How Often are Unarmed Black Men Shot Down By Police?
Aug 24, 2014 9:26am PDT by Frank Vyan Walton
We stand today, two weeks after the shooting Death of UnarmedJohn Crawford, a week and a half after the Police Shooting Death of Unarmed Michael Brown, about a week after the shooting of Death of Ezell Ford in Los Angeles, in the wake of the Choke-Hold Death of Eric Garner in New York, years after the shooting death of unarmed Sean Bell and Amadour Diallo also in New York, years now after the Shooting Death of Unarmedand Hand-cuffed, Face Down Oscar Grant in Oakland, years after the shooting death of unarmed Kendrec McDade in Pasadena, a decade after the asphyxiation of unarmed Johnny Gammage in Pittsburgh, more decades after the choke-hold police Murder cover-up of Ron Settles in Signal Hill, the Police shooting of Eula Love over a $22 water bill payment in 1979, and of so many others.
We are told these are isolated incidents. We are told that they are simply the Officers procuring their own safety and if only the “suspects” had surrendered or obeyed they would still be alive today.
Every time. In each case. Police never get it wrong. They never make a mistake, are never in a bad mood, have a short temper, may have been overly fearful and may have overreacted. Because in nearly all these cases that’s what we’re initially told by Police sources and their supporters.
“It was a good shoot”.
It’s a familar broken record.
How often does that record get put on in the iPad when Police want to drown out the cries of an outraged public, until they forced to find out what really happened and it’s not anything like the Police initially claimed? How often do Police shoot and kill unarmed suspects who pose no real threat to them? How often does this happen to Black People? How often does it happen to White People? Or anyone?
The truly frightening thing is that we apparently don’t know. We have no idea. Not even a clue. We’ve been tracking the statistics about Crime for decades at individual police agencies and in the FBI Uniform Crime Report, But those reports don’t document exactly when Cops become Murdering Criminals. This fact – which has sparked police riots and racial unrest going all the way back to the 1960’s – is still a mystery.
According to Fivethrityeight.com – no one tracks this.
Efforts to keep track of “justifiable police homicides” are beset by systemic problems. “Nobody that knows anything about the SHR puts credence in the numbers that they call ‘justifiable homicides,’” when used as a proxy for police killings, said David Klinger, an associate professor of criminology and criminal justice at the University of Missouri who specializes in policing and the use of deadly force. And there’s no governmental effort at all to record the number of unjustifiable homicides by police. If Brown’s homicide is found to be unjustifiable, it won’t show up in these statistics.
Is being shot down by a cop in the street something that’s just as likely to happen to White Suspects as a Black person, or do those who’ve sensed a decades long pattern here actually have a point? Why don’t we have this information? Could it be intentional?
If we want to know how many Justifiable Homicides occur by Police or Private Citizens we can get those number easily. This is them.
But if we want to know how many Law Enforcement Shootings are “Unjustified” – we get no answer from the FBI. None.
One source, in a report called “Operation Ghetto Storm” says that in 2012 that of the 739 “Justified” shootings shown above from 2012, 313 of them were Black. 44% of them or 136, were unarmed. 27% of them (83) were claimed by Law Enforcement to have Gun at the time of the shooting, but that could not be later confirmed or the “gun” was in fact, a toy or other non-lethal object. 20% of them (62) were confirmed to have been armed with a gun, knife or cutting tool.
This report, which was gathered by searching media reports, obituaries and even facebook pages of deceased persons includes the following table as an example.
91% of the people killed by Police in Chicago in 2012 were Black? 87% in New York? 100% in Saginaw and Rockford? I gotta admit even after focusing on this subject for over 30 years, since Ron Settles was killed, I find that kind of shocking.
The report goes on to say that 47% of these killings (146 cases) occurred not because of the person brandishing a weapon (as noted above less then 30% of them HAD a weapon, or were even thought to have a weapon), it’s because the Officer or Citizen – “felt threatened” and were in “fear”. In only 8% (25 cases) did the suspect fire or discharge a weapon that wounded or killed Police or others while Officers were on the scene.
Only eight (8) Officers were Charged with Murder, Manslaughter or use of excessive force in these case.
Is this report comprehensive? Is it fully accurate? I don’t know, it’s gone through several revisions and updates as none of the data is being officially compiled anywhere and some things can be missed that way.
And it’s not like some in the media haven’t attempted to divine the answer on their own, they have. http://www.colorlines.com/…
This summer ColorLines and The Chicago Reporterconducted a joint national investigation of fatal police shootings in America’s 10 largest cities, each of which had more than 1 million people in 2000. Several striking findings emerged.To begin, African Americans were overrepresented among police shooting victims in every city the publications investigated.
The contrast was particularly noticeable in New York, San Diego and Las Vegas. In each of these cities, the percentage of black people killed by police was at least double that of their share of the city’s total population.
They analyzed the data from the Ten Largest Cities and in Every City – every single one – had double the number of black shooting victims than their proportion in the population.
And it’s not just happening to Black People.
Starting in 2001, the number of incidents in which Latinos were killed by police in cities with more than 250,000 people rose four consecutive years, from 19 in 2001 to 26 in 2005. The problem was exceptionally acute in Phoenix, which had the highest number of Latinos killed in the country.Despite these persistent problems of disproportionate police force in communities of color, a disturbing lack of accountability plagues several of the cities examined.
In Chicago, for example, an examination of media accounts shows that only one shooting out of the 84 fatal police shootings occurred since 2000 has been found unjustified. Monique Bond, spokeswoman at the Chicago Police Department, said that more than one shooting had been determined to have been outside department guidelines, but could not provide specific numbers.
But it’s not all Bad News.
After five consecutive years of more than 200 reported incidents of fatal police shootings in cities with more than 250,000 people during the early 1990s, the numbers for these cities fell during most of the decade, dropping as low as 138 in 1999 before resuming a general upward climb to 170 in 2003. These figures may be low due to underreporting by some departments to the federal government.Washington, D.C., which had the nation’s highest rate of police shootings during the 1990s, has cut the rate of shootings dramatically through a combination of training and accountability. Others point to a small but growing number of police departments like Los Angeles and Portland, Ore. that are looking not so much at whether the shootings are justified or not, but about the decisions police and supervisors took that led up to the shootings.
And beyond scanning press accounts, which to be honest are incomplete when only focusing on the larger cities, there is some information available on this from the Bureau of Justice Statistics (pdf).
o The most common reason for contact with police in 2008 was being a driver in a traffic stop (44.1%)o Black drivers were about three times as likely as white drivers and about two times as likely as Hispanic drivers to be searched during a traffic stop.
Yet as we all should know, even though Blacks get searched more often during stops – police don’t find more drugs or guns on them.
White New Yorkers make up a small minority of stop-and-frisks, which were 84 percent black and Latino residents. Despite this much higher number of minorities deemed suspicious by police, the likelihood that stopping an African American would find a weapon was half the likelihood of finding one on a white person.
So why then, exactly, are they doing it? If stopping twice the Black people only generates half the guns or drugs, why does this happen?
The table shows that the percentage of Blacks that are arrested during traffic stops is twice (4.7% to 2.4%) as high as White Drivers. And similarly their likelyhood of being ticketed is greater (58% to 53%) – although Latinos top them both at 62% – and their likelyhood of receiving a written warning (14.8% to 17.7%) or a verbal warning (6.0% to 11.2%) are consistently lower.
A similar differential can be seen when it comes to Officer Uses of Force against persons of different Races and Ages.
You can see that consistently from 2002 through 2008 that Black citizens encountering police received threats of force, or use of force at least Three Times More Often than White citizens. Latinos citizens were threatened with force, or had force used on them about Twice as Often.
If we are to use the example provided by Chicago as a rough guide, about 95% of these instances are being deemed “Justified” by the Police but that’s not how the citizens feel about it.
o Among persons who had contact with police in 2008, an estimated 1.4% had force used or threatened against them during their most recent contact, which was not statistically different from the percentages in 2002 (1.5%) and 2005 (1.6%).o A majority of the people who had force used or threatened against them said they felt it was excessive
So I wonder when it comes to that majority who felt that force used against them was “excessive”, would it be accurate to say that black people – who as shown above received about three times the threats and uses of force against them – doth complain too much about it?
Nope, not so much.
The highest complain level is Latinos at 78%, then Whites at 72% and Blacks are Dead Last with only complaining about use of excessive force 70% of the time. Now this may be because they feel their complaints would be falling on deaf ears, and the fact that the percentage of incidents for each group would tend to be the exact inverse tends to bear that out, but I find it also interesting, as noted by fivethirtyeight.com, that the issue that has brought the entire subject up – excessive use of deadly force – isn’t even included in the BJS report.
Wow, ain’t that somethin’?
If the use of kicking, punching, tasering and pointing guns at citizens is felt to be excessive an average of 74% of the time – and is Three Times Higher for Black People – just what would the percentages of unjustified, excessive uses of deadly forcereally be like if we had those numbers?
Could it be as high as 80%, 90%?
Could it be so bad that the obviousness of it all would be plain for all to see? Just how bad is it? Maybe that’s why, with all this number crunching already being provided by the BJS and Police Departments and the FBI – we still don’t have that. one. strategic. figure.
Somehow I don’t think that’s a coincidence.
That’s why we have people marching in the Streets in Ferguson, and Los Angeles, and New York this week. People are marching for the truth. For Justice. What we all used to not cynically laugh and call “the American Way…”
Maybe we should start to solve the problem by defining and quantifying the problem. Then we can measure if things are getting better, or if they’re getting worse, if we’re going the right direction or we’re going the wrong way. Body cams or not, if we don’t have raw data – we don’t really know what’s going on, do we? None of us.
But I think we now have a clue, and it doesn’t look good.
The biggest thing I’ve taken away from this project is something I’ll never be able to prove, but I’m convinced to my core: The lack of such a database is intentional. No government—not the federal government, and not the thousands of municipalities that give their police forces license to use deadly force—wants you to know how many people it kills and why.It’s the only conclusion that can be drawn from the evidence. What evidence? In attempting to collect this information, I was lied to and delayed by the FBI, even when I was only trying to find out the addresses of police departments to make public records requests. The government collects millions of bits of data annually about law enforcement in its Uniform Crime Report, but it doesn’t collect information about the most consequential act a law enforcer can do.
I’ve been lied to and delayed by state, county and local law enforcement agencies—almost every time.They’ve blatantly broken public records laws, and then thumbed their authoritarian noses at the temerity of a citizen asking for information that might embarrass the agency. And these are the people in charge of enforcing the law.
The second biggest thing I learned is that bad journalism colludes with police to hide this information. The primary reason for this is that police will cut off information to reporters who tell tales. And a reporter can’t work if he or she can’t talk to sources. It happened to me on almost every level as I advanced this year-long Fatal Encounters series through the News & Review. First they talk; then they stop, then they roadblock.
Not exactly worthy of the “blind trust” of the public, are they?
Today’s map, from the Washington Post’s Reid Wilson, uses data from the Association of Statisticians of American Religious Bodies to pinpoint the second-most practiced religion in each state. (Christianity is first in each state.)
See Also: 25 Maps and Charts That Explain America Today (Washington Post)
The Afternoon Map is a semi-regular feature in which we post maps and infographics. In the afternoon. Semi-regularly. Thanks to Reid Wilson for sharing this one.