Whenever there is a police shooting of a black man, the Black Lives Matter movementbegin their chants of racial bias, racial profiling, and racism. But the evidence points in different direction.
What are the facts?
The Washington Post has a convenient online tool that crunches the data on police shootings. So far this year (2016), there have been 707 deaths at the hands of police.
Of that number, 173 were identified as black. That’s 24% of the total. While that is a higher percentage than blacks are of the population, it is not suggestive of systemic racism. While the percentage is higher than the population distribution, it is actually about in line with the percentage distribution of the number of crimes committed by race. In other words, blacks account for 28% of crime, so 24% of victims killed by police is in line with that population distribution.
Consider that a number of those shooting were at the hand of a black police officer. Additionally, if we screen the data for “not fleeing” and “unarmed” we get just 6 people shot and killed. While that’s 6 too many, it’s hardly enough of a number to suggest that there is systemic racism and that black men are being hunted and gunned down in the streets. It’s 1% of the total – pretty much the same as whites who were gunned down “not fleeing” and “unarmed.”
When it comes to just “unarmed,” (taking out “not fleeing”), it turns out that whites where shot and killed at a higher percentage of the total than blacks.
One thing the data doesn’t give us is the race of the officer involved. Sometimes the officer is not identified. When they are, the data set does not give us their race – you’d have to crunch the numbers yourself.
But we do know that in some of these cases the officer is also black. It would be interesting to crunch the data based on the race of the officer and exclude black officer/black victim, white officer/white victim data.
Since state location data is also available, it would be interesting to view the data based on the race of the chief of police.
The numbers for the full year of 2015 are also available from Washington Post. The numbers this year aren’t too far off of what last year was.