Saturday, July 9, 2016

The Washington Post’s Role in Perpetuating the Racial Hatred of Police

By Michael P. Tremoglie

A friend asked me if I had any ideas how to curb the problem between some of the black community and the police. Yes, I do have some ideas about how to curb this problem. As an introduction to my thoughts I would ask you to watch these two C-SPAN video clips of my opening remarks and a segment of the subsequent panel discussion at the Federalist Society’s National Lawyers convention last November. 

The first thing I feel is needed is to shine the light on the role of the politicians, media, academia, civil libertarians, and “activist” groups in this. They are perverting the statistics to perpetuate a racism narrative that does not exist.

For example, I had some questions about what the Washington Post’s much ballyhooed 
‘study’ of police shootings. I questioned its accuracy, methodology and conclusions. A cursory review confirmed my doubts. But I am not an expert even though I have more education, training, and experience in this matter than the Post’s reporters.

So I consulted with two expert criminal justice statisticians about the Post’s reportage of their police shooting findings. It was important to do so since the Post’s conclusions were uncritically reported by every major news outlet - conservative and liberal ( CNN, Fox News, Fox Business, MSNBC, CNBC etc).

One of my sources is Prof. Richard Berk. He is a world renown criminologist and statistician at the University of Pennsylvania. Another is Prof. Larry Greenfeld, who was the Director of the Dept of Justice Bureau Criminal Justice statistics - and famous for being fired by the Bush administration. 

Both of these highly regarded criminologist statisticians said - without qualification - that the conclusion the Post published that blacks are six times more likely to be shot by police officers than whites is totally inaccurate. The Post, they all said independently of one another, omitted a very important variable. Blacks have more interaction with police than whites because of the amount of crime that occurs in the black community (e.g.  Blacks constitute disparately higher percentages of crime victims than white. Blacks also kill police officers at a higher rate than whites ( but this is never mentioned).

As Prof. Greenfeld told me, "I would have looked at the numbers very differently from the Post.  As the per capita rates show (I calculated on "young" black males) these are very rare phenomena and we know that crime commission rates, for those offenses involving violence, vary by race. So it is reasonable to expect that the probability of violent confrontations with police will also vary by race.  It is not so much that what they did was wrong or right; it is, to me,  it is simply not at all persuasive.  Again, if about 40% of those arrested for violence are black is it so unexpected that 40% of those killed during violent confrontations with police are black?  That to me is the more relevant and compelling comparison.

As Prof. Berk said, "Suppose police are as likely to mistakenly shoot an unarmed blackmale as an unarmed white male. So the shootings are race-neutral. But suppose black males commit 3 times more crimes than white males and therefore have about 3 times more police apprehensions. You expect even in this race-neutral scenario about 3 times more black males shot than white males. The proper comparison is not the proportion of black males in the population but the proportion of black males apprehended by the police. This is just the kind of error I go over when I teach elementary statistics. "

Unfortunately, my research will never be published because even in conservative circles - like the Heritage Foundation - it is considered verboten to mention high crime rates among blacks. I have been on several national and local radio talk shows. But the newspapers and even conservative think-tank blogs have prohibited publication of my work.

BTW these high crime rates are historic according to Randall Roth a crime historian professor at Ohio State University whom - like Messrs. Berk, Greenfeld, Bessette and others - I have come to know over my years of research and writing about this issue.

So this is the first thing that needs to be done to stop the hate. Ensure the media is reporting the facts. But as Prof. Berk says “the facts do not seem to matter anymore.”



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