Black Lives Matter has made the notion that police officers are more likely to stop and interact with black people more than with white people.
The popular term for this, of course, is systemic racism.
BLM and other activists have some pretty convincing figures to “prove” this thesis.
For example New York’s percentage of black residents is about a quarter, though 50 percent of stops by police are black people. Case closed: the cops are racist.
Not so fast: these are the wrong figures to examine.
Heather Mac Donald, perhaps our foremost expert on policing, says that Census date are the wrong ones for evaluating police conduct. Look instead at crime rates, she says. These will give you a more accurate picture of the situation.
Mac Donald writes:
Census data is the wrong benchmark for evaluating police behavior, however. The proper benchmark is crime rates, because policing today is data-driven, deploying officers to where criminals prey on their victims.
Blacks in New York City commit over 70% of all drive-by shootings, according to the victims of, and witnesses to, those shootings, who are overwhelmingly minority themselves. Add Hispanic shootings to black shootings and you account for nearly 100% of all shootings in New York City.
These numbers mean that virtually every time an officer gets a “shots fired” call over his radio, he is being called to a minority neighborhood, on behalf of a minority victim, and being given the description of a minority suspect, if anyone is cooperating with the police for once. The cops don’t wish this reality into being. It is forced upon them by the facts of crime.
Such disparities exist in every American city. In Chicago, blacks commit about 80% of all shootings and murders, and whites less than 2%, though both blacks and whites are each a little less than a third of the population. In St. Louis, blacks commit up to 100% of all homicides, though they are less than 50% of the population.
Officers cannot use their lawful powers of enforcement, in other words, without having a disparate impact on blacks, since blacks commit the lion’s share of violent street crime. These crime disparities also have large implications for police use of force. Officers are far more likely to encounter armed, violent, and resisting suspects in minority neighborhoods.
The biggest predictor of officer behavior is civilian behavior. If a civilian resists arrest, an officer will escalate his own use of force until he gains compliance. If a civilian threatens an officer or bystanders with potentially lethal force, an officer is legally justified in using lethal force in return. Blacks resist arrest at four times the rate of whites, according to one study; a decade’s worth of data show that black males make up over 40% of all cop-killers, though they are 6% of the national population.
The left has lionized Jacob Blake as a heroic survivor of police brutality. Vice presidential candidate Kamala Harris, who visited with the Blake family had a telephone conversation with Jacob Blake, told him that she is “proud of him and how he is working through his pain.”
We hope Blake is coping with his pain and injuries that may prevent him from walking again. But in light of the Mac Donald piece, it might just be pertinent to note the circumstances under which Blake suffered them: he was shot because police were pursuing him in connection with a felony sexual accusation. Blake reportedly did anything but comply with arresting officers.
To be sure, we leave the legal judgment on Blake’s behavior to the court, but it would be good if the idea that he was a victim of systemic racism had been questioned before rioters destroyed Kenosha, Wisc., and made Blake a hero, holding him up as somebody to admire. This can’t be good for impressionable young people.