Constitutional Vanguard: Rebutting the Claim that Black People Are Disproportionately Shot by Police
We’re told that we must say “Black Lives Matter” and not “All Lives Matter” because black people are the ones who have the problem with being shot by police. Statistics do seem to show that they are fatally shot in numbers disproportionate to their percentages of the population. But do those numbers truly reflect the threat they pose to police officers, which in turn explains the percentage who are fatally shot?
The answer, it turns out, is no. This is what Big Media has not been telling you:
What if I told you that roughly 34% of unarmed victims of fatal police shootings are black — but 37% of known killers of police are black? Wouldn’t you conclude that police officers are killing unarmed black folks at a slightly lower rate than is justified by the actual threat black people are posing to police officers?
I think you would.
And, as you may have guessed, that is the reality in which we live . . . as I am about to show you.
This is the magnum opus I have been working on for some time. Don’t let the length fool you: it’s 3,374 words, but only about 2,000 of that is the main piece. The last 1,300-1,400 words are the mathematical breakdown of the statistics, both for the benefit of obsessives, and to allow people to check my work.
Which I hope you do, because I want to make sure I have this right. Because I plan to refer to it often in the future. To me, this is the Great Untold Story of why so many black people seem to be shot by police.
Soon, I will finish my work for paid subscribers on the analyses of 2019 police shootings of unarmed suspects, and perhaps discuss all this in a podcast.
Patterico canceled in 3 . . . 2 . . . 1 . . .Patterico (e349ce) — 5/27/2021 @ 1:11 pm
The argument that some might make here is that police have different expectations in different situations. LAPD in Brentwood are not quite as head-on-a-swivel as they are in Lynwood. So I played a bit with the hypothesis (rough equality of cop killers and those killed by cops). A thought experiment that, I think, makes the case a bit better.
First, assume that if the police were a little bit more on their toes while interacting with category X,, you would have fewer cops killed by category X and more category X shot by police (presumably some erstwhile cop killers). And the converse is also true — less on-the-ball police when dealing with a given group, might be killed at a greater rate, while killing fewer.
If their attentiveness and/or readiness to shoot differed among groups, you would find that different postures resulting in skewing of the numbers.
The only case where these statistics might remain even is if they were as attentive, and reacted more-or-less equally, with all groups. That way, even if fewer (or more) police are killed, and if more (or fewer) civilians are killed, the group statistics would rise and fall in lockstep.
What will happen of course, is that we will have police reforms, where police are especially cautious about deadly force with Blacks or Hispanics. The inevitable conclusion will be that police deaths at the hands of those groups will rise to be significantly higher than police killings of people in those same groups. This will be called progress.Kevin M (ab1c11) — 5/27/2021 @ 2:27 pm
BTW, thank you for this. I had assumed different postures with different groups and this pretty much shows that is not so, in part due to the perturbation argument above.Kevin M (ab1c11) — 5/27/2021 @ 2:30 pm
Most republicans believe that trump won the election and will punish any republican who doesn’t for being a heretic. Same with democrats on this issue. Both partys are now controlled by their base.asset (6d34a2) — 5/27/2021 @ 2:55 pm
Canceled is not a thing that will happen; looking at data skeptically is valuable and important, but I feel some pushback is warranted.
I haven’t checked but I believe your numbers. That said (and correct me if this isn’t what you mean to imply) the argument that because 37% of armed cop killers are black, we should accept that 34% of unarmed police killings should be black is problematic. Those 37% and 34% are for the most part not at all the same people.
It feels like “Black lives don’t matter”.nate (1f1d55) — 5/27/2021 @ 3:11 pm
The only possible opening for attack I can see concerns the “known killer” designation. What is required for a cop-killer to be “known”? Since this is official data, the presumption of innocence might mean a conviction is required (or death in the act).
If conviction. or even prosecution, is required to be designated a known killer, it creates the possibility of disparity between groups due any number of reasons – some involving bias, and others not – in your “control variable”. Such disparities could mask or distort the ones you’re trying to investigate.
The potential problem is less serious if the fraction of police whose killers remain unknown is small.Dave (1542be) — 5/27/2021 @ 3:40 pm
Patterico, having read the piece through, I feel unconvinced regarding a few different aspects. I’d welcome if you were others can help me out here.
First of all, what percentage of known police killers are considered “unarmed”?
I’m asking because that percentage would seem to represent the actual threat unarmed people pose to the police. I suspect, though I’m willing to be shown otherwise, that most killers of police were armed, not unarmed. If true, it would not make sense to compare the percentage of unarmed victims of police shootings with the percentage of (presumably armed) known police killers, as these represent entirely different groups.
Ah, I should have read nate above before typing all that (#5). He’s much more concise. I have the same issue.
Another question I have, and pardon my ignorance, is: what is the criteria by which police ascertain if someone poses a “deadly threat”? Does it vary from place to place? How objective is it? Based on the preponderance of officers who have gotten off on a “I feared for my life” defense, it seems that there may be quite a bit of subjectivity as to what constitutes a perceived “deadly threat.” Is it possible that implicit racial bias could play a role in what or who is perceived to be a “deadly threat” and thus be met with lethal force?
Finally, this data really does seem to beg the question, what is it about unarmed black people that signals to police that they pose a deadly threat? Is it a reality of actual, known threat posed by unarmed black people? If not, then what accounts for that 37%?TR (9bed35) — 5/27/2021 @ 3:59 pm
One way the police could accept the coming reforms, but not have more police die as a result, would be to shoot more white people and satisfy the “bias” metric that way.Kevin M (ab1c11) — 5/27/2021 @ 4:04 pm
The problem in America is as stark as black type on white paper and clear as Reykjavik tap water:
‘Iceland is Ranked the 1st Safest Country in the World. If you want to feel especially safe then there is considerable proof that Iceland takes the top crown. With a small population of just over 300,000 the country doesn’t even have an army and it has one of the lowest murder rates in the world.’
‘In Iceland all hand guns are banned, you have to be 20 years old to be able to buy and use a riffle or shotgun, each year you have to enter a lottery that determines if you get a hunting permit that year. Icelanders mainly hunt for reindeer and ptarmigan (a type of bird).’
‘Iceland’s population is fairly young for such a developed country. The median age in Iceland is 36.5 years of age, with a total life expectancy of 83.1 years of age. Iceland is also rare in that it is one of the few European nations with a fertility rate well above the replacement rate at 2.1 children born per woman.
The ethnic composition of Iceland today is 93% Icelandic. The largest ethnic minority is Polish at 3% of the population. There are about 8,000 Poles on the island, accounting for 75% of the workforce in Fjarðabyggð. More than 13% of the population was born abroad while 6% hold foreign citizenship. There is also significant Icelandic diaspora with 88,000 people of Icelandic descent in Canada and more than 40,000 in the United States.’
-https://worldpopulationreview.com/countries/iceland-populationDCSCA (f4c5e5) — 5/27/2021 @ 4:22 pm
Iceland: “And the meek shall inherit the dark cold inhospitable places of the Earth.”Kevin M (ab1c11) — 5/27/2021 @ 4:44 pm
Can I first ask if you read the piece or if you are just reacting to the quote above?
Of course these are not the same people, for the most part … but they are drawn from the same group: people posing a deadly threat to police. Some of those kill, and some get killed. And as I say in the piece, “unarmed” but not mean “does not pose a deadly threat.”
Look at it this way. Imagine an analysis of whether a particular group a) makes more money from robberies and/or b) is arrested more for robberies. If a particular group (like males, for example) commits more robberies on the whole, that group will both as a whole a) make more money from robberies and b) be arrested for them more. This is true even if the particular people being arrested are not the ones making more money. They are not “the same people” but they are two types of people drawn from the same group: those who commit robberies.
Similarly, those who kill cops and those who are killed by cops are not the same people but for the most part they are drawn from the same group: people who pose a deadly threat to cops.Patterico (e349ce) — 5/27/2021 @ 6:23 pm
“what is it about unarmed black people that signals to police that they pose a deadly threat?”
The answer is that black male stats say they are possibly armed and if so, have been not been shy about shooting. If 1/3 of the shootings of police are done by blacks at 13% of population, that’d be reason enough to be more aware around black people.steveg (ebe7c1) — 5/27/2021 @ 6:40 pm
Then add gun violence stats into the mix. Blacks engage in gun violence disproportionally. That alone would be reason for a heightend awareness.
Black felons in illegal possession of a firearm stas are in proportion to their violent crimes and incarceration stats which are again above average.
That’s a good question and I will search the data to see if there is an answer.
I’m confident they are, just as most people shot by police are armed. Looking at the WaPo database, armed police victim shooting victims resulting in fatalities outnumber armed by a factor of more than 15 to 1.
Well, since most victims are armed, the percentages are likely to be roughly the same as those for the category I discussed in the piece: “all victims” (which includes armed, unarmed, and unknown). So I would say about 24% for black people. But don’t take my word for it! Let’s run some numbers.
The numbers have changed a bit since I drafted the piece a few days ago. (The database is constantly updated and the numbers are thus a bit of a moving target.) Today, total shooting victims are 6317. “Unarmed” are 403. “Unknown if armed” are 176. So what percentage of all armed fatal shooting victims are black? Well, all armed fatal shooting victims are 6317 minus 403 minus 176, or 5738. 1512 is the total number of black shooting victims, of which 136 were unarmed and 28 unknown — so “total armed” for black people is 1512 minus 136 minus 28 = 1348. 1348/5738 = 24%. This is what I just said you should expect! Remember: I said in the piece that blacks are about 24% of the total victims, and since total armed victims outnumber unarmed by more than 15 to 1, the total percentage for armed will closely resemble that of the total percentage.
So in the end, you have 24% of armed black victims of fatal shootings are black, compared to percentage of known cop killers who are black: 37%. My argument stands. Your point is interesting, but it doesn’t change the conclusion at all.
The point of my piece is that it certainly is a reality. I say this for several reasons. First, the percentages all line up, as I argue in the piece. Second, if you subscribe to the paid version of the newsletter and read my summaries of shootings of “unarmed” black people from 2019, you’ll see a lot of them pose a clear deadly threat. There are videos. There is a lot of evidence on this.
As for what constitutes a deadly threat, it comes down to what prosecutors, judges, and ultimately juries think. There is no cookie cutter way to make it simple; every case is different, but the standard is the same. The seminal case, Graham v. Connor, said that any such analysis is fact-dependent and different from case to case. It “requires careful attention to the facts and circumstances of each particular case, including the severity of the crime at issue, whether the suspect poses an immediate threat to the safety of the officers or others, and whether he is actively resisting arrest or attempting to evade arrest by flight.” The court also held that the “reasonableness of a particular use of force must be judged from the perspective of a reasonable officer on the scene, and its calculus must embody an allowance for the fact that police officers are often forced to make split-second decisions about the amount of force necessary in a particular situation.”Patterico (e349ce) — 5/27/2021 @ 6:54 pm
I did read the piece, although, again, I didn’t look closely at the stats aside from the ones presented in the first half because I trust your general fairness when it comes to things like that (errors are of course possible for anyone, but looking for them seems besides the point).
What I think I reject is that “black people” should not be viewed as a single group when it comes to “threat to police.” Specifically, if unarmed black people being placed in the same group as “black people who have killed police” what we have is… racial bias, and is exactly what black people are complaining about.
I think your new analogy misses the mark also. People who make money from robbing banks were robbing banks, and people who are arrested for robbing banks were also robbing banks; both come from the narrow pool of people who are robbing banks, whether or not they share unimportant similar characteristics like being male. Unarmed people who are are killed by police are, as far as I know, generally not in the process of killing police, and are rarely even a threat to police, and so lumping them into the same narrow pool for the purposes of threat-assessment as people who killed police. Again, UNLESS you are willing to say that all black people should be considered more threatening than all white people, at which point… you agree that what non-violent black people fear police view them as not only is the reality, but should be the reality.
If we want your new analogy to be comparable I suggest we change it (and I think you would agree to this change, as you can still make the same point?) that we would expect the number of men wrongly imprisoned for robbing banks to be 5 times higher than the number of women wrongly imprisoned for robbing banks if males rob banks at 5 times the rate women do (thankfully we can ignore percentages here because men and women are around equal percentages of the population). I *think* you and I would agree that if the justice system is wrongly imprisoning people that’s not good and maybe we disagree slightly about how frequent such things happen in a trying-to-be-just but imperfect system (just as we agree mistakes in killing unarmed people is not good, and maybe disagree about how often they should happen in our non-ideal world). But I would claim that a justice system that wrongly incarcerates men for robbery more often than women very well might exist, but if that’s the case we should look to figure out why innocent men are being put away more than innocent women. Fitting the description of a being in the same generic group shouldn’t be enough to incarcerate someone, and if it is, it might be worth evaluating how we are putting people away. And again, this may be happening now due to anti-male bias in the legal system.
But if it gets to the point where men are avoiding going into banks because they are worried about being wrongly imprisoned, and raising their sons not to go into banks for fear of being wrongly put in jail, “well, men should be falsely imprisoned more because other men rob more banks… what else would you expect?” wouldn’t go over very well.nate_w (1f1d55) — 5/27/2021 @ 7:03 pm
I feel that it, the “it”, is not about numbers. It is about feels.
Solicitousness. Deference. From the police to the people and from the people to the police.
Which people in which communities do the police view as a potentially criminal underclass and which as the salt of the Earth who pay their salaries? And which people in which communities see themselves as viewed in those respective ways by the police?nk (1d9030) — 5/27/2021 @ 7:09 pm
From 14: “Second, if you subscribe to the paid version of the newsletter and read my summaries of shootings of “unarmed” black people from 2019, you’ll see a lot of them pose a clear deadly threat.”
This actually changes my viewpoint somewhat. If unarmed black people are in fact part of the more narrow pool of “people who were a deadly threat to police” that changes things for me.
I read the ones that you posted here, but without the greater context I very may well be wrong about what actual threat level unarmed police-shooting victims pose.nate_w (1f1d55) — 5/27/2021 @ 7:10 pm
In my comment at 7:10 I referred to your comment as “at 14”. I must have made a mistake: what I was quoting from came at 13. I guess I should use time stamps instead of comment numbers anyway.nate (1f1d55) — 5/27/2021 @ 7:33 pm
Thsnk you for doing this, Patterico. I look forward to reading the Vanguard post, and this post and the comments here. Related thoughts about Texas police numbers here.DRJ (03cb91) — 5/27/2021 @ 7:43 pm
Yeah, I think a lot of the confusion in the discussion over “shootings of unarmed people” stems from the assumption that “unarmed” means “posed no threat.” That is decidedly not the case. The paid subscribers have already seen that very clearly.
For what it’s worth, I’m not looking to deny my analysis for the paid subscribers to people who want to read it but sincerely can’t afford it. I remember Gawain’s Ghost making such a comment at one point, and I tried to email that commenter to discuss the situation but was unable to get through. This is similar to Sam Harris’s approach: if you want access to the paid content but you truly cannot afford it due to circumstances beyond your control, email me and I’ll work it out for you. I don’t want to trivialize the investment that the paid subscribers make, which I appreciate it and which I find inspirational, but I also don’t want to deny the content to truly interested people who want to read it but simply can’t afford it. If that’s you, send me an email and we’ll talk.Patterico (e349ce) — 5/27/2021 @ 7:55 pm
Unarmed people who “posed no threat” are shot very rarely, but almost always because the police are not 100% certain they were unarmed and posed no threat. The way the police find out a person is unarmed and poses no threat is usually through a persons willing compliance because criminals usually keep weapons somewhat concealed but very handy. Its an up close and personal hands on assessment to determine definitively if a person is indeed unarmed and if a person is willing and compliant the police will often waive the pat down. (maybe they shouldn’t because I’m confident police would be shocked to learn what some people have been able to get past them by being compliant and polite)steveg (ebe7c1) — 5/27/2021 @ 7:59 pm
I can’t think of a time when police shot an unarmed man who was naked and standing in the middle of a road with hands up, no weapon, palms out, nothing and its because that is one of the few times they can be absolutely certain from safe distance that there is no weapon.
A naked person could never pose a deadly threat, right?
Oh.Patterico (e349ce) — 5/27/2021 @ 8:05 pm
Good thing he had that body cam footage. That’s a case where I definitely feel for both the victim, who is clearly not of sound mind, and the officer who clearly felt he didn’t have another option and is broken up about it.
I’m not so bereft that I literally don’t have the money to subscribe if I cut elsewhere. Heck, we got Disney+ for our 2 and 3 year old (although I guess we cancelled Netflix at the same time). I’ve chosen a life where I make enough money that where we are comfortable, but have to be thoughtful about our expenditures. Sure, if I were making $70,000/year I would subscribe to your substack. It’s content that I value.
That said, I’m also completely fine with the choices I’ve made to live a life where sometimes I don’t have things. I think there’s some healthiness to not being able to satisfy all wants, and prefer not to be given things that others are being charged for. I appreciate your offer to those in need though!nate_w (1f1d55) — 5/27/2021 @ 8:28 pm
So the guy went out as he came in; ‘buck’ naked.
But wait– the car that smacked into Rubber Band Man isn’t ticketed for hit and run/leaving the scene??
😉DCSCA (f4c5e5) — 5/27/2021 @ 9:45 pm
There’s a reason for that: they don’t.
OK, OK, I’m sure that putting it that way will generate outrage, but I’ve spent a considerable amount of time on my poor site — which you should read, every day! 🙂 — examining The Philadelphia Inquirer’s reporting on this, and I’ve come to the conclusion that homicides in the City of Brotherly Love really don’t matter, and are not newsworthy as far as the editors of the Inquirer are concerned, unless the victim is a ‘somebody’ or a cute little white girl. Then the Inquirer leaps into action, with tons of reporting.
I’m old enough to remember the old journalistic maxim, “If it bleeds, it leads.” Not so in the Inquirer. We are lucky to get a three paragraph report on an overnight homicide, and even then, only if you know where to look, because it’s not on the Inquirer’s website main page. I happen to know which reporter’s byline to search.
The editors are afraid, deathly afraid, that if they report on this accurately, it will give readers the impression that, gasp! this is a problem in the black community, rather than the city as a whole.
McClatchy Company, a newspaper chain which owns, among other things, my ‘local’ paper, the Lexington Herald-Leader, now has a company policy not to print mugshots, because they “disproportionately harms people of color,” unless an editor specifically approves printing it. So, guess what: the Herald-Leader has been printing mugshots of white suspects, but not black ones.
The Sacramento Bee, the lead McClatchy newspaper, started this, and this statement from the Bee’s editorial announcement, made it perfectly clear:
Emphasis mine, but it tells the whole story: the Bee, and McClatchy, want to manipulate what you think, by not giving you as much information on which to draw your own conclusions.
The credentialed media do not want you to know that murder is a primarily black problem, because it might lead you to have politically incorrect thoughts.
St Louis is our most murderous city. As of last night, there had been 76 homicides in the Gateway City . . . and 71 of the victims were black. St Louis is ‘only’ 45.3% black, but comprise 93.4% of the city’s murder victims.
St Louis population is 308,000, with roughly 139,000 blacks and 136 whites. Calculating out the figures to give a projected homicide total for the year, we find 7.44 whites murdered, and 176 blacks. That works out to a homicide rate of 5.48 per 100,000 population, and 126.61 per 100,000 population for blacks.
But that isn’t really reported, because black lives don’t matter, not unless they are taken by a white police officer, because black-on-black homicide doesn’t fit Teh Narrative.
I include a lot more documentary hyperlinks on my site, but here I’m constrained by the site limitations.The Dana in Kentucky (e9cac9) — 5/28/2021 @ 3:09 pm
Dana that’s a really interesting perspective. As someone who grew up around black people the prevailing sentiment was that newspapers didn’t cover deaths of black people (which of course was largely, but not exclusively at the hands of black people) because the largely white readership didn’t care.
Growing up in a town with a fairly conservative newspaper readership and moderately conservative bias I tend to think the “our readers aren’t surprised or interested in hearing about another black death feels more explanatory than “those woke journalists (of the 70s through present???!) won’t tell people how terrible black people are.”
But I could be wrong.nate (1f1d55) — 5/28/2021 @ 4:53 pm
It’s the police, not the media. Today’s so-called reporters couldn’t find the bathroom without a press release. The police have no interest in having crimes in the news (just the opposite in fact), so the press gets no, or only the skimpiest of, information.nk (1d9030) — 5/28/2021 @ 5:04 pm
The Philadelphia Inquirer’s circulation has fallen by 80% since 1990; whatever they’re doing, they’re doing it wrong.
They do occasionally follow up . . . if the victim isn’t a gang-banger; that’s when the story becomes news. The paper just did a story on the murder of Nasir Marks, a boy who was just about to be graduated from Overbrook High School and was going to go on to college. It seems that he walked into gang territory, but was an innocent himself.
However, most of the killings are thugs killing other thugs, and that just isn’t news.The Dana in Kentucky (e9cac9) — 5/28/2021 @ 5:36 pm
Lori Lightfoot’s greatest constituent wrote:
I check the archives of Inquirer reporter Robert Moran, who covers overnight breaking news, and in one regard, you’re right: he has the two and three paragraph stories on the murder victims, and they are straight from the police reports. Of course, he couldn’t be on both the 2500 block of North Sydenham Street and the 3900 block of Poplar Street at the same time, could he? Once the shooting is over, what’s there to cover?
The Poplar Street shooting turned out to be the one of Nasir Marks, so the paper put three reporters on it, to come up with a profile. The 15-year-old shot on North Sydenham? Supposedly he got in between two rival gangs having a shootout, but somehow, nobody is talking. My bovine feces detector tell me that the victim was probably gang himself, but I don’t know.
If you ‘tour’ both of those streets using Google maps street view, you might decide that neither was a neighborhood in which you wanted to live. But the neighborhood around 52nd Street, a prominent, majority black area with some historic architecture — if Philly row houses can be considered architecture — are fighting proposed improvements because they are afraid of gentrification and don’t want more white people moving in.The Dana in Kentucky (e9cac9) — 5/28/2021 @ 5:53 pm
Should have done more homeworksteveg (ebe7c1) — 5/28/2021 @ 7:59 pm
LOL.Dave (1542be) — 5/28/2021 @ 8:16 pm
That admission aside, I think I gave myself some weasel room because I know that cops don’t have to let anyone run at them within 25 feet because even a naked guy can disarm them and use their weapon against them, or even beat someone to death with hands and feet.
“I can’t think of a time when police shot an unarmed man who was naked and standing in the middle of a road with hands up, no weapon, palms out, nothing…”
I’ve seen the Live PD promo where giant naked guy wrestles a bunch of cops in the barber shop and the guy is lucky there were enough officers there to swarm him because a single officer might feel he/she has to shoot
The Richmond cop is in a no win situation, He can’t just stand there, his hands are full, he can’t run, he can’t just shoot him in the d*** or leg because that’s either a miss or death or anything in between. Safest thing is center mass and hope it stops but doesn’t kill.
If this cop worked for me I’d tell him I know he’s upset because he has a big heart and he is a good person, but the naked guy and the malfunctioned taser made him make a choice. A choice a good person does not ever want to make, but there it was. The officer is safe, going home to his family and the whole thing is a tragedy, but not of the officers making. I’d back him 100%steveg (ebe7c1) — 5/28/2021 @ 8:28 pm
Totally with you, steveg. And I wouldn’t say you didn’t do your homework. I’d just say that there are more situations out there than any average citizen can be expected to keep track of. But I know your heart’s in the right place.Patterico (e349ce) — 5/28/2021 @ 10:15 pm
30.The Philadelphia Inquirer’s circulation has fallen by 80% since 1990; whatever they’re doing, they’re doing it wrong.
It’s still higher than the circulation of The Weekly Standard.
Whatever they did wrong— worked.
L.O.L.DCSCA (f4c5e5) — 5/28/2021 @ 10:26 pm
Our esteemed host wrote:
Actually, with the election of George Gascón, I at least have been wondering whether that was a problem. George Soros-funded Larry Krasner won the DA’s race in Philadelphia, and one of the first things he did once in office was fire 31 prosecutors. I can’t be the only one who has wondered if Mr Gascón would want to fire people in his office who believed in actually prosecuting crimes or [shudder!] capital punishment.The Dana in Kentucky (1b25df) — 5/29/2021 @ 5:12 pm