Tuesday, May 12, 2015

Assault on Precinct USA Debunking the Myths about Race and Law Enforcement By Michael P. Tremoglie

It has been said that the first casualty in war is truth. This is no less valid when it comes to the war against crime. Specifically, the war currently being waged by various factions against the police.

Members of the media, academia, and the soi disant civil libertarians have been engaged in a campaign to denigrate law enforcement. Their methods include making amorphous allegations of racism and police misconduct. They cite reportage that is, at best, irresponsible and, at worst, is pure propaganda.

But the facts about race and law enforcement are very different from the fiction disseminated by those in the media who portray every police officer as a Bull Connor. By those who want to persuade the public that every “cop is a criminal and all the sinners saints” as Mick Jagger once wrote.

The paradigm of this was seen last August during an officer involved shooting in Ferguson, Missouri. Officer Darren Wilson shot and killed a black teenager named Michael Brown. Almost immediately, accusations were leveled by many journalists, civil libertarians, minority group leaders, and politicians that unarmed, young, black men are routinely murdered by white police officers.

These same people called for “jailing killer cops.” They called for “justice,” which in this case, meant that Officer Wilson should be convicted and sentenced to prison. They accused Wilson of shooting Brown even though Brown’s hands were raised and he pleaded for the officer not to shoot.

Despite the officer’s testimony, despite the lack of credible witnesses and despite the forensic evidence, they demanded Officer Wilson go to prison for murder. Nothing less would slake their thirst for vengeance.

Even after a grand jury refused to indict Wilson, they continued to act like a lynch mob. They vilified Wilson, the prosecutor and the grand jury.  They were only silenced after the investigation by the Holder/ Obama Department of Justice revealed the claim of “Hands Up Don’t Shoot” was a lie and that Officer Wilson did not commit a crime or violate civil rights.

But the truth about the Ferguson case has not stopped the agitators from chanting “Hands Up Don’t Shoot” during the Baltimore riots. Signs about “Racist Cops” are prominent in Baltimore and in demonstrations around the country despite the fact that half the officers involved in the Baltimore case are black.
Why? Primarily because of the disinformation campaign. The criticisms and data about law enforcement and race emanating from the media and civil libertarians causes one to recall what Orwell said about the leftist intelligentsia in his 1945 essay Notes on Nationalism. He wrote, “One has to belong to the intelligentsia to believe things like that: no ordinary man could be such a fool.”

The Perversion of Police Shooting Statistics

It is difficult to determine whether many of those who make claims such as white police murder young blacks because of racism; or that more blacks are killed by police than whites; or that whites are not killed at all by police are ignorant or intentionally trying to foment controversy. Either way their allegations are not true. The statistics compiled and analyzed by researchers and credible social scientists - as opposed to those by data journalists - prove this.

According to the statisticians of the highly esteemed U.S. Department of Justice Bureau of Justice Statistics (BJS), nearly two thirds of police shootings - reported from 1980-2008 -  were intraracial (It is also worth noting that three-fourths of civilian justifiable homicides were also intraracial).

Another thing to consider, for the year 2008, BJS determined that 64 percent of the justifiable homicides by police involved the officer being assaulted. For those involving citizens, 55 percent were the result of a disruption of a crime in progress and 41 percent involved an assault against the citizen.

Regarding the statistical racial disparities contained in the data about homicides by police, and homicides in general, there are many facts that are omitted by the media because they are contrary to the narrative of blacks being killed by racist police officers. For example, according to the FBI, blacks were 43 percent of the known killers of law enforcement officers during the period from 2004-2013. But blacks were only about 13 percent of the U.S. population in 2013. So one can make an argument that blacks were overrepresented as killers of police.

Indeed, the Department of Justice, in a study titled Policing and Homicide 1976 to 1998 concluded, “Young black males murdered police officers at a rate almost 6 times that of young white males.” It also determined that “When a black felon murders a police officer, the officer is usually a white (74%); and when a white felon murders a police officer, the officer is usually a white (95%).”

Does this mean that killers of police officers are black racists? No, course not.

There are more racial disparities that disprove that police shootings of blacks are the result of white racist police. You will not find these mentioned on the nightly news though.

The aforementioned Policing and Homicide 1976 to 1998 report revealed that for at least one year, 1998, black officers committed a statistically disproportionate amount of justifiable homicides by police. White officers were 87 percent of America’s 641,208 police and accounted for 82 percent of justifiable homicides by police in 1998. Black officers were 11 percent of the nation’s police forces but accounted for 17 percent of justifiable homicides. But not one news outlet reported this.

Black officers also killed black felons more than white officers and vice-versa. The black-officer-kills-black-felon rate was 32 per 100,000 black officers in 1998, which is higher than the white-officer-kills-black-felon rate of 14 per 100,000 white officers. The white-officer-kills-white-felon rate was 28 per 100,000 white officers in 1998, which is higher than the black-officer-kills-white-felon rate of 11 per 100,000 black officers.

Another BJS analysis, called Arrest Related Deaths (ARD’s), which is a report mandated by Congress, also detailed the racial breakdown of those killed by police. The data, collected from 2003 through 2009, determined that of a total of 4,813 arrest related deaths reported about 6 in 10 (2,931) were classified as homicide by law enforcement personnel. The racial breakdown for blacks and whites indicated that 60.9 percent of whites and 61.3 percent of blacks were killed while being arrested for this period.

The FBI estimated that during these same seven years state and local law enforcement officers made nearly 98 million arrests. This means that only 5 thousandths of one percent of arrests involved the killing of the person being arrested.

Think about this - one out of every 20,000 arrests result in someone being killed. According to one source, there is a four times greater chance of being electrocuted than being killed while being arrested.

Now contrast research done by the experts of the BJS to the widely reported “analysis” of race and police killings by an organization of “data” and “investigative” journalists called Pro Publica. Pro Publica said that the ratio of killings by police of blacks to whites,  from 2010-2012, was an astounding 21:1. The implication was that racism is inherent.

But Pro Publica’s report was vehemently criticized. It was considered so bad that even one of the criminologists quoted in the article, David Klinger, asked for his name to be removed from the published story. A December 10, 2014 article on the St. Louis Public Radio website quoted Klinger as saying, “The ProPublica thing needs to be shut down. They cherry picked the three years that had the worst disparity instead of being honest about the whole picture.” (Pro Publica refused to remove the name and denied slanting the report.)

The St. Louis Public Radio story also pointed out that another leading criminologist, Peter Moskos,“called the ProPublica study “substantially wrong.” They quoted Moskos writing in his Cop in the Hood blog that the 21:1 ratio is the result of the way ProPublica parsed the data – analyzing three years instead of 15, eliminating Hispanic youths from the category of whites and focusing on young victims rather than all victims.

The story continued, “Looking at the bigger, 15-year picture, Moskos found that black youths were nine times more likely than white youths to be killed by officers. Including Hispanics among whites cut the ratio to 5.5:1. Including victims of all ages reduced the ratio to 4:1. One reason that the three-year period cited by ProPublica gave such a high ratio is that only one non-Hispanic white was killed in 2010, skewing the figures.”

The correlation between police homicides and the environment of policing in high crime areas was noted by Moskos who said, “ ...the black-to-white homicide ratio is 15:1. We know police-involved homicides correlate with homicide and violence in the community they police. So what rate of disparity would one expect in police-involved homicides? Certainly not 1 to 1.”

Moskos opined that to honestly address this issue of racial disparities in police-involved shootings, “you need to discuss levels of violence among those with whom police interact.”

He observed, “If one thinks police shootings are primarily an issue of racist police -- if one thinks police only shoot black people, if one thinks white people are never stopped by police for minor offenses -- one is not only wrong, but one won’t come up with any effective solutions. The vast majority of police-involved shootings are justified. That said, there are bad shootings. But this is more a police problem more than a race problem.”

Despite the tendentious nature and lack of scholarship of the Pro Publica article, newspapers like the Philadelphia Inquirer and USA Today, and the Huffington Post trumpeted it.

After reviewing the facts contained in the research published by unimpeachable sources such as the Bureau of Justice Statistics and by credible criminologists,  one can see that there is not a massive racist genocide of black men by white police. One can see that the racial disparity argument is distorted for political reasons.

Yes, blacks are statistically overrepresented in shootings by police, but they are also statistically overrepresented as killers of police. Yes, blacks are overrepresented in crime categories - but as both victim and perpetrator. This is especially true in the most violent of crimes - murder.

The question that needs to be answered is why.

Police shootings are not the only area of law enforcement about which the public is being misled. There are others. One involves racial profiling.  

The Timothy McVeigh Profiling Distortion

A perfect example of the distortions of law enforcement actions is what I will call The Timothy McVeigh Profiling Distortion. After the Oklahoma City bombing on April 19, 1995, a newspaper reported that Arabs were being profiled by law enforcement and Timothy McVeigh escaped because of this. CNN also mentioned this. But it was completely false.
This did not prevent Amnesty International USA from stating - nine years later - in its 2004 Domestic Human Rights report about racial profiling titled, Threat and Humiliation, that following the 1995 Oklahoma City bombing, authorities pursued people of Arab descent while the real bomber, Timothy McVeigh, a white man, fled. It also said McVeigh, “... was able to flee while law enforcement officers reportedly operated on the initial theory that ‘Arab terrorists’ had committed the attack.”
Nearly a decade later, a highly regarded civil rights organization’s seminal report completely misstates the facts of the Timothy McVeigh case by mindlessly reciting an erroneous news media stories.
They were not the only one.
Also nine years later, another highly esteemed civil liberties organization, the ACLU, drafted a letter to Congress urging sponsorship of the End Racial Profiling Act. The 2004 letter said, “When Timothy McVeigh, a white Gulf War veteran, exploded a bomb outside the Murrah Building in Oklahoma City, law enforcement immediately began to focus its investigation on Islamic suspects.”
What Actually Happened
The truth is that two days was all that it took to capture McVeigh. He was stopped for a traffic violation and taken into custody on weapons violations on April 19, 1995. The next day, April 20, 1995, the FBI had identified McVeigh as the owner of the vehicle used in the bombing. By April 21 the FBI learned that McVeigh was in custody in Oklahoma and he was taken to an Air Force base in Oklahoma where he was arraigned that evening for the bombing.
A profile of the Oklahoma City bomber was developed by FBI’s Cliff Van Zandt, the same day as the bombing. It concluded the Oklahoma City bomber was a single, white male with military experience.
One can easily see that media speculation and claims by the civil liberties organizations notwithstanding there were no wild goose chases of Arab suspects. McVeigh certainly was not allowed to flee as Amnesty International USA and the ACLU said.
The FBI’s account of the investigation and capture states, “...the media and many Americans immediately assumed that the attack was the handiwork of Middle Eastern terrorists. The FBI, meanwhile, quickly arrived at the scene and began supporting rescue efforts and investigating the facts. Beneath the pile of concrete and twisted steel were clues. And the FBI was determined to find them….it didn’t take long. On April 20, the rear axle of the Ryder truck was located, which yielded a vehicle identification number that was traced to a body shop in Junction City, Kansas. Employees at the shop helped the FBI quickly put together a composite drawing of the man who had rented the van. Agents showed the drawing around town, and local hotel employees supplied a name: Tim McVeigh.”
Even the New York Times substantiated the FBI’s account. It wrote on April 19, 1995:

“Some law-enforcement officials said the bombing might be linked to the second anniversary today of Federal agents' ill-fated assault on the Branch Davidian compound near Waco, Tex., an operation that ended in a fire that killed about 80 people, including many children. Among the offices housed by the Federal building in Oklahoma City was one quartering local agents of the Bureau of Alcohol, Tobacco and Firearms, the agency that Branch Davidians and their sympathizers blamed for the confrontation….Several news organizations, including CNN, reported that investigators were seeking to question several men, described as being Middle Eastern in appearance, who had driven away from the building shortly before the blast. There were also reports that the authorities had interviewed employees at a National Car Rental office in Dallas about a recently leased truck….But Federal officials here said they could not confirm those reports. Indeed, investigators said they did not know whether the bombers were domestic or international terrorists." (Emphasis mine)

It is possible to argue the relative merits of profiling. The fact that profiling opponents are engaging in such sophistry should give all cause to wonder if these critics have any credibility.
Americans’ Attitude Towards Police Have Changed
Finally, what is probably the most shocking fact is the attitude of the public. According to the University of Chicago's prestigious National Opinion Research Center, General Social Survey, 12.8 percent of Americans, in 2012, who said that they can imagine a situation where they would approve of a police officer striking a citizen - said that a policeman should not strike an adult male citizen who was attacking the policeman with his fists. Simply put, about 12 of every 100 Americans, do not think police officers should defend themselves even when the officer is being attacked by someone using their fists.

What is even worse is that this figure has increased about four times what it was nearly forty years ago.

Criminals have always been romanticized by the media and the entertainment industry. From Jesse James to Don Corleone to Frank Lucas,  the criminal is always portrayed as a modern Robin Hood. Never mentioned are the innocents brutally murdered, the lives ruined, the communities destroyed by the criminals’ actions.

Police have always been targets of disdain by the bien pensants. It is only recently that police bashers use racism to discredit police. But as has been shown these claims are not true.

A Reason for Optimism

One encouraging statistic though is that despite all the negativity by the opinion forming institutions in our society a 2011 BJS study determined that, “An estimated 1 in 8 U.S. residents age 16 or older, or 31.4 million persons, requested assistance from police at least once, most commonly to report a crime, suspicious activity, or neighborhood disturbance.”  „

Furhermore they learned that  93 percent of persons requesting police assistance felt the officers acted properly. 86 percent said they were helpful. „85 percent of persons who requested police assistance were satisfied with the police response.
What is even more revealing is that “No statistical differences were found between the percentage of Hispanics (86%), blacks (85%), and whites (83%) who reported a crime or neighborhood disturbance and felt the police were helpful.”„ The survey said 93 percent believed officers spent an appropriate amount of time with them during the contact and about nine in ten persons reported that they were just as likely or more likely to contact the police again for a similar problem.

It seems the average person does not believe the misinformation.


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