Commentary: Column on White Police Shootings Misses the Point

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Sterling-ShootingI appreciate Rich Rifkin’s column today, “When whites are shot by cops, there’s total silence,” because it addresses an important counter-narrative that protesters should be focused on police shootings in general, rather than police shootings of blacks.

The shooting of any individual by police is a tragedy – white, black, Hispanic, Asian, etc.  However, there is a critical component to the complaints here – and it rests with the unjustified killing of citizens under the color of authority.

The addition of racial bias adds a critical element to this discussion because it gets to the heart of the complaint in the black community that the police are targeting and singling out young people (primarily men) of color for disparate treatment.  The heart of the issue is not just excessive force by police but unequal protection under the law, and it is a complaint that goes deep, routed in the heart of the enforcement of slavery and Jim Crow – the police as the extension of the arm of white supremacy that many today believe remains in vestiges.

I extended that discussion to help explain why the focus has been not just excessive force or officer-involved shootings, but excessive force and officer-involved shootings of blacks.

Still, I think Rich Rifkin largely misses the point in his narrative.  He cites the story of Dylan Noble, describing him as “an unarmed white teenager who was shot (four times) by two Fresno police officers on June 25, including two rounds after he was supine on the pavement.”

He writes, “Despite the dramatic footage, the usual protesters have neglected the Dylan Noble story. Why? Noble was white. That does not fit their narrative of who cops shoot.” However, he seems to undermine his own narrative by opining that “it appeared to me to be a justifiable killing. I only wish the officers had a better alternative.”

Indeed, Mr. Rifkin misses the crucial element of the outrage – it is not simply police shooting a black man, it is the unjustified shooting of a black man or, probably more to the point, the perceived unjustified killing of a black man as, in many of the cases that Mr. Rifkin illuminates, authorities have at least exonerated the police officers of criminal behavior, one way or another.

Mr. Rifkin then goes through a statistical exercise showing that the majority of police killings are of white people.  He does acknowledge, “If you compare the rates of those killed by cops to their racial/ethnic share of the U.S. population, blacks are being killed at double their proportion of the population.”

He then cites Peter Moskos who analyzed the data and “compared the number of individuals being killed by police to homicide rates and the rates of people who are convicted of killing police officers.

“Adjusted for the homicide rate, whites are 1.7 times more likely than blacks to die at the hands of police,” Professor Moskos wrote. “Adjusted for the racial disparity at which police are feloniously killed, whites are 1.3 times more likely than blacks to die at the hands of police.”

The problem as we pointed out in our column on Monday is that not all police shootings are created equally, because some are in fact the appropriate use of force or at least a justifiable use of force.  And while PERF (Police Executive Research Forum) and other police organizations are looking into ways to reduce the use of deadly force, even in cases where it is justified, we are in a lot of ways here not making an apples to apples comparison.

The Washington Post has found that since January 1, 2015, U.S. police officers have shot and killed the same number of unarmed white people as they have killed unarmed black people: 50 each.  Adjusting for population, that means that unarmed blacks were five times more likely to be killed by police officers as unarmed whites.

But it’s actually worse than that, because it means that only 6.8 percent of whites who were shot were unarmed, compared to 13.1 percent of blacks.  Those stats really get at the heart of the angst.  The police shootings and killings we are hearing about are not a black getting in a gunfight with the police and dying – we seem for the most part to be accepting those deaths – but rather the unarmed black man scenario that we believe could be handled in a better way.

Or in some cases, like last week, where the individual had a gun, the question is whether the individual actually represented a threat to the police. In Minnesota, Philando Castile informed police he had a gun and was shot multiple times supposedly reaching for his ID.  In Baton Rouge, Alton Sterling was pinned on the ground but still deemed to be reaching for a weapon.  In both cases, the shootings may be deemed justified eventually, but questions will remain.

But there is another problem with Peter Moskos and, by extension, Rich Rifkin’s analysis linking the homicide rate to those killed by police. Research has not established a tie between the two.

A UC Davis study from last year from Cody Ross found “evidence of a significant bias in the killing of unarmed black Americans relative to unarmed white Americans, in that the probability of being {black, unarmed, and shot by police} is about 3.49 times the probability of being {white, unarmed, and shot by police} on average.”

Second, they found that “analysis of police shooting data as a function of county-level predictors suggests that racial bias in police shootings is most likely to emerge in police departments in larger metropolitan counties with low median incomes and a sizable portion of black residents, especially when there is high financial inequality in that county.” But they found “no relationship between county-level racial bias in police shootings and crime rates.”

The authors concluded that “racial bias observed in police shootings in this data set is not explainable as a response to local-level crime rates.”

report released a few weeks ago by the Center for Policing Equity, “which reviewed arrest and use-of-force data from 12 police departments, concluded that black residents were more often targeted for use of police force than white residents, even when adjusting for whether the person was a violent criminal.”

Also, “an independent analysis of The Post’s data conducted by a team of criminal-justice researchers concluded that, when factoring in threat level, black Americans who are fatally shot by police are no more likely to be posing an imminent lethal threat to the officers at the moment they are killed than white Americans fatally shot by police.”

These series of studies put the use of those statistics into question.

Rich Rifkin then cites the most recent research that the Vanguard highlighted last week from Harvard Economist Roland Fryer.  As he notes, Professor Fryer writes: “On non-lethal uses of force, blacks and Hispanics are more than 50 percent more likely to experience some form of force in interactions with police.”

However, Professor Freyer found no discrimination when it comes to cops actually shooting a civilian: “On the most extreme use of force — officer-involved shootings — we find no racial differences in either the raw data or when contextual factors are taken into account.”

As we noted in our analysis of that study – first, it bolsters the belief that many have that police are more likely to use force on blacks.  The limitation of the portion of the study that Mr. Rifkin highlights is that the shooting data comes from Houston only and therefore has to be considered preliminary rather than conclusive.  We simply don’t know that Houston’s practices are generalizable.

Rich Rifkin reaches two conclusions.  First he writes, “The ideology of Black Lives Matter (and the national media) is that black people are being targeted for death by our racist police. The actual facts show that is not true.”

The problem with that conclusion, as we have mentioned, is that the study he cites is limited to Houston on deadly force, while the finding did show police are more likely to use force on blacks than whites.  That would, in fact, seem to back up the belief that black people are being targeted (though perhaps not in the rare fatal shooting) by police.

I find it odd that Mr. Rifkin cites a study, that shows that police act in a biased manner towards blacks in use of force, to argue that police are not acting in a biased matter on shootings. Doesn’t that study simply illustrate that there is a problem of bias in policing?

Second, “Too many people are being shot and killed in police-civilian interactions.”  That I agree with, but ignoring the racial component may not fix the problem.

I am gratified to learn, for instance, that Davis police are undergoing training for implicit bias.  I do not believe most police are overtly racists – there are some that would seem to be, look no forward than the texts from SFPD – but I think that police perceive subconsciously a greater threat with some people than others, and that is where we can work to improve things.

—David M. Greenwald reporting

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About The Author

David Greenwald is the founder, editor, and executive director of the Davis Vanguard. He founded the Vanguard in 2006. David Greenwald moved to Davis in 1996 to attend Graduate School at UC Davis in Political Science. He lives in South Davis with his wife Cecilia Escamilla Greenwald and three children.

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84 thoughts on “Commentary: Column on White Police Shootings Misses the Point”

  1. Misanthrop

    Over the years Rich Rifkin has written some provocative things about race. Taken together he thinks complaints about the killing of blacks by cops neglects whites killed by cops. He also thinks Affirmative Action is reverse discrimination. In another example he thinks we should pay young poor women( dog whistle coded language inferred by me) to be sterilized.

    Is it just me or does anyone else see the pattern?

    1. Sam

      Yes, his ideas and beliefs are not exactly the same as everyone else in Davis so instead of considering another point of view lets run him out of town!

      1. The Pugilist

        It’s not, but I agree with Sam that this isn’t the best approach.  The column here focused on the ideas, not the person and that’s the right way to go about this.

        1. South of Davis

          The Pugilist wrote:

          > The column here focused on the ideas, not the

          > person and that’s the right way to go about this.

          It is not often that I agree with The Pugilist but I think that is is important to note that most of the time when someone tries to dismiss a point by connecting the person saying it to something else is because they can’t find any way to dismiss what the person is saying that they don’t like.

    2. Barack Palin

      He also thinks Affirmative Action is reverse discrimination.

      That’s because it is.  And why is it called reverse discrimination?  It’s just flat out discrimination.

  2. Tia Will

    Misathrop

    In another example he thinks we should pay young poor women( dog whistle coded language inferred by me) to be sterilized.”

    I have not seen Rich’s comment that young poor women should be offered payment to be sterilized. But if it is true that he has taken this position I do not see any need to brand this as racist when the real bias is absolutely clear. Why would we make the offer to pay young poor women to be sterilized and not make the same offer to poor young men?  With misogyny so clear, why the need to imply racism ?

      1. Misanthrop

        Did I remember it wrong? Well how do you remember it? As I recall you once wrote a column in the Enterprise about offering young women money to get sterilized as a way to break the cycle of poverty. Maybe you forgot that column.

        1. Rich RifkinWDE 73

          You are a liar. You have no moral compass. You should be ashamed of yourself for propagating lies of this nature. But, given that you hide behind a fake name, you seem to feel emboldened to lie about real people without any harm to yourself or your reputation. It is trolls like you who make me never want to participate in public discourse. Your entire intent is to foul other people. You have no intent on bringing facts to light or making in insightful comment or improving a discussion. Your only reason is calumny and character assassination, and then you go about your day happy as a clam.

          1. David Greenwald Post author

            I have not been able to find such a column via a Google search, the only references to sterilized are contained in comments on the Vanguard. At least that I have been able to find.

        2. Don Shor

          It’s quite a leap from ‘offering an incentive’ to ‘should be’. I recall the column Rich wrote many years ago because others have made this same fallacious leap of logic that you have made. And Rich wrote it before the insertable birth control methods were widely available. Dr. Tia Will has often commented that she believes those should be available — offered to — young women virtually at the age of puberty (correct me if I’m wrong, Tia). The point being: make easy and inexpensive birth control available to women of child-bearing age to help break the cycle of poverty. This is not an advocacy for coercion.

        3. wdf1

          David Greenwald:  I have not been able to find such a column via a Google search, the only references to sterilized are contained in comments on the Vanguard. At least that I have been able to find.

          If you go here and then type in your Yolo County library card number, you get access to a database (courtesy of tax dollars) that allows you to search the Davis Enterprise going back until about 1997.  Even during that interval, 1997 to present, not all material generated by the Davis Enterprise made it to this database.  Rifkin’s column in question is there, however.

          1. Don Shor

            I am aware of that, thanks. That is not the reversible, inexpensive method I was referring to.

    1. Frankly

      If a man impregnates a woman without her consent, that is rape and it is already covered in laws. I think this feminist construct to try and make men responsible for the poor choices that some young women make… well it is a sign that maybe feminists really don’t believe women are capable of making good choices and thus they need men to help them.

      Rifkin’s suggestion that we offer some payment to young women to not have children is logical and practical.

      1. Rich RifkinWDE 73

        That is essentially what I suggested: that we financially reward young women who grow up in difficult circumstances — not just poverty, but from families in crisis — for making good decisions about when to start their families. A good decision would be for them to first finish school, to have a stable relationship with a loving partner and as a couple have the ability to raise their kids. When a young woman* makes the right choices, for herself and for her children, I think it is wise to reward those good choices.

        As it is, we often give a sort of reward when wrong choices are made: Have a kid at age 16, with no spouse and no job and no skills, and you will qualify for your own subsidized apartment, for cash assistance, for free medical services for you and the baby, for food stamps and so on. I understand why we have these kinds of welfare programs — I certainly don’t think we as a society can or should abandon the real needs of babies born into these circumstances.

        However, if we incentivized better life choices for girls growing up in poverty and with very difficult family situations, many would make better choices and then they would have better lives and so would their kids.

        *A criticism of my piece was that I did not suggest a reward for males who make the same right choices. Perhaps that would be an improvement over my idea. My thought of focusing on the females was just that they are the ones who, in most cases, get stuck with the kids. The males in these situations very often neglect their children entirely.

         

          1. Don Shor

            I’m not either. Did you know that tubal ligations are actually reversible? Maybe we should wait for a doctor to fill us in about the details. In any event, I’d suspect that Rich Rifkin might modify his proposal now that low-cost insertable birth control is readily available. He might even agree with Tia’s suggestion.

        1. Sam

          Let’s again blast someone for suggesting a change to try and fix something that is obviously not working instead of looking at the idea to see if there could be some useful portion that everyone would agree on that could benefit society. Go back to the well and draw up, “racist”, “dog whistle”, “misogynist”…… New ideas that we don’t agree with need to be shut down right away!

        2. wdf1

          Rifkin:  *A criticism of my piece was that I did not suggest a reward for males who make the same right choices. 

          It looks like your original published proposal, from the excerpt below, did include men and women.

           

        3. Misanthrop

          Problem is Sam there is nothing new in any of Rifkin’s writings. Sterilization of the poor, the “miscreants” or minorities has a long and sad history.

          What is new is providing poor women access to health care and affordable birth control. This is likely why teen pregnancy has plummeted since the passage of Obamacare.

          As for Rifkin’s latest writing its more of the same resentment to what Rifkin sees as minority overreach. Rifkin loves to point out the sort of reverse racism we see with Black Lives Matter. He has a long history of doing it on Affirmative Action. If I thought he offered anything new or useful in how to stop all this violence and death I would be interested in hearing it but all I read was a long indictment of Black Lives Matter using dubious statistics. My question is what does Rifkin add to the discussion of how to stop all the violence? I think the answer is nothing but I’m open to hearing any ideas that I may have overlooked.

    2. wdf1

      Davis Enterprise, 8 August 2007, excerpt of Rich Rifkin’s column, “Prisons overcrowded? Here’s an idea”:

      We need to give adolescents who grow up in terribly problematic households — where they have a single uneducated mom or guardian with no stable job, in need of public assistance for food, housing and medical care and a history of substance abuse, criminality or mental health issues — a strong incentive to never have kids.

      If those youths don’t reproduce, then the problems of prison overcrowding, gangs, school violence, et cetera, eases dramatically down the road.

      So what would be that incentive? How about $35,000? That’s what it costs to incarcerate one prisoner for one year in California. That doesn’t include the price of building the prison in the first place or the tense of thousands of dollars per criminal per year we spend trying to prevent crime.

      If these miscreants were not born in the first place, we would additionally save thousands of public dollars on their medical care, housing and schooling. We would have far more money left over to make California a better place to live for everyone else.

      I am not advocating, nor do I favor, forced sterilization. My plan — paying 18- to 30-year-old men and women who meet the “problematic” criteria $35,000 to get sterilized — not only would make life better for everyone else in our state, it would make life better for those who take the money.

      Because of the misfortune of their births, they come into this world without much capital, physical or human. This would give them a start. They could use the money to open a small business, to travel and see the world, to pay for a technical education or to make a down payment on a house or an apartment.

        1. Misanthrop

          Well Don, at least we can agree about the facts and differ about the conclusions. I think it does say what I think it says that we should offer money to young women “18-30” to get sterilized. I will grant he includes men. I did offer that maybe I remembered it wrong, it has been 9 years, but rather than offer Rifkins recollection he goes all in calling me a liar and much more. Of course I wonder if offering sterilization to young men so they don’t reproduce “miscreants” is much better.

          As for my inference that his “terribly problematic households” is a racial dog whistle it could be just me but the history of sterilization programs is riddled with race, latinos in L. A. and blacks in the south come to mind. Also with the disproportionate number of black and brown people in “prison” perhaps Rifkin didn’t realize this might result in a disproportionate number of black and brown people prospering from the beneficence of his proposal.

      1. Miwok

        I agree with that article, as stated. After growing up in a broken home, the last thing I wanted was to be like my parents. There is something wrong with them. So when I went to get sterilized a long time ago, I was refused by Kaiser. I guess that is how they like to get more customers, and I had to thrive another way.

        Sure made my life very different because of their biases.

  3. dlemongello

    DG said “but I think that police perceive subconsciously a greater threat with some people than others, and that is where we can work to improve things.”

    I think this is a very important factor and I think this factor is where there is a racial component.  The other most important concept is that they should not be shooting anyone, regardless of race, who does not pose the true threat to warrant it.  There has been way too much of that and it makes me super sad.

  4. The Pugilist

    Part of the problem with Rifkin’s piece is that the studies he sites don’t say what he thinks they do.

    For instance, attempting to normalize police shootings to homicide rate only works if there is a relationship between the two and the UCD study suggests otherwise.

    As David points out arguing that police are not racist by citing a study that suggests they might be isn’t a strong defense.

    Finally, Rifkin never attempts to address the issue of justified versus unjustified police shootings in his analysis.

      1. The Pugilist

        No that’s not an accurate characterization.  There are shortcomings with some of the studies that Rifkin cited that have been pointed out here.  That’s not cherrypicking which refers to picking favorable information and ignore unfavorable.

        1. South of Davis

          The Pugilist wrote:

          > There are shortcomings with some of the studies

          I’ve noticed that just about every time someone points out that cops shoot more white people than black people David and other are quick to point out that a “higher percentage” of blacks are shot by cops.

          It is true that since there are many more whites than blacks a “higher percentage” of blacks are shot, but since there are so many more black people in urban neighborhoods than cops cops are shot at by blacks in urban areas at “higher percentage” than cops shoot at blacks…

        2. The Pugilist

          But you’re making the assumption that Rifkin and others has that there is a relationship between crime and shootings and the research here suggests otherwise.

        3. South of Davis

          TP wrote:

          > But you’re making the assumption that Rifkin and others

          > has that there is a relationship between crime and shootings

          Please post a link to the “research” that shows a low crime area with less shootings than a high crime area.

          1. David Greenwald Post author

            SOD – It is in the article. It’s the UC Davis study and what they found was that there was no relationship between police shootings and local crime rates.

        4. South of Davis

          David wrote:

          > It is in the article. It’s the UC Davis study

          > and what they found was that there was no

          > relationship between police shootings and

          > local crime rates.

          I clicked the link to the study and could not find anything in the study that said areas with high crime don’t have more police shootings.  Can you cut and paste the quote?  Can you also post a link to the crime stats of any area with low crime that has a lot of police shootings?

          I have read about a lot of police shootings over the years in the high crime areas of Hunters Point, West Oakland and South Sac, am I missing all the police shootings that happen in the low crime areas of Pacific Heights, Piedmont and East Sac?

          1. David Greenwald Post author

            You’re looking for specific language when the finding was more general – no relationship between crime rate and police shootings.

        5. South of Davis

          David wrote:

          > You’re looking for specific language when the finding

          > was more general – no relationship between crime

          > rate and police shootings.

          So are you saying that the report somehow made you just “know” “there is no relationship between crime rate and police shootings” without actually saying it?

          Can you point to (or cut and paste) the “more general” findings that lead you to believe that there is “no relationship between crime rate and police shootings.”

          P.S. Can you name a single area anywhere in the US with a “low” crime rate and “high” number of police shootings?

          1. David Greenwald Post author

            That was one of their findings. Why would you use ordinal variables like “low” and “high” when you have full data?

        6. South of Davis

          Should I assume that you can’t point to (or cut and paste) the “more general” findings that lead you to believe that there is “no relationship between crime rate and police shootings.” and that you can’t name a single area anywhere in the US with a “lower than the median per capita” crime rate and “higher than the median per capita” number of police shootings?

          1. David Greenwald Post author

            You obviously haven’t read the article, it gets into Bayesian updating so to answer your question is not something I can do based on the study and if you had read it, you would know that. The data in the study isn’t presented in the way you are asking the question. I don’t understand why you persist.

        7. South of Davis

          David wrote:

          > You obviously haven’t read the article

          I did read it after you wrote:

          > SOD – It is in the article. It’s the UC Davis study

          > and what they found was that there was no relationship

          > between police shootings and local crime rates.

          When I didn’t find what you said was “in the article” I asked the question and since you can’t point where it is “in the article” now is a good time to say you are sorry for lying about what was “in the article”…

          So it sounds like

          1. David Greenwald Post author

            The quote (“There is no relationship between county-level racial bias in police shootings and crime rates (even race-specific crime rates), meaning that the racial bias observed in police shootings in this data set is not explainable as a response to local-level crime rates.”) is from the abstract, and the data is analyzed. Your question is unanswerable based on how they analyzed the data.

        8. South of Davis

          David wrote:

          > they found was that there was no relationship between

          > police shootings and local crime rates.

          Then (after some prodding) posted:

          > The quote (“There is no relationship between

          > county-level racial bias in police shootings and

          > crime rates 

          Are you aware that “no relationship between police shootings and local crime rates” and “no relationship between county-level racial bias in police shootings and crime rates” mean TOTALLY different things?

          1. David Greenwald Post author

            The quote and the link were in this article. Your question is still unanswerable. And no, they are not totally different things, look at the model.

  5. Don Shor

    It seems that the proven disproportional use of force in non-lethal settings leads to a perception in the black community that they are singled out unfairly. That has been true, undoubtedly, for many years and has led to great frustration. Whether it’s racist or not, or based on conscious or unconscious bias, isn’t really the point: the perception is there and it has some foundation. The lethal cases just become a flash point for that frustration, especially when they are unjustified. This heavy focus on statistics seems to be a way of telling the black community that they have no basis for their frustration and anger. It’s a kind of deflection. The perception of excessive use of force against the black community is grounded in reality. It’s not a false narrative. David Grundler’s comment on Rich Rifkin’s column is well put, and he also provides a way forward that gets out of these statistical debates:

    There is a problem, but it exists more at the policing level that doesn’t result in lethal force, and that is where the change needs to start. Most minorities are not likely to encounter lethal force at the hands of law enforcement, but many are likely to encounter unnecessary uses of force at lower levels, which will have a lasting impact on them. These lesser uses of force are where the change needs to happen to actually have an impact.”

     

    1. South of Davis

      Don wrote:

      > The perception of excessive use of force against the black

      > community is grounded in reality. It’s not a false narrative.

      There is a lot of “excessive use of force” by cops.  Sadly many cops of all races (probably around 20%) should not be cops. We all know that cops of all races use excessive force against all other races.  I don’t see any reality that blacks get any more excessive force.

      We know that there are racist cops and while a black guy might get an extra beat down from a racist white cop plenty of redneck kids have received a “wood shampoo” from a racist black cop (and rich Japanese kids have got a “little extra” from a racist Chinese cop like the Brits in Boston used to get a “little extra” from the racist Irish cops)…

       

      1. David Greenwald Post author

        “I don’t see any reality that blacks get any more excessive force.”

        Then you’re disputing the Harvard study’s findings without argument or evidence.

        1. South of Davis

          David wrote:

          > Then you’re disputing the Harvard study’s

          > findings without argument or evidence.

          The Harvard study said: “racial disparities in police use of force persist even when controlling for racial distribution of local arrest rates.”

          Not a big surprise that the people funding the Harvard study want to fan the flames of racism so they control for “local arrest rates” not “violent crime rates”.  In most safe neighborhoods the #1 “arrest” is a DUI so a neighborhood with a lot of people that get DUIs driving home from the Elks Club or Yacht Club (and a few more picked up for criminal tax evasion)  may have the same “arrest rate” as an area with a housing project where most people are too poor to own cars but there is an arrest for a rape, shooting or stabbing every day…

        2. Barack Palin

          Then you’re disputing the Harvard study’s findings without argument or evidence.

          So you don’t agree with the Harvard findings except when you agree with it?

          1. David Greenwald Post author

            I pointed out my specific objections to the shootings conclusion – it’s based on one locale. Do you have a counter to that point?

    2. Frankly

      This heavy focus on statistics seems to be a way of telling the black community that they have no basis for their frustration and anger. It’s a kind of deflection.

      So the statistics don’t matter (except when they do matter to bolster liberal opinions), only perceptions?  Only symbolism?

      The complete lack of pragmatism in the American liberal argument is so anti-Scandinavian.

      I agree there is deflection… deflection from the true root causes of the frustration in the black community.  If only the cops would stand down things would be so much better… right.

      Blacks have every right to be angry.  But they are directing it at all the wrong things.

          1. Don Shor

            I did not say statistics don’t matter. I suggested they are being misused as a method of deflection. Statistics, in fact, evidently show that disproportional non-lethal force is used against blacks, and I said that that probably leads to frustration. That is a valid perception, and perceptions matter.

            The complete lack of pragmatism in the American liberal argument is so anti-Scandinavian.

            This is just weird. Is it directed at me? Am I your idea of an American liberal? What does Scandinavia have to do with this, or anything I said? I’m not sure why you’re obsessed with Scandinavia. I’m not Scandinavian, nor do I hold them up as examples of anything in particular.
            A pragmatic approach is exactly what David Grundler described in the reply to Rifkin’s Enterprise column that I cited.

  6. Rich RifkinWDE 73

    The Washington Post has found that since January 1, 2015, U.S. police officers have shot and killed the same number of unarmed white people as they have killed unarmed black people: 50 each.  Adjusting for population, that means that unarmed blacks were five times more likely to be killed by police officers as unarmed whites. But it’s actually worse than that, because it means that only 6.8 percent of whites who were shot were unarmed, compared to 13.1 percent of blacks.

    It’s interesting that you accuse me of misusing a study — the one by Prof. Freyer, where he found no racial bias in shootings by police — because you think that data is preliminary and not broad enough to draw the conclusion that Freyer draws. You then go on to do really the same thing, using a very small sample of 100 cases. From that limited data set you write, “it’s actually worse than that, because it means that only 6.8 percent of whites who were shot were unarmed, compared to 13.1 percent of blacks.”

    It’s entirely possible, in the next 100 such cases, those race-based percentages could be the same as each other or even reversed, where unarmed whites (like Noble) are twice as common as blacks. These sorts of anomalies happen all the time in statistical runs of small samples. For example, the SF Giants were 57-33 at the All-Star break, the best record in MLB. They have since gone 0-4. Several of their hitters are now “mired in slumps.” Does the winless streak suggest they will have a terrible second half? No. It’s just a small sample size, and baseball has swings like this all the time in a 162-game season. (It’s why, btw, that the best team going into the post-season often does not win the World Series.)

    I pointed out in my column the cities and areas that Freyer used in his study. It is not all-encompasing. (He mentions that the data were not available more broadly.) So maybe Freyer’s conclusion will not hold up. But it is the best such study out there we have so far, and it does contradict the ideological position that you and Black Lives Matter take, that blacks are being targeted for death by white cops (or just cops in cases where the cops who shoot are not white, as in the Philando Castile case).

    1. David Greenwald Post author

      Rich: You’re basically acknowledging the point I was making is that the study is not definitive. I agree, it’s entirely possible that Houston’s findings are generalizable, but we don’t know that yet and therefore, we cannot conclude that they are.

    2. Robert Canning

      An interesting analysis of some of Fryer’s data appears here: http://datacolada.org/50, and suggests that Prof. Fryer’s conclusions about lethal use of force and racial bias is inconclusive because the data was too “noisy,” not because there is no actual effect. As you point out, maybe his conclusions will not hold up over time. Studies that have different and more extensive data on police use of deadly force may give us a better understanding. It’s almost misleading to say that there is no racial bias in the use of lethal force.

      Media writers, I believe, do a disservice to readers by drawing false dichotomies when they ought to provide readers a more nuanced view of research findings.  In this case, simply stating that Prof. Fryer didn’t have enough good data to find an actual effect (or not) might be better.

  7. Misanthrop

    Rifkin loves this reverse racism stuff it goes hand in glove with his anti-affirmative action writings. I wonder if Rifkin would have ever expressed any outrage about the cops killing white people without Black Lives Matter to get his dander up and try to use them as a whipping boy. So perhaps Black Lives Matter is serving a good purpose if it gets people like Rifkin to start to show concern for anybody who wrongfully dies at the hands of the law.

    As for myself I think the problem is the failure of the judicial system. When these things happen and the cops, DA’s and courts close ranks to protect their own what are people to do or think? Now we have unstable people, often with military training, taking the law into their own hands.

    Is anyone surprised? One of the gun advocates big 2nd amendment issues is that guns offer protection against tyranny. What is the untried murder of people at the hands of the authorities, the deprivation of life, but tyranny. Now society has been reduced to vigilantism, this is the worst of all worlds. What is the answer? It is restoration of the rule of law and justice for all. Without the dispassionate application of justice no matter where the chips fall faith in the legal system cannot and will not be restored, only chaos and more violence will ensue.

  8. Don Shor

    [moderator] This is a touchy subject. Please discuss it without name-calling. That goes for calling anyone a liar or a racist, among other things. 

  9. Tia Will

    Don

    You have come close to reflecting my opinion. Just one small modification. Prior to the development of the single progesterone rod ( Implant/Nexplanon) I usually recommended the use of IUD’s for sexually active adolescents as the most acceptable statistically effective means of contraception. Since the availability of the Nexplanon, that became my number one choice for most women in this age group since its placement is less invasive than is that of the IUD.

    I was clearly in error about Rich’s comment with regard to who should be offered payment for making the choice not to have children. I am supportive of a plan to reward deferring reproduction.  I am fully supportive of compensation for those choosing to contribute productively to our society through study or work. But then, I believe in a UBI which would provide essentially the same benefit but would expand the definition of contribution to the many, many forms of work in our society that are currently uncompensated because it is assumed that it is a function of “family” as opposed to a function of a civilization.

    1. South of Davis

      BP wrote:

      > How did this conversation wander off into birth control?

      You have been around long enough to know that is always OK to go “off topic” when bashing someone that does not agree with the Vanguard and Vanguard moderators left of center world view…

      1. Tia Will

        South of Davis

        You have been around long enough to know that is always OK to go “off topic” when bashing someone that does not agree with the Vanguard and Vanguard moderators left of center world view…”

        Oh for heaven’s sake. Who exactly was being “bashed” here ?  I was largely agreeing with Rich as long as there was gender equity, which it turned out there was, and clarifying for Don.

        I said absolutely nothing about any one else’s philosophy that was in opposition to my own.  But, I guess any chance to be oppositional will do, right ?

  10. Tia Will

     How did this conversation wander off into birth control?”

    Very easy to follow if you read Misanthrop’s first post. There are some of us who do believe that there is a link between actively desired pregnancy by those who are capable financially and emotionally of raising a child and outcomes which are beneficial for the community. This is clearly debatable, but not necessarily off topic when the topic relates to the use of violence to achieve one’s goals.

     

    1. Frankly

      There are some of us who do believe that there is a link between actively desired pregnancy by those who are capable financially and emotionally of raising a child

      Agree with this… but include the gender challenge.  Boys need a father and girls need a mother.  There are exceptions to this… exceptional single parents or homosexual partner parents that do a good job, but for the majority of people they cannot sufficiently provide for the gender development of a child without being that specific gender.

      and outcomes which are beneficial for the community.

      You mean the “collective?”  Simply being a well-adjusted and moral human is all that should be required despite what the collective might desire.

      1. Tia Will

        Frankly

        You mean the “collective?”

        No, I do not mean the “collective”.  If I meant that, I would have said so. I do not believe in the existence of a collective or “hive” mind, no matter how appealing stories about the Borg may be. The word that I used, “community” has real meaning as most of us have chosen to live with one no matter how much we might want to see ourselves as rugged individualists.

  11. tribeUSA

    I find this article an odd mish-mash of cherry-picked statistics and assertions about perception.

    “Column on White Police Shootings misses the Point”

    Is there a single summary point that this Vanguard article makes?–I find it to be a series of small points. For the sake of clarity, can you please summarize in one sentence what “the point” is that Rifkin is missing?

     

  12. Miwok

    Very strange the link to the “UC Davis study” is from the UK, and never mentions UC davis.

    “The shooting of any individual by police is a tragedy – white, black, Hispanic, Asian, etc. However, there is a critical component to the complaints here – and it rests with the unjustified killing of citizens under the color of authority.”

    Sure is a tragedy, especially when the VG and many commenters feel a Criminal-American should just be left alone.

    the only people who argue FOR Criminals to be left alone is people who are related to them, or benefit from them being out.

    1. Frankly

      This is a very good point.

      My last jury service was telling.  The questions included if any immediate family had been or was currently incarcerated.  I was astounded that more than 50% of the potential jurors said yes… many of them for drugs.

      I was talking to my son tonight about his group of friends and how some of them are prone to impulsive poor decisions and addiction.

      I have always had a hard time understand the lack of self-control in people.  They know the thing is wrong, but they do it anyway.  They know they should not have that next drink.  They know certain drugs are physiologically addictive.  The know smoking cigarettes leads to serious health problems.   They know they should not eat that sugary thing.   They KNOW all these things yet they do it anyway.  They cannot control their own impulses.  They are self-destructive.  I am just confused and irritated that so many do this.  Why can’t they just process what is good and bad for them and make the right decision?

      I have come to the conclusion that the people that tend to have control problems are sympathetic the plight of all people that appear to have control problems.  And this explains some of the void in political differences.

      I want to shout JUST STOP BREAKING THE DAMN LAW and then we will not have this social conflict between groups that are over-represented in law-breaking and the cops.

      But this falls on deaf ears to those that also have control problems but maybe not to the extent that they break the law.

      And it also starts to explain that moral filter thing… that those that can and do well to control themselves tend to have a broader test of morality… and those that don’t get stuck on fairness and oppression.

      But we seem to come down to your point… that there is only one explanation for what the lack-of-control people are demanding… that we ignore a percentage of bad decision-making and bad behavior… that we allow a level of lawlessness and just turn a blind eye.

      I think this is a bad thing… a very, very bad thing.  Discount law enforcement and punishment for those that cannot control themselves because they are special victims.

      1. wdf1

        Frankly:  I was talking to my son tonight about his group of friends and how some of them are prone to impulsive poor decisions and addiction.
        I have always had a hard time understand the lack of self-control in people.  They know the thing is wrong, but they do it anyway.  
        And opioid addiction that starts from a legitimate medical prescription?
        Frankly:  I have come to the conclusion that the people that tend to have control problems are sympathetic the plight of all people that appear to have control problems.  And this explains some of the void in political differences.
        And that explains, for instance, Rush Limbaugh’s one time opioid addiction?

        1. Frankly

          Sure wdf1.  Let’s put drug addiction caused by a prescribing doctor in the same category as lack of impulse control.  You can do better than that.

        2. wdf1

          And you can definitely do better, Frankly.

          Instead of succumbing to your lack of impulse control to comment right away, give your comments some better reflection and clarity.

  13. Marina Kalugin

    it all starts in the home, and yet, no matter what one does in the home, the environment, even in Davis, works to sabotage….

    the TV shows that children are allowed to watch

    (movies that one had to be 17 or older to watch in the 60s are now uncut on daytime TV)…..

    shows that glamorize the worst of society…

    video games that are so real, and addictive, and glorify killing…

    it is on both sides with the helicopter parents, never allowing a child to fall and learn on the one side…

    and the many children from broken homes on the other side…

    the entitlement generations of X and the millenials…

    the US is one of the very worst places on the planet to raise children…

    respect is not really taught, or if taught, is not modeled nor demanded….

    respect of others, …of elders, of laws, of much of anything one used to hold sacred….

    extended families are too far away, or non-existent…..

    too many are latchkey and too many do not have a strong father in the household….

    Davis is actually more of an exception to the rule…and yet, the statistics in this town are not happy ones..

    too many children are stressed and depressed

    many are drug users, including the drug of choice for bright, yet troubled teens in affluent  environments…….it is heroin…and has been now for over a decade …

    too competitive and too much pressure to perform

    in most other countries, the families are first and foremost…extended families help with raising children…and so on….

    too many issues that lead to some making poor choices…

    by why would anyone exhibit self control these days?   “role” models in the environment do not…celebrities of all kinds do not…cops do not…teachers may not…and many parents do not….the TV shows do not…and media does not…

     

  14. tribeUSA

    There has been a lot of discussion about the importance of perception with regard to policing. I don’t think many would disagree that perception is very important in how each of us deals with challenging situations, especially disagreements/conflicts. Perhaps what we may have recently is an unhealthy positive feedback model like the following; in which perception is a key part of the positive feedback loop:

    (1) A black man is shot by the police (‘justified’ or ‘nonjustified’)

    (2) The mainstream media has a big national story on the shooting (meanwhile neglecting to mention the roughly two whites and a hispanic that are also shot by the police for each black man)

    (3) Politicians and activists each comment on the shooting of the black man; these comments by leadership and ‘experts’ is also a big national story in the mainstream media (meanwhile neglecting to mention the roughly two whites and a hispanic that are also shot)

    (4) A perception is created that another black man has been unjustifiably been shot by the police; and that the police are unfairly targeting mainly black men for shooting (since the shooting of other ethnic groups generally is not promoted by the mainstream media, politicians, or activists)

    (5) Resentment and distrust of the police by many in black communities results from (4).

    (6) Increased tension  in interactions between the police and black men results from (5); making it less likely that black men will be cooperative with police in stops/arrests. There is an increase in shootings of police by black men; causing police to be more wary of black men.

    (7) Go to step (1) above

    Obviously such a positive feedback loop leads to an amplification of destructive events. Somehow, we need to intervene and circumvent the creation of such destructive positive feedback loops. Perhaps a more balanced reporting of the cross-racial nature of police shootings can help to correct the inaccurate perception that police are grossly singling out blacks for shootings. How about also some news articles and investigative reporting on what factors lead police to use various levels of force and to shoot suspects that they have encountered or stopped or are arresting–perhaps a clearer understanding of these factors by the general population can also help to reduce the incidence of use of force and of shootings (i.e. consider modification not only in the behavior of police, but the behavior of members of the general public when they encounter police–there are two sides to this story!)

    1. Frankly

      Well done Tribe.  Very well done.  I think this covers it exactly, but I would add that the three actors in this play – politicians, activists and the mainstream media – all benefit from it being perpetuated.  They essentially profit from it.

      We are told by some that perceptions are reality, but then what if perceptions are manufactured by unbalanced reporting, politicking and activism… when does it cross the line as being more propaganda?  And if it does cross the line, why don’t we strike there to repair perceptions?

      The way I see it people are easy to exploit when their emotions are amped up.  But society suffers as feel good “solutions” are pursued instead of those that a thinking people would implement to fix the roots of problem.

    2. South of Davis

      tribeUSA wrote:

      > (1) A black man is shot by the police (‘justified’ or ‘nonjustified’)

      > (2) The mainstream media has a big national story on the shooting

      > (meanwhile neglecting to mention the roughly two whites and a

      > hispanic that are also shot by the police for each black man)

      When only “black lives matter” (and saying “all lives matter” is “racist”) why would the media want to cover the shooting of white or hispanic guys when they can get better ratings (and charge more for ads) covering the shooting of yet another “Gentle Giant” gunned down by the racist cops when he had his “hands up”…

      > (3) Politicians and activists each comment on the shooting of the black man;

      > these comments by leadership and ‘experts’ is also a big national story in the

      > mainstream media (meanwhile neglecting to mention the roughly two whites

      > and a hispanic that are also shot)

      If they mention any white or hispanic shootings it will almost be as bad as saying the racist statement “all lives matter” and activists will boycot advertisers, try and get politicians out of office and get anyone else that does not stick to the “black lives matter” party line fired.

      http://www.foxnews.com/us/2014/12/09/college-president-sorry-for-saying-all-lives-matter.html

       

  15. Miwok

    Late to the party, like always, but I gleaned a few ideas from the commenters, aside from the hostility from the cheap seats to Mr Rifkin.

    The idea that every interaction with police is benign and every citizen is cordial and respectful is ridiculous. The “study” is bereft of one important factor: How hostile was the citizen to the Police in each interaction? (the reason is irrelevant to me)

    Living at UCD and Davis for a brief 30 years and ten years respectively, I have encountered thousands of students over the years. Most of these selfish kids are belligerent to others, especially Campus personnel who they think are “hired hands” like the guys who mow their yards back home.

    The International students who come from places like Palestine who are free for the first time in their life are very juvenile, managing to insult people at their whim without being shot. I am surprised they are not throwing rocks at people when they protest. The MU used to have weekly “protests” by these students.

    So my question, after watching some Youtube videos of Black Lives flipping police off https://www.youtube.com/results?search_query=fkip+off+cops , is did they quantify that little statistic?

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