Saturday, April 09, 2022

Race and Police Violence

The Quillette article Studying the Link Between Race and Police Killings is a good summary of why results can appear contradictory or inconclusive in different studies. Advocates, of course, pick the studies that show what they like and trumpet those. The rest of us have to have higher standards than that.

Consider, as a thought experiment, data showing that a white police officer was less likely to shoot a black person once the officer had unholstered his or her gun. On the surface, this would look like evidence against racist intent. But this inference becomes much weaker—and perhaps even unsustainable—if one considers the possibility that officers are significantly more likely to unholster and aim their weapons at blacks to begin with. This field is full of puzzles such as this. 


GraniteDad said...

Yes, it’s hard because there are so many different facets to a police call. One, someone has to call the police because they view the situation as threatening. And then the police (numbers on scene may vary) interact with people (who they may or may not have interacted with before) and the situation has to escalate to weapons being pulled out (taser vs gun vs pepper spray vs baton) and then a determination to use the weapon. The raw data to sort through is overwhelming I would think, and it still doesn’t easily differentiate between racist intent, ignorance, or justified use of force (or some combo of the three).

Assistant Village Idiot said...

No, no! You must either support Blue Lives Matter or Black Lives Matter! There are no subtleties here.

james said...

The previous Madison police chief, after complaints, decided that radical transparency was the way to go, and posted a M-F daily crime blog. Identities were obscured, but the sex and ethnicity of the nominal perps and victims were in the report. It turns out that the police don't lurk outside people's homes spying to see if they can catch them doing something bad--they're called for.
(The new chief doesn't include that info. He used to work for a Chicago police oversight group...)

I wonder about the reference in the link to a "bias" in police stops. I have trouble seeing through windshields reliably--unless the window is down or the car is backlit I'd have a problem guessing the ethnicity of the driver. At night I can generally tell if a taillight is out, though.