by Brian T. Lynch, MSW
Eleven cops were killed in 2013 at the hands of black minority alleged perpetrators. Sixteen cops were killed by white alleged perpetrators last year. Half of all cop murders that have take place in the last ten years happened in the Southern United States. (See table below)
One problem with the FBI statistics is they don’t distinguish between African-American vs. black Latino or other black skinned minorities. Even so, African-American’s make up 13% of the population but make up 28% of all arrests nationally and 40% of all US prison inmates. In some communities a black person is more than 10 times as likely to be arrested than a white person in the same town.
There clearly is differential policing in this country, but not in every community. There clearly are areas where police departments exhibit racial bias, but not everywhere, in every case by every officer.
Since the 1970’s there is a significant decline in police fatalities, yet, with less than half of all law enforcement agencies reporting, there are about 400 civilian deaths caused by police each year. These are deaths considered to be justifiable police homicides. That number could be well over 1,000 per year if national reporting was mandatory for law enforcement (see petition: http://www.change.org/p/barack-obama-and-harry-reid-and-john-boehner-pass-a-law-mandating-that-law-enforcement-must-file-a-report-with-the-fbi-every-time-a-police-shooting-results-in-the-death-of-a-citizen)
I am horrified at the brutal murders of officers Wenjian Liu and Rafael Ramos in New York City. I am fully supportive of police and sympathize with their families. This is a sacrifice they should not have to bear.
The killer in this case appears to be mentally ill, having shot his ex-girlfriend before coming to NYC to kill some cops before killing himself. He wasn’t one of the recent police protesters nor was he connected with any nefarious organizations that might considered “anti-law enforcement.” (For the most part those organizations are far rightwing in their politics and Ismaaiyl Brinsley doesn’t fit that profile) . The police are rightfully investigating this possibility as I write, but so far Brinsley seems to have acted alone.
The evidence so far suggests that this terrible killing was the result of mental illness and an anti-social personality disorder, not revenge. It should not be politicized in any way or used by the police or law enforcement officials as a reason to alter policing tactics towards those people who are lawfully protesting policing policies. blatantly unequal application of justice against minorities over the past 4 decades is a well documented fact. This incident should not be used by police departments across the country as a reason not to challenge them to change.
Numbers rarely tell us a true story. Why should that be true? As that fictional doctor House would say, people lie. If you believe your crime statistics are true, think again. Political control of the numbers is an important point that politicians find very appealing. Under report various crimes and your police department or your political policy will look effective. Case in point, that area where Obama’s presidential library will be built is crime ridden. but the police department has been ordered to reduce crime. Given the urban population that is a difficult task. So what to do? Break=ins are now listed as misdemeanor mischief. Problem solved. Don’t like the unemployment numbers? Well, that’s an easy one. Once you exhaust your
unemployment insurance you are no longer unemployed. Did you pick up some work part time, maybe only ten hours a week? Hey, congratulations, you are no longer unemployed. Did you simply give up and stop looking? You are no longer unemployed. Problem solved.
There are lies, damn lies, and statistics. What is deferential policing? How is it measured? Does the measure purport to measure what it measures? And is that measure repeatable? What percentages (again, the use of a number) are truly justifiable? Could they have been prevented? that calls for second guessing. That is like the reasonable and prudent man doctrine in law. Are all individuals capable or reasonable and prudent actions or behaviors? And just what is the measure of that standard? You know, if you have been a GI fighting in europe against the Germans you would have noticed that the Germans were tough cookies, not incline to run and would continue until they realized the hopelessness of their plight. Then they would surrender. On the other hand, if you fought the Japanese you noticed that these japanese soldiers were not willing to surrender and would almost always fight to the death. Now you tell me which soldier was the more reasonable and prudent of the two? Or does their cultural have something to do with that?
Would it surprise you that there are really three black cultures in these United States? Do the upper class and middle class (excluding sports figures and celebrities) really differ from the culture of the urban poor? If so, then why should we be surprised that police forces have a different perception of the urban poor black than the other two classes? and why shouldn’t we expect the urban poor black class to act in a very different than the other two classes? I would point you to Colin Flaherty’s book, Don’t Make The Black Kids Angry and his YouTube channels that document how different the urban poor black community is from the rest of America. We can also make the same case for the growing Latino’s problems in their barrios. Human behavior does not happen in a vacuum.
I largely agree with your critique of the use of statistic by those who have an agenda beyond a healthy curiosity. But this implies that there are good, verifiable statistics out there to help us understand our world. Let’s not denigrate all statistics because some are tainted and some don’t agree with what we think is true.
As for Black culture, it would shock me greatly to learn there are “really three.”
(I cut myself off). There are many Black cultures in America just as there are many White cultures. It all depends on how you finely you wish to define “culture.” More on this later.