By now everyone knows that police, whether consciously or subconsciously, are targeting young black men, killing them at a disproportionate rate. But what if everyone is wrong? What if race actually has little causal effect on police police brutality and racism essay? In fact, the data show just that.
If we as a nation can look seriously at the evidence, we can have a much more productive conversation about what’s gone wrong and how to fix it. Race has little or no direct effect on the rate at which black men are shot by police. The context of each encounter is key, and the media can’t be bothered to consider it. That might sound right at first, but it is well understood in academic circles that using population as a benchmark can be dangerous, because not all people are equally likely to come into confrontation with the police.
And few activities, from the important to the trivial, conform to the Census Bureau’s breakdowns of the American population. The media would have Americans believe that race is the single most important and predictive element of fatal encounters between police and civilians. With a few notable exceptions, violent criminal attacks are the best predictor of whom police might shoot in America. Another 16 percent of the shootings came after incidents that did not involve firearms or active attacks but featured other potentially dangerous threats. In 2015, two-thirds of unarmed people of any race killed by police had been in the process of committing violent crime or property destruction. Fourteen percent were engaged in domestic violence. Ten percent were committing a robbery, 20 percent a burglary or vandalism, and 21 percent an assault on another civilian.
More important, cops don’t usually initiate their contact with the person who is shot. Three-quarters of fatal encounters start with someone contacting police and reporting the suspect. That’s something public-health policies can address head-on. Their comparisons might spur outrage and sell ads, but they also foment discord and distract from actionable data on police killings. We must look to reasons other than simple racism on the part of the police, who end up holding the ball for a lot of failed systemic issues. I daresay the ball would have moved farther than it has. Police are already conducting work to identify and re-train or fire the demonstrably small number of its ranks who behave inappropriately.
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