A new paper, with new data, examines whether police officers discriminate in their killing of African-American’s. Remember, this was THE issue that drove inflamed rhetoric, calls for body cameras, and riots. Even many professors (or course) jumped on the “cops are murdering blacks” bandwagon because (a) they actually believed it, or (b) they wanted to believe it.
Turns out, it’s not so easy to say that discrimination is the driving force behind police shootings. The data collected by the FBI are incomplete. The data from the Washington Post contained various reporting biases (like systematically underreporting the race of the officer).
Enter John Lott and Carlisle Moody’s new paper with new data. From what I can tell, the data are more complete and cover a broader range of incidents that the FBI, CDC, or WP data.
What do they find?
First, their data show larger increases in police shootings overall from 2013 to 2015 than other datasets show.
Second, and this is important, they find that white officers are significantly LESS LIKELY than black officers to kill black suspects.
Third, in all models, black officers were significantly MORE LIKELY to shoot and to kill black suspects.
Fourth, the media apparently over-report instances where white officers kill black suspects and under-report instances where black cops kill black suspects. Go figure.
Lastly, no other variables really mattered. Not the racial composition of the police force, the number of cops in an area, or the practice of community policing.
The take away message: White cops shoot/kill black suspects are rates lower than black cops do, and media reporting is seriously biased.
You can read the study here:
John Paul Wright and Matt DeLisi
Professors of Crime and Criminology