by Brian T. Lynch, MSW
Recently, a single researcher found no racial disparity in the “extreme use of force-officer involved shootings” in Huston, Texas, based on that police departments self-reporting of incidents in which officials believe a police shooting was justified. Roland G. Fryer, Jr., the researcher, admits his data set is not “ideal”.
Incredibly, police in the United States are not required to file any uniform reports when their actions result in civilian fatalities. The FBI compiles voluntary reports of “justifiable police homicides” but the most agencies don’t participate. With no uniform reporting a detailed analysis of a single department has limited value. You can’t conclude much from this study and you certainly can’t generalize the findings nationally. But that is exactly what the New York Times did.
In an article published today, July 11, 2016, the Times headline reads, “Surprising New Evidence Shows Bias in Police Use of Force but Not in Shootings.” The article goes on to say the findings, “contradicts the mental image of police shooting that many Americans hold…”
The more robust and pertinent question is whether there is a pattern of racial disparity in all civilian deaths that result from police actions. When reports of civilian deaths are compiled from local news accounts the answer is yes. The bias is stricking nearly everywhere.
I was among the first to analyse these local news reports data last April. In a region-by-region and state-by-state analysis there was clear evidence of a racial disparity in police involved civilian deaths. (See http://aseyeseesit.blogspot.com/2015/04/new-data-exposes-racial-bias-in-fatal.html)
The grossly over-generalized reporting on the Fryer study by the New York Times isn’t worthy of their reputation.