Over the last few years, we’ve been inundated with claims that white police officers are gunning down black men in what people say can only be described as something akin to ethnic cleansing. “Cops are racist,” activists and their allies in the media proclaim.
But are they?
As someone raised around law enforcement, this bothered me. While I know better than to believe law enforcement officers are better than the average population–after all, they are the average population–I saw no reason to believe they would be worse than the average population either. However, that wasn’t the picture being portrayed at all.
A recent study took a look at the claims to find out if there was any validity to them.
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 shooting 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.”
In other words, the claim that white cops are gunning down black men willy-nilly is absolute bollocks.
Of course, don’t expect this study to silence the anti-law enforcement mob. They could look at the hard facts of who all were involved in the arrest of Freddie Gray in Baltimore–which was three white officers and three black officers–and still claim the death was racially motivated. If they can do that, then don’t expect this to change a single mind.
After all, their minds are made up. Nevermind the facts involved.
The question is, how much play will this study get compared to the anti-gun study I wrote about last week? That study has already been debunked, yet it keeps popping up all over the place. Will this one?
I wouldn’t hold my breath.