Planes crash all the time. How do I know that? We always hear about them on the news.
That is the sort of intellectual rigor most people apply to the assertion that there is a public policy problem of police shooting unarmed black people. They believe in this premise and take it on faith simply because the media focuses on every single one of them, even though most of the shootings are justified. It’s the ultimate optical illusion the media is able to create, the same way it often appears that planes are crashing all the time and that somehow, we need systemic reform of flight safety.
In February, the Los Angeles-based Skeptic magazine published a survey showing that roughly half of self-described liberal or very liberal respondents believe 1,000 or more “unarmed black men” are killed by police every year. Approximately 35% of them believe that number is as high as 10,000 or more. Even among self-described moderates, 66% believe “about 100” or more unarmed black people are killed every year, as well as 54% of self-described conservatives and very conservative respondents.
The reality? According to the Washington Post’s database on police shootings, 18 unarmed black people were killed by police in 2020 and 13 in 2019. It should be noted that “unarmed” doesn’t necessarily mean unarmed. In some cases, media reports are often wrong or don’t give proper context, such as when the criminal doesn’t cooperate and then reaches into his pocket while running away and whips around back at cops. Other instances include a suspect severely beating another cop or civilian. The overwhelming majority of these cases tend to be justified, if also tragic, shootings.
Likewise, when people were asked what percentage of those killed by police were black, every group overstated the reality by a factor of 2-4, including even self-described conservatives. Liberals believed black people accounted for 56%-60% of police shootings, moderates estimated the share at 46%, and conservatives ballparked it at 38%.
In reality, 23%-27% of fatal police shootings in 2019 were of black people. While that is more than their share of the general population, as I’ve noted many times, given the disparity in violent crime rates and how most murder and armed robbery occur in non-white neighborhoods, the number of fatal shootings per capita is likely greater among white people. This is what a Michigan State University study found before the author was fired after woke protesters intimidated the school when authors like Heather Mac Donald and I began citing it.
Everyone knows that cops feel much less inhibited in responding with quicker and more deadly force when dealing with a threatening person who is white. As we saw with Ashli Babbitt, not only was the cop not charged, but to this day his name has not been released. Every single cop who kills a black suspect, no matter how justified, has his name dragged through the media within hours, endangering his entire family. This is a natural deterrent against unjustified force, particularly when dealing with black suspects.
Thus, this notion that unarmed black people being killed by police is somehow an epidemic is the new UFO sighting. It’s a myth because, if anything, the trend is going the other way. Overall police shootings have been down dramatically, as much as 90% among NYPD officers over the past five decades. In 1971, NYPD officers discharged their weapons on the street 810 times. That number has declined steadily over the years and has remained well below 100 in recent years.
A black individual is more likely to be struck by lightning than killed by a policeman. According to Bureau of Justice statistics, there were 6.5 million police interactions with black people in 2018. At between 1 in 300,000 and 1 in 500,000, their chances of being killed by a cop are pretty similar to the chances of being struck by lightning. And of course, for those who don’t run from or fight with the police, their chance of death is essentially zero.
What is the true epidemic of violence among black people? Black victims of homicide, most often at the hands of black career criminals who are undeterred because of the wrong public policy focus. According to the CDC, the black homicide rate was 12.9 times higher than the white homicide rate from 2010 to 2015, and homicide was the leading cause of death for black people under 35.
How often do you hear that in the news?
What’s worse is that those numbers have likely deteriorated with the growing crime wave, tragically and ironically born out of the policies built upon the lie of police indiscriminately shooting black people. Thanks to the BLM agenda on policing and sentencing, as well as the effects of the rioting, we experienced the sharpest increase in homicides in 2020, a trend that has continued into 2021.
Crime expert Sean Kennedy of the Maryland Public Policy Institute estimates there were at least 4,000 excess homicides last year. Given that, according to the FBI’s Uniform Crime Report, 55% of homicide victims whose race was known were black, that means that the BLM agenda caused at least 2,200 excess homicides last year, 116 times more than the number of unarmed black people shot by police. The numbers are likely much worse because, given the geographical distribution of the excess homicides, they were likely heavily weighted toward black victims as well as black suspects.
What is it that BLM ultimately wants? They want police stops and arrests to end and incarceration to be abolished. Well, according to a new research report from the Law Enforcement Legal Defense Fund (LELDF), police stops and arrests indeed declined, on average, 48% in 10 major cities from June 2020 to February 2021 relative to the previous nine-month period from 2019-2020. The results? Murders rose 56% in those cities. For example, in Minneapolis, arrests were down 42%, while murders rose 64%.
This graphic presentation from the LELDF of five violent cities is worth 1,000 words:
Indeed, this is what happens when our politicians allow the media to exacerbate a real crime epidemic with a panacea targeting a fake one.