A new study of over a thousand police-involved shootings found what researcher Harvard Prof. Roland G. Fryer Jr. calls “the most surprising result of my career”: There is no racial bias in police-involved shootings. Not only are blacks not more likely to be fired upon by police than whites in tense moments, the study found that, if anything, they are less likely to be shot at.
In what is one of the most comprehensive studies on the issue to date, Fryer — an African-American economist who says he began the study in response to his anger over the deaths of Michael Brown and Freddie Gray — examined 1,332 shootings that occurred between 2000 and 2015 in 10 major police departments. By the end of the exhaustive research, Fryer and his teams spent an estimated 3,000 hours poring over the data from Los Angeles, Ca., three cities in Texas (Houston, Austin, and Dallas), and four counties and two cities in Florida (Orlando and Jacksonville).
Rather than a superficial study of statistics, Fryer’s team probed deeper into each case to make sure they were conducting an apples to apples investigation. In its summary of the study, the New York Times provides some of the key details of cases the study incorporated in its analysis, including, “How old was the suspect? How many police officers were at the scene? Were they mostly white? Was the officer at the scene for a robbery, violent activity, a traffic stop or something else? Was it nighttime? Did the officer shoot after being attacked or before a possible attack?” Some of the study’s driving questions included was a black suspect more likely to be fired upon — in cases where lethal force was justified and when it was unjustified — and did the officer shoot more quickly at black suspects?
To his admitted “surprise,” Fryer concluded that the racial bias narrative is demonstrably false when it comes to police-involved shootings. Here are six takeaways from Fryer’s study.
1. Police are not more likely to fire on blacks than whites. In fact, blacks are 20% less likely to be fired on.
2. Blacks and whites involved in police shootings were equally likely to be carrying a weapon.
3. Blacks are more likely to be treated worse by officers when it comes to physical contact.
4. The notion that police officers’ accounts are biased and unreliable is largely a myth.
5. Use of mobile video to document alleged police brutality is not impacting policing practices.
6. Fryer’s study aligns with other research.
Fryer’s findings align with other studies that have found that the narrative of racial bias in use of lethal force by police is largely based on de-contextualized data and false assumptions. In 2015, for example, 50% of the victims of police shootings were white, while 26% were black. Some have tried to argue that this is evidence of racial bias against blacks because they represent only 15% of the population; however, as Heather Mac Donald points out, blacks account for a disproportionate percentage of major crimes, including 62% of robberies, 57% of murders and 45% of assaults. Another example of de-contextualized data is that showing a higher percent of unarmed blacks who are shot than unarmed whites, but as both Mac Donald and Fryer found, when the details of the cases are included, such statistics turn out to be misleading.
The reality, as Prof. Fryer and others have found, is that our law enforcement is largely composed of men and women doing their best to protect the lives of citizens, handling what are often life and death situations as fairly and safely as they can….[ ]