are not over-arrested and are actually “underrepresented in prison.”
Mac Donald writes in The War On Cops, “The statistics on the race of criminals as reported by the crime victims match the arrest data. As long ago as 1978, a study of robbery and aggravated assault in eight cities found parity between the race of assailants in victim reports and in arrests–a finding replicated many times, among a range of crimes.”
She also points out that criminologist Alfred Blumstein determined in 1993 that “blacks were significantly underrepresented in prison for homicide compared with their presence in the arrest data.”
7. By a margin of 50 percent to 46 percent, black voters support New York City’s “Broken Windows” policing, according to a Quinnipiac poll. Additionally, 61 percent of black voters support “‘summonses or make arrests’ in their neighborhood for quality-of-life offenses,” once again suggesting that there is no evidence of systemic racism in policing.
We have a crime problem in this country. We do not have a police problem. We have been talking about phantom police racism for the past three decades obsessively so as to turn our eyes away from the cultural breakdown… America does not want to confront the disfunction of the inner-city black community. here are some numbers, a much greater percentage of white and Hispanic homicide victims are killed by a cop than black homicide victims. 10% of all whites and Hispanics who die from homicide are killed by a cop compared to 3% of black homicide victims who are killed by a cop. Why? Because the number of black homicide victims each year is so huge that it dwarfs anything else. Blacks die of homicide at a rate 13 TIMES that of whites. The rate of police shootings for unarmed blacks, there were 18 unarmed blacks were killed last year were killed by police. Unarmed was defined very liberally to mean going after an officer’s gun or fleeing in a stolen car with a loaded handgun on the seat next to you. Those 18 unarmed blacks represent 0.2% of all blacks who died of homicide last year.