The numbers don’t support BLM claims about the police

Are black lives in danger due to “systemic racism” in American policing? Are “black and brown bodies” under systematic assault by white racists?

The numbers from recent years suggest that the answer to both questions is “no.” There are few instances in which unarmed blacks are killed by white police officers. To the extent that, in these instances, the police officer acted wrongfully, the officer must be held fully accountable. However, the low number of instances compared to the frequency of encounters undercuts any claim of a systemic policing problem in this regard.

Similarly, the statistics on interracial violence undercut the claim that white racists pose a serious threat to black and brown bodies. Blacks engage in violence against whites far more frequently than whites engage in violence against blacks.

Today, I want to examine the 2019 numbers on police shootings. Daniel Horowitz reports them here, citing the Washington Post’s database.

According to the Post’s data, nine unarmed black people were shot dead by cops in 2019. Nineteen unarmed white people shared the same fate. These numbers confirm that black lives are not in danger due to systemic police racism. Nine incidents do not demonstrate a systemic problem.

If the nine killings were all unjustified, that would be nine too many. However, Horowitz cites a series of tweets that analyze the nine cases. If the facts presented in these tweets are accurate, it seems that most of the nine killings were justified.

To cite a few examples:

Marzues Scott attacked a store employee. He then attacked a female police officer, knocking her to the ground, who then shot and killed him.

Two officers in Oklahoma shot Isaiah Lewis. He was running naked and charged an officer, beating him unconscious, after which his partner shot and killed him.

Police shot Atatiana Jefferson through the window of her home. Not sure why it’s categorized as the killing of an unarmed person, since she apparently did have a gun and according to her 8 year old nephew pointed it at the officer.

The 2019 data I’ve discussed includes only shootings. We know that not everyone who dies at the hands of the police is shot. George Floyd, for example, wasn’t shot.

However, as Horowitz suggests, if the Floyd killing were part of a systemic problem of cops killing blacks without justification, we would almost surely see the problem reflected in shootings of unarmed African-Americans. But we don’t.

Responses