Michael Rushford of the Crime and Consequences blog calls attention to a new study by John Lott, Jr. of the Crime Prevention Research Center and Carlisle Moody of the College of William and Mary. The two scholars developed a database for police shootings nationwide from 2013 through 2015. Their database is significantly larger and more detailed than the data available through the FBI.
Lott and Carlisle found that white officers are significantly less likely than black officers to kill black suspects (see page 14). They also found no evidence that body cameras affect either the number of police killings or the racial composition of those killings.
If the first finding is correct, it contradicts the central claim of the Black Lives Matter movement — that, as the result of widespread white racism, police officers are shooting blacks in disproportionate numbers.
There is no doubt that police officers shoot blacks much more often than one would expect if all you knew was the level of their representation in the general population. But, of course, we know much more than that.
The statistics tell us, for example, that black males commit 52 percent of all homicides and over 60 percent of all robberies. And this new study suggests the absence of racial bias by white officers when it comes to responding with lethal force to black suspects. If anything, the way black suspects respond to the police is more likely to cause a black officer to shoot than it is a white officer.
We trust that Jeff Sessions and the staff he chooses to help him as Attorney General is aware of the new study, or will be soon. We trust that if Sessions and his staff find it persuasive, the study will inform their thinking on the question of whether racism affects policing in America.