Is it Racist? Is it Systemic or Widespread? Hopefully this will provide a general gauge. For the first premise, that it is racist, I will let the source speak for itself. The following is an excerpt from the first nationwide and systematic study on the role of race in police shootings done by Michigan State University and University of Maryland:
"We found that the race of the officer doesn"t matter when it comes to predicting whether black or white citizens are shot," Cesario said. "If anything, black citizens are more likely to have been shot by black officers, but this is because black officers are drawn from the same population that they police. So, the more black citizens there are in a community, the more black police officers there are."
The data show that it"s not racial bias on behalf of white officers relative to black officers when it comes to fatal shootings, and that"s good news. The bad news, Cesario said, is that internal policy changes, such as diversifying police forces, may not reduce shootings of minority citizens.
Beyond officer race, the team drew other conclusions about details related to racial disparities in fatal officer shootings.
"Many people ask whether black or white citizens are more likely to be shot and why. We found that violent crime rates are the driving force behind fatal shootings," Cesario said. "Our data show that the rate of crime by each racial group correlates with the likelihood of citizens from that racial group being shot. If you live in a county that has a lot of white people committing crimes, white people are more likely to be shot. If you live in a county that has a lot of black people committing crimes, black people are more likely to be shot. It is the best predictor we have of fatal police shootings."
By connecting the findings of police officer race, victim race and crime rates, the research suggests that the best way to understand police shootings isn"t racial bias of the police officer; rather, by the exposure to police officers through crime.
The vast majority " between 90% and 95% " of the civilians shot by officers were actively attacking police or other citizens when they were shot. Ninety percent also were armed with a weapon when they were shot. The horrific cases of accidental shootings, like mistaking a cell phone for a gun, are rare, Cesario said."
As for whether it is widespread or systemic. The notion that police brutality is widespread and systematic is simply unsupported by data. Out of a study on large(100 or more officers) local and state law enforcement agencies the following was found:
- There were 26,000 complaints regarding excessive use of force filed
- Of these 8% were found to be sustained, or in other words, there was sufficient evidence to merit disciplinary action of an officer. Or 2,080.
- 34% were unsustained, or in otherwords there was insufficient evidence present.
- 25% were unfounded, or in other words, determined to not be factual, or to have not happened at all.
- 23% were exonerated, or in other words, the incident was deemed to have occurred, but the officers actions were lawful.
- 9% were other dispositons, such as withdrawing of the complaint.
Even if we take it that 100% of exonerations should have been sustainments, for purposes of illustration, that still leaves us at just 31%, or a mere 8,060 valid complaints.
80% of agencies supplied data, so if you extrapolate that out to 100%, you get 9,672 'valid' complaints.
(Bureau of Justice Statistics Special Report; Law Enforcement Management and Administration Statistics; Citizen Complaints about Police Use of Force; 2006)
To put that into perspective, there were roughly 65 million people who had public-police interactions in 2015 with state and local law enforcement agencies, or in other words, .00014% of people who had an interaction with a police officer, experienced excessive use of force.
(Bureau of Justice Statistics; Contacts between Police and Public; 2015)
I'm failing to think of a realm where .00014% of something is a significant percentage point, particularly in realms like these, let alone widespread and systematic.
Now let's look at citizens killed by police:
- It is estimated that in 2015 roughly 1,900 individuals died in arrest related deaths.
- Of these 64% were homicides. As in, insufficient or no evidence to conclude it was suicide(by cop), and the death was not accidental(ex: innocent bystanders)
- 18% were suicide(by-cop)
- 11% were accidental
It is also important, this number does not hold bearing on whether these deaths were justified v non-justified. Take just the homicides and you end up with 1,216 deaths.
Now refer back to that roughly 65 million interactions from previous. That's .0000018% of people involved in police interactions in any given year.
Does any of this at all seem widespread and systemic yet?
(Bureau of Justice Statistics; Arrest-Related Deaths Program Redesign Study; 2015-2016)
The Number of arrests is also crucial to understanding the scope. In any given year, there are roughly 10,360, 960 arrests for all offenses.
So deaths result .00013% of the time during an arrest.
Of those arrests, a sustained or exonerated complaint of excessive force occurs .0009% of the time.
It is important to note, that arrests only includes arrests. It does not include interactions where a criminal offense occurred, but no arrest was made. Such as typical traffic stops, many misdemeanor offenses, etc.
(FBI Crime Statistics; fbi.gov)
Is police brutality and killing something we should try to reduce as humanly possible? Yes, absolutely. Wrongful deaths are tragic, especially preventable ones. Is it widespread, no. Unless you would want to claim 1, 416 rotten oranges in a grove of 65 million+ oranges is a sign of a widespread rotting of the entire grove. Which would itself be farcically absurd to claim.
People need to relearn how to gain perspective on issues, because the notions surrounding many issues entirely lack perspective. Perspective being crucial to understanding the magnitude by which we should respond to something.
Protest? Absolutely, Floyd deserves justice and it appears that is being done. There ought be little issue getting a conviction of Murder 3 on Chauvin.
Looting, rioting, beating and killing random people or people trying to defend their property, declaring the whole system is corrupt(and racist)? No, that is many orders of magnitude well above the magnitude of the issue itself.
Understanding the magnitude of an issue is key to being able to identify the proper response, seek and isolate causal factors, and rectify them. If we act like the whole system is rotten as many are, then we are learning little of value because what changes should that system make if it is entirely corrupt? How should the next system be structured so as to mitigate the issue as much as possible? These are not truly answered and we are left with blindly guessing.