Monday Morning Thoughts: Anger is Fine, but Solutions Are Fleeting

No-Justice-NoPeaceSunday brought another horrible tragedy with the killing of three police officers and the shooting of at least three more.  The profile of the second shooter is eerily similar to that of the Dallas shooter – a disaffected former military individual.

Naturally, there is a lot of anger and finger-pointing, but this heated discussion is short on actual solutions.

Some were quick to point the finger at the Black Lives Matter movement, arguing that they deserve some blame, that they are inciting violence and this is leading unstable individuals to commit these atrocities.

While I don’t agree with that analysis, I understand the concern.  At the same time, given the fact that we have allowed free speech in this country, there is no effective way to stop people from protesting police violence and there is no realistic way to crack down on those who cross the line of decency in what is said.

At the same time, many blame President Obama for speaking out against such killings and seeming to side with Black Lives Matter.  At the same time, President Obama has also spoken out against the killings of police officers.

Again, I don’t know how we can expect the President to keep silent on these matters.  I think our focus should be on police reform and the hope that enacting police reform will help to calm down the situation.

Unfortunately, despite a number of proposed reforms nationally, the bipartisan effort appears to be at an impasse – whether it’s presidential politics or cold feet.

Part of the problem is that the backlash to BLM and the increase in murders in some cities have created a more complicated debate over policing and race that is undermining previous efforts at reform.

One of the counter-narratives is that police are killing more white people than black people.  To be honest, I’m not sure that really matters – if police are killing too many, then the reform efforts should focus on that.

But, the issue of which people are getting killed by police is also far more complicated than a simple statistical analysis.  As we have pointed out previously, there is no good and official count for police killings.  However, the Washington Post, to their credit, has been assembling a highly accurate and detailed data set.

In an article from July 11, the Washington Post noted that “1,502 people have been shot and killed by on-duty police officers since Jan. 1, 2015. Of them, 732 were white, and 381 were black (and 382 were of another or unknown race).”

The first problem, however, is that you adjust for population where white people make up roughly 62 percent of the population overall, but only 49 percent of those killed by police officers.  Meanwhile, African Americans account for 24 percent of those killed but only 13 percent of the population.

That means that blacks are 2.5 times more likely to be shot and killed by police officers as whites.  So why do we keep hearing the argument that more whites are killed by police than blacks?

But of course not all police shootings are inappropriate. 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 that we believe could be handled in a better way.

But there is still a response that critics of reform offer – the reason more unarmed black men are shot and killed by police is that blacks commit more violent crime.

Those critics are correct to point out that blacks are more like likely than whites to commit violent crimes.  But a UC Davis study from last year from Cody Ross found that “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 “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.”

Where does that leave us?  It leaves us where we were on Saturday, in need of challenging conventional thinking on police use of force.   The bottom line is that, even if you believe that BLM and other critics of police are the problem, you are not going to be able to shut down free speech.

The police leadership understands it needs to reform.  As PERF (Police Executive Research Forum) writes, “American policing is at a critical juncture. Across the country, community members have been distressed by images of police officers using deadly force in questionable circumstances. These incidents are an infinitesimal fraction of the millions of interactions that take place between the police and the public every week. Most police officers never fire their guns (except during training) throughout their entire careers, yet they face enormous challenges and risks to their own safety on a regular basis and they perform their jobs admirably. But police chiefs tell us that even one bad encounter can damage trust with the community that took years to build.”

They continue: “As a research organization of law enforcement executives, PERF hears from police chiefs and other officials every day. And what we are hearing is that the policing profession must take the initiative and address the serious challenges confronting it today. That means rethinking some of the fundamentals of policies, training, tactics, and equipment regarding use of force. We need to challenge the conventional thinking on how the police approach some potential use-of-force situations, in particular those that involve people with mental illness who do not have a firearm.”

In my discussions and observations, the police leadership get the need to change, what is holding them up is the rank and file and police defenders across the country who give them cover.

These shootings of police are tragic – I support calls for increased transparency, but I think the only answer is to greatly reduce the number of people, especially unarmed people, who are shot and killed by the police.

—David M. Greenwald reporting

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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12 Comments

  1. The Pugilist

    When it comes down to it, no one is really in favor of free speech when they disagree with it?

    Do conservatives here thing we should stop doing reform because there have been cop shootings?  What is their remedy?

    1. quielo

      “Part of the problem is that the backlash to BLM and the increase in murders in some cities have created a more complicated debate over policing and race that is undermining previous efforts at reform.” 

      The ramp up in violence and violent rhetoric drives people to believe they have to choose a side. Even if there are some shortcomings in policing almost everyone will side with the police against BLM if they have to make a choice. MLK was successful because he did not force people to choose.

       

  2. Alan Miller

    Anger is Fine

    Anger is not fine.  It is understandable, and initially virtually inevitable.  Held onto and held in as a foundation for solution, anger can only destroy.

  3. Frankly

    Social justice liberal Democrats and the media are to blame.  They are both responsible for the death of cops while the root problems continue and deepen.

    Liberal Democrats have exploited a handful of shootings by cops to advance a political agenda and deflect from popular understanding of the failures of decades of liberal policies.

    The media has exploited the same for profit motive… choosing lazy tabloid journalism over real balanced investigatory journalism.   For example we get weeks and months of Freddie Gray reporting and nothing about the thousands of blacks, including young children, murdered by other blacks in Chicago and other cities.

    Both have unfairly inflamed anger at law enforcement and have deflected the attention of the country away from where real solutions would be found.

    And much of this blame lies at the feet of President Obama.  The President has the power to direct the national narrative.  However, instead of focusing the narrative on the real problems in the black community, he has chosen to direct it toward more anger, more deflection and more divisiveness.  The black community has suffered greatly during his reign.  Instead of taking responsibility for this, the Great One, as is his standard, points fingers of blame at all that oppose him politically or else that can be politically safe in scapegoating.

    What a lousy President.  He will leave office having succeeded in his goal of transforming the country… into a giant mess of angry and hostile tribes under a powerful looter ruling class.

    1. The Pugilist

      I don’t think you really understand what’s happening.  First, for decades blacks were subjected to disparate treatment.  They finally reached a point where they are fed up.  You bring up politics but Democratic officials had to be brought the table kicking and screaming.  I doubt many of them see there being a lot of political upside here.  They were late to the game and in many cases weak in their response.  So I just tink  your political analysis is faulty and lacks understanding of what is actually going on.

      1. quielo

        “lacks understanding of what is actually going on.” What is actually going on is that this country is becoming more Asian and Hispanic and neither group has historically been sympathetic to African Americans. In addition some of the historical grievances have no relevance to or resonance with new immigrants who have their own sense of trauma from their home countries.

  4. Barack Palin

    The first problem, however, is that you adjust for population where white people make up roughly 62 percent of the population overall, but only 49 percent of those killed by police officers.  Meanwhile, African Americans account for 24 percent of those killed but only 13 percent of the population.

    But when you adjust for the fact that blacks commit much more crime than whites those numbers are more in line.  That would be like saying 10 times more fishermen drown than bus drivers.  DUH!!!!!

    1. Frankly

      Ironic isn’t it?  The only way to equalize these statistics is for the police to profile by race and then apply some affirmative action style policing… where blacks would be given special leniency or privilege above the law… like Hillary Clinton.  Or else maybe we have two sets of laws… one for blacks and Hillary Clinton and then one for everyone else.

      [moderator] We continue to request that presidential politics be avoided as off topic, unless that is the specific topic of the thread.

  5. Marina Kalugin

    ha ha….you can request whatever, moderators…and unless you agree with the op, then one gets their posts moderated or removed…

    if one agrees, then there is a perfunctory slap on the wrist..

    off topic is only offtopic when the owners do not agree…

    the real issue, is that the instigators of paid protests are increasingly those who have an agenda…

    those with PTSD are now being manipulated by special interests…

    including the Fed government and unions of the nature of the UAW….

    most of the “shooters” over many decades now are full of psych drugs…

    follow the money and follow why that is happening..

    the ex-military shooters of dozens are likely being manipulated to cause this strife…

    as the government in the US stockplies MREs, new weapons and more ammo than ever in the history of this country..

    why is that?   take a guess…the military and feds want the civil war….

     

     

     

    1. Rich RifkinWDE 73

      most of the “shooters” over many decades now are full of psych drugs … follow the money and follow why that is happening … the ex-military shooters of dozens are likely being manipulated to cause this strife… as the government in the US stockplies MREs, new weapons and more ammo than ever in the history of this country..

      Honey, please, go get some help. I’m not kidding.

  6. Alan Miller

    unless you agree with the op, then one gets their posts moderated or removed…

    if one agrees, then there is a perfunctory slap on the wrist..

    off topic is only offtopic when the owners do not agree…

    What if one is certifiable?  What should the moderator do then?

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