When Arrests Go Bad

[I originally posted this on another blog before I had my own. I’m reposting it because I think it is an important analysis.]

I got to thinking about the issues of race regarding the recent tragic police shootings, both the shootings of police and the shootings by police. The best data is from the Washington Post, which has a detailed site listing all of the people killed by police, which begins in 2015 and goes to the present. I thought I’d analyze their data. I looked at the data for the year 2015 because the full 2016 data is not in yet, and also in order to be able to compare it to other annual datasets.

First, there were 990 fatal police shootings in 2015. How does this compare to other causes of death? Well, I can’t tell you because so few people are killed by police. The number is so small that it is outside the range of the usual mortality lists. I can say that death by police is not in the top fifty causes of death in the US, so it is relatively rare. It is extremely rare for women, because the overwhelming majority of those killed by police were men.  And I would be greatly remiss if I did not highlight that in addition to the 990 civilian deaths, there were 51 police deaths in 2015 …

Regarding the civilians killed by police, more than nine-tenths of them were armed at the time—58% of the people killed had a gun or explosives, 17% wielded a knife or edged weapon, 9% were unarmed, 6% used a vehicle, and tragically, 3% had a toy weapon. The rest used mostly clubs, hatchets, hammers, baseball bats, the usual assortment of your basic stone age deadly weapons that can kill you just as dead now as they could in 1500 BC.


Eschenbach-Fig1-weapons_used_by_people

By race and ethnicity, there were 494 whites, 258 blacks, 172 Hispanics, 15 Asians, 14 American Indians or Alaskan natives, 9 “other” races, and 28 deaths with the race not specified. Which leads to the question … is there a racial imbalance? And in particular, are African-American people being killed at an excessive rate?

Eschenbach-Fig2-people_killed_by_police

Now, many folks calculate the death rates of the groups by comparing the numbers killed, to the corresponding numbers of that group in the general population … but you can’t do that. It leads to wildly incorrect conclusions. Here is an example that shows why comparing numbers of police shootings to the corresponding number of individuals in the general population leads to big errors:

Men make up about 50% of the general population, but men comprise 96% of those killed by police. Does this huge number of “excess male deaths” prove that the police are being sexist and that they are biased against men? Does this imbalance in the number of men killed mean that we need a “Male Lives Matter Too” movement?

Of course not. Instead, it simply demonstrates that men both commit and are arrested for far more crimes of violence than women; that men are far more likely than women to both carry and use weapons; that men are far more likely to both threaten and commit serious violence against a police officer than are women; and most importantly, that men are far more likely than women to violently resist arrest.

The one thread in the Washington Post database that is common to the overwhelming majority of police shootings is that almost all of the civilians were killed while resisting arrest. The records of the deaths show that to keep from going to jail, people were fighting with the police; they were shooting at the police; if they didn’t have a weapon handy they were punching the police or trying to drown the police; they were trying to run the officer over with a car or smash the officer’s skull with a baseball bat … but regardless of the endless variations of method, almost everyone killed by the police was in exactly the same situation—no less than 97% of the people fatally shot by police were killed during the course of an arrest that went bad when the people tried to resist.

Now, don’t get me wrong here. Certainly there were people unjustifiably killed during 2015. Even though only about three percent were not resisting arrest, that’s still thirty-four deaths of people who were not resisting the police when they were killed … double-plus ungood. And resisting arrest doesn’t automatically justify a death sentence. I’m sure you all remember the unarmed black man who was shot and killed in February 2015 in a Pennsylvania restaurant, while lying face down on the floor after being tasered. So yes, wrongful and unjustifiable deaths do occur. In addition, as happens most years, there were people killed by accident in 2015, like the bystander to a gun battle between undercover police and violent criminals who were killed by a badly aimed police bullet. And there were a couple of tragic misperceptions of the type where someone was holding a cell phone and the officer thought it was a gun.

But justified or not, 97% of the deaths by police were variations on a simple age-old theme—someone was violently resisting arrest, usually with a weapon of some sort, and the arrest went bad.

Now, I demonstrated above with men versus women that you can’t simply compare killings against the corresponding raw population figures. It gives us very wrong answers. So what should the number of killings be compared to?

Since the common thread in the killings is that the person was resisting arrest, we need to compare how often people of each race get killed by police, with how often people of the same race get arrested by police. But clearly, we’re not interested in arrests for jaywalking and the like. Since 97% of these deaths are occurring in the context of people violently resisting arrest, they are best compared to the corresponding number of arrests for violent crimes.

Here are the results of that comparison for 2015.

  • For every 10,000 white people arrested for a violent crime, 38 white people were killed by police (± 2).
  • For every 10,000 hispanic people arrested for a violent crime, 21 hispanic people were killed by police (± 3).
  • For every 10,000 black people arrested for a violent crime, 21 black people were killed by police (± 2).

Go figure … I was as surprised as you, so I’ve triple checked the numbers, and it’s true—the odds of a given arrest going bad and ending up in a death are much greater for white men than for black or hispanic men.

Please note that this result says nothing about the existence of racist police officers in America. Sadly, while the situation is immensely better than in my youth, we know that there are still far too many racists in the US … including in the police forces.

And it says nothing about racist policing in America. Again the beneficial changes in my lifetime have been huge, but there still remain any number of places where DWB is often a crime, and jurisdictions where people of color are regularly harassed and stopped by police.

Are there unjustified killings among the Washington Post data? You can be certain there are, it is a rare but real issue. Is there more work to be done? Assuredly. But the Post data doesn’t and can’t answer those questions

What the Washington Post data can and does show us is that death at the hands of police is a problem for people of all races and ethnicities. It’s not something happening preferentially to black people, quite the opposite. Thankfully, it doesn’t happen a lot, but whenever it happens, we need to make sure it was justified … and if not, we need to hold the responsible parties to account.

What we don’t need to do is to turn an issue of excessive use of police force into a racial issue.

Now, I’m your basic melanin-deficient guy. My mom said the same thing to me that good moms of every color all over America say to their sons, which can be boiled down to “If you get in trouble with the police, do what they tell you, be respectful, and don’t resist arrest!”.  And like a good son, I followed my mom’s advice the three times that my corpus delecti was deposited in a squad car and hauled off ignominiously to the local cop shop to answer questions, the one time I was arrested and jailed and rather unceremoniously sentenced and tossed into prison for twenty days, and another four times when I was stopped and questioned and searched by police, once unexpectedly at night in an isolated area at gunpoint, scary stuff. Ah, the joys of youth, I was a regular stop-and-frisk magnet as a somewhat scruffy long-haired young man.

Despite my rather colorful past, as a result of listening to my mom I’m not a statistic. I shut my mouth and went along to get along. The numbers are undeniable, the conclusion is obvious. If you don’t want to die at the hands of the police, DON’T RESIST ARREST!

That doesn’t mean that the deaths of the 97% who were resisting arrest are justified, that’s a totally separate question. Undoubtedly, some were justified and some weren’t. And it doesn’t mean there aren’t unjustifiable deaths, they do exist. There just aren’t many of them. All it means is if you don’t want to get killed by the cops, don’t resist arrest.

Look, if you want to avoid shark attacks, it’s simple—stay in the shade of an oak tree. It’s the best shark repellent known. And if you want to avoid dying at the hands of the police, remember what your mom said, and simply and politely do what the police tell you to do. The job of the police is tough enough, they are already on edge, as they should be given the potential danger of every arrest. So smile and go along, stay safe in the shade of the oak tree. It’s not rocket surgery. If you don’t resist, your odds of getting killed are minuscule. Not zero, to be sure, and you also might win the lottery, but if you’re not resisting arrest it’s almost certain that you won’t be killed by the police.

Here’s the final curiosity. According to the actual data above, it appears that the mothers of black and hispanic men are doing a better job of getting that message across to their sons than are the white moms, and that black and hispanic men have paid more attention to their moms’ universal message. After all, arrests of white men end up in their death nearly twice as often as do the arrests of  black and hispanic men … I ascribe it to arrogance. In my experience, white guys of the kind who run afoul of the law are more likely to challenge and mouth off to the cops, and are more apt to believe they’re invincible, bulletproof, and above the law. But hey, that’s just me, your explanation may vary.

Now, the numbers of deaths are low. But still, with over nine hundred citizens killed by police, surely we can do better than that. And the number of unjustified deaths should be zero. So here, in no particular order, is what I’d do:

  • Require that all police be trained in Aikido. Aikido is a martial art which is designed to NOT hurt the other person. Instead, you learn to immobilize someone, disarm them, and prevent their escape without harm to either them or yourself. During the period when I studied Aikido on Maui, the Sensei was a Maui policeman. Many of the Maui cops had spent years studying Aikido at the dojo, and they were very proficient. If they grabbed your sorry okole, or if you tried to attack them, you could count on two things—nobody got hurt, and your okole stayed grabbed.

In Aikido, you never have an opponent—instead, you have a partner. Seeing the person in front of you as your partner instead of your opponent is a very different mindset. It is a much more profitable way of approaching violent interactions. Aikido contains no kicks, no punches, nothing designed to harm the other person. Instead, it is all about disarming the other person and ending the situation with nobody getting hurt. “Ai-ki-do” means the path of harmony with energy, it is a non-confrontational martial art.

  • As much effort as we put into training police how to win violent situations, we need to put that same amount of effort into training police how to avoid, defuse, and minimize violent situations. Among other tools, Aikido is very important in this crucial aspect of police work.
  • Increase the involvement of the police with the community, particularly in less formal situations (sports, schools, big brother/big sister programs, martial arts, neighborhood watch meetings, Christmas toy drives, holidays, pancake breakfasts for charity, etc.) The only way to repair and improve the trust between the citizens and the police is for us all to get to know each other. I greatly enjoyed getting to know the police officers I trained with in the Maui dojo, it changed my whole mindset about police.
  • Increase the number of women on the police force, particularly beat cops. The cops on the beat are the backbone of the force, they are the public face of the police, and they are often the ones involved in the high-voltage interactions. We need many more female street cops.
  • Get the majority of the city police out of the cars. A good policewoman walking a beat knows every shopkeeper along the way … and what is more important, every shopkeeper knows the policewoman. A cop driving by in a car knows nobody and nobody knows them … which is a bad condition for any society. Plus walking a beat makes you fit, while sitting in a car makes you fat.
  • Body cameras are no magic bullet, but the truth is good for everyone—it protects police and citizens alike. However, there are many unanswered questions as to exactly how to implement that while protecting the privacy rights of both the police and the citizens.
  • Increase transparency regarding possible police misconduct as far as is consonant with police requirements, officer and citizen rights, and legal restrictions. In particular, it is not enough that justice be done in cases of police misconduct. The public needs to see that justice is done, even if it can not be seen until well after the occurrence when the dust has settled and all the facts are in.

The tragedy to me in all of this is that opposition to the excessive use of force by a small number of police officers, which should be a cause to unite at least the populace and hopefully the police as well, has instead become a divisive racially-based issue. The “Black Lives Matter Too” movement is splitting rather than uniting opposition to excess force, based on the false idea that in terms of killings by police, white lives matter and black lives don’t … but the Washington Post hard facts show otherwise. The actual data on shootings by police clearly demonstrates that nobody is privileged in that regard, no race is singled out or excluded, nobody is exempt.

Deaths in police-civilian interactions, both justified and unjustified, are a concern to everyone. The burden and the pain and the cost of death by police fall on people of all colors—on black, white, brown, yellow, red, and absolutely on blue. All the groups need to unite with each other and work together with good will to solve it. And in the discussion, we need to remember that of all of the colors, the group that suffers the most unjustified deaths by an overwhelmingly wide margin every single year is … blue. Yes, black people do have a legitimate grievance, absolutely so, and we should never minimize it … but regarding police shootings, so do white people and brown people and blue people and all the rest.

Finally, people of all races should welcome the news that death rates per arrest for white people are nearly twice those for black and hispanic people … for a curiously realpolitik reason. Consider: which one is more likely to bring lasting change in the police use of force—news of excess white people being killed by cops, or news of excess black people being killed by cops?

Best regards to all,
w.


ANALYSIS NOTES:

1) Be clear that I am NOT saying that a police shooting is justified simply because the person is resisting arrest. However, we are talking about violent encounters. In almost three-quarters of the deaths (74%) the person was actively attacking the officer and a fight was in progress. In another 23% of the deaths the person was actively resisting arrest, and 60% of that group were armed with a deadly weapon.  Heck, more than a third of the unarmed civilians were actively attacking the officer when they were shot. And in all of the deaths, the officer didn’t know at the time whether the person had further concealed weapons. From reading the admittedly extremely brief accounts, I would say that most of the killings seem justified given the circumstances, although a few seem obviously and tragically wrong, some of the others seem very questionable, and a somewhat larger number are not determinable from the reports. Finally, we should work to reduce the numbers of deaths whether they are justified or not.

2) Arrest data is from FBI Table 43, Arrests by Race. I have used the category of arrests for “violent crimes” for the comparison of deaths and arrests. The FBI defines the category as follows: “Violent crimes are offenses of murder and nonnegligent manslaughter, rape, robbery, and aggravated assault.” I have used the 2014 figures because the 2015 figures are not yet available. For the larger populations (white, black, and hispanic) the percentage shares of the arrests don’t vary much from year to year, so any errors will be small. Finally, about 20% of the jurisdictions do not report hispanic vs. non-hispanic arrests, so I have used the percentage values to calculate the probable numbers if all jurisdictions had reported. Again, any error from this will likely be small.

3) If you don’t remember the death of the unarmed black man in the Pennsylvania restaurant who was shot and killed while lying face-down after being tasered, don’t feel bad, blame me …  I fear I have engaged in a bit of constructive deception. I say that the reason you haven’t heard about his death is because contrary to what I stated above, he was actually an unarmed white man in a Pennsylvania restaurant who was shot and killed while lying face-down after being tasered … although as above, your explanation may vary.

4) I’m constitutionally incapable of watching my friends drive a bus off a cliff without saying something. So for my progressive friends who support the public actions of the Black Lives Matter Too movement, let me say that the BLMT movement has devised an ingenious way to make sure that their message gets out to thousands and thousands of people … they’ve taken to commandeering the off-ramps, jamming the streets, and blocking the freeways.

Unfortunately, the thousands and thousands of women and men receiving the BLMT message are mostly just the poor random fools trapped on the freeways in their cars, unable to get to the off-ramp, fuming behind their steering wheels and cursing the @$$&0!#$ who are keeping them from getting home to their husbands, wives, and kids. Anyone who thinks this will increase support for the BLMT movement has not thought it through. When a working single mom ends up cursing black people because she’s unable to make it home to her kids in time, someone desperately needs to reconsider the choice of methods. The BLMT actions are creating new Trump voters at a rate of knots … just saying that unless that’s your objective, you might suggest they re-think their tactics, and you might reconsider your support for their actions …

5) Care must be taken when the numbers are small. Above, I left out the numbers for Asians (28 deaths/10000 arrests, 95% confidence interval [CI] = 15 to 47 deaths/10000) and American Indian/Alaska Natives (18 deaths/10000 arrests, 95% CI = 10 to 36 deaths/10000) because they are very uncertain. They have wide 95% confidence intervals due to the small numbers of both arrests and deaths in each group. Given those uncertainties, however, the central estimates of both are within the same general range as the other groups, validating the method. As noted above, for the other much larger groups the results are definitely more solid, because the corresponding 95% confidence intervals are small—white, ± 2 deaths; black, ± 2 deaths; and hispanic, ± 3 deaths per 10000. Uncertainties were calculated using the Wilson score interval.

6) The same care must be taken with other small subsets of the 990 deaths. For example, it would appear at first glance that the number of unarmed white people killed (38) is significantly larger than the number of unarmed black people killed (32). However, because of the small amount of data, one standard error for unarmed white deaths gives a value including uncertainty of 32 to 45 unarmed white deaths. Similarly, one standard error regarding unarmed black deaths gives a value including uncertainty of 27 to 38 unarmed black deaths. Since these two uncertainty ranges overlap, there is no statistically significant difference between the unarmed white and unarmed black deaths … and as a result, there’s nothing we can discuss about the unarmed deaths until we have more data, because the numbers are too small to be relied on. As another example, the same is true of the deaths of those 34 individuals who were not resisting arrest—the uncertainties are far too great to draw conclusions from the racial makeup of that small a group.

7) Regarding my use of the term “melanin-deficient” to describe my average white guy skin color, I’m reliably informed that the term “deficient” expresses a negative value judgment reminiscent of “disabled”, implying that the person is lacking in some way. Worse, it embodies a micro-aggression that might decrease the self-esteem and diminish the positive body image of those other unfortunates in my situation. As a result, I’m told that the currently approved term is “melanin-challenged” …

8) After finishing writing up this analysis of the data, I came across a discussion of the same question in The Economist. To my surprise, although they used totally different and much more complete data, they came to exactly the same conclusion—black people get killed less frequently by police, and white people get killed more frequently by police, than one would expect given the number of interactions they have with police. Doesn’t mean that racism is dead, the study in The Economist agrees with my saying above that there’s still lots of racist policing out there … and it also strongly supports my conclusions about the number of deaths.

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23 thoughts on “When Arrests Go Bad

  1. “As much effort as we put into training police how to win violent situations, we need to put that same amount of effort into training police how to avoid, defuse, and minimize violent situations.”

    Exactly. If we train and equip police as if they were in a SWAT team, they might tend to go into SWAT mode too often. The normal role of police should be to keep the peace, and normally it should be by persuasion, diplomacy, and respect. Are we hiring people who can do that?

    The recent case of the Somali policeman in Minnesota isn’t white on black but the pattern is so familiar. Cop shoots someone and it’s not clear why.
    http://heavy.com/news/2017/07/mohamed-noor-justine-damond-ruszczyk-minneapolis-police-officer-somali-mohammed/

    cops afraid of citizens, citizens afraid of cops. Nobody trusts the justice system. This cannot end well.

    Recommended series: “O.J.: Made in America”.
    http://www.imdb.com/title/tt5275892/

    The series has lots of background material on the riots and racism in LA, and also about the LAPD. When the OJ verdict came,back, it was more about the LAPD than about OJ. The LAPD had a bad history, and the OJ murder investigation had some incompetent.parts. Fascinating.

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    • A nice summation, on paper. The reality is that every time the police are put in a potentially dangerous situation, each individual officer must make an instantaneous decision. If they are wrong, they could be dead.
      So staying alive becomes their primary purpose. Is this right? I cannot judge as I have never been in law enforcement but I can certainly understand the instinct of self preservation. Do I want trigger happy police running around? Certainly not but where is the happy medium? Who shoulders the primary responsibility for defusing a confrontation? Certainly any civilian should not challenge the directions or authority of the police during any intense encounter. Being belligerent towards the police is useless and only heats up the situation.

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      • Basically, what might be a better point of view is if you can’t enter a situation without fearing for your life and putting your instincts on hair trigger, perhaps you need to seek a different form of employment. As for belligerence, you should never have to kiss someone’s ass because they are in uniform, especially if they are discourteous and you have done nothing wrong. Standing up for your rights is NOT belligerence. When you are pulled over to the side of the road for doing nothing that you know is wrong, being told through the window by a uniform with his hand on a gun to get out of the car, putt your hands on the roof and spread your legs, it is hardly appropriate behavior on the part of the uniform, and it isn’t likely to breed good reactions. Fear makes people do strange things, and that sort of treatment can put fear into the driver. The fact that an uniform may be in danger 1 time in a 1000 doesn’t mean he should treat every case as if it was that 1 time. he can be wary and courteous at the same time. Like the saying goes, if you can’t stand the heat, get out of the kitchen.

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  2. “The reality is that every time the police are put in a potentially dangerous situation, each individual officer must make an instantaneous decision. If they are wrong, they could be dead.”

    Or someone else could be dead. Instantaneous decisions are notorious; they lead to shoot first ask questions later. Better to think first, which is easier to do if police do not have the gun mentality.

    This article thinks that policing and soldiering got confused up after the war on drugs.
    http://www.nationalreview.com/article/376053/united-states-swat-john-fund

    It sounds like a line out of “Imagine” but imagine if police didn’t carry lethal weapons. If that’s too hard, Google something about guns, police, and England.

    “In the rest of the United Kingdom, the majority of police officers do not carry firearms; that duty is instead carried out by specially-trained firearms officers.”
    (Wikipedia)

    http://www.nbcnewyork.com/news/national-international/London-Attack-Why-Most-UK-Police-Dont-Carry-Guns-426259591.html
    “The Metropolitan Police, which covers most of London, was founded in 1829 on the principle of “policing by consent” rather than by force. They believe police officers with guns sends the wrong message to communities and can actually cause more problems than it solves.
    The Metropolitan Police carried out some 3,300 deployments involving firearms in 2016. They didn’t fire a single shot at a suspect.”

    Police officers in England and Wales will be surveyed (again) next week.
    “The survey will ask officers whether they think they or more of their colleagues should carry Taser electrical weapons, whether there should be more specialist armed officers and whether they themselves want to carry a gun as they patrol the streets.”
    https://www.theguardian.com/uk-news/2017/jul/27/police-in-england-and-wales-asked-whether-they-want-to-carry-a-gun

    War is what you do AFTER diplomacy fails. Think, talk, but act cool.

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    • YMMV July 31, 2017 at 7:46 pm

      “The reality is that every time the police are put in a potentially dangerous situation, each individual officer must make an instantaneous decision. If they are wrong, they could be dead.”

      Or someone else could be dead. Instantaneous decisions are notorious; they lead to shoot first ask questions later. Better to think first, which is easier to do if police do not have the gun mentality.

      ….

      It sounds like a line out of “Imagine” but imagine if police didn’t carry lethal weapons. If that’s too hard, Google something about guns, police, and England.

      “In the rest of the United Kingdom, the majority of police officers do not carry firearms; that duty is instead carried out by specially-trained firearms officers.”
      (Wikipedia)

      You and they both left out the important corresponding part:

      In the United Kingdom, the majority of criminals do not carry firearms.

      When that happens in the US, when the crooks give up their guns and the lion lies down with the lamb, I’d be up for disarming the cops …

      Until then, which is until never, your average joe getting pulled over in a car or your average gang member getting questioned in the street may very well be armed. I’m not up for putting unarmed cops into that situation.

      Thanks,

      w.

      Isaiah 11:6 The wolf also shall dwell with the lamb, and the leopard shall lie down with the kid; and the calf and the young lion and the fatling together; and a little child shall lead them.

      And the lion will lie down with the lamb, but the lamb won’t get much sleep…” ~ Woody Allen.

      Liked by 1 person

      • “You and they both left out the important corresponding part: In the United Kingdom, the majority of criminals do not carry firearms”

        True, but then the majority of police work is not dealing with criminals; in that part everyone (police and citizens) is safer. If the perp does have a gun, is he less likely to use it if the cop does not? Maybe, which would account for the UK police preference to be unarmed. I doubt this will ever happen in the US. Aikido? Tasers (not quite non-lethal)? We can’t give up looking for a way out of this problem.

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        • Appreciate the reply, YMMV. I’m not clear … what part of police work is not dealing with criminals? I mean, I know they go and talk to the kids in the schools sometimes, but (other than the endless paperwork), I have to believe that they get out of their cop cars to talk to crooks, not citizens. They go where crimes are reported, no? What activities are in the “not dealing with criminals” you refer to.

          I absolutely think cops should be trained in Aikido. When I lived on Maui I trained in Aikido with the cops, and man, they could immobilize you quickly, efficiently, and safely.

          And tasers should certainly be the first choice for most situations.

          But if I were a cop heading out into East LA or South Chicago to arrest some banger … yeah, I’d want something more than a taser. The bad guys these days use AK-47s …

          Regards,

          w.

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          • I’m not qualified to answer your question about police. Perhaps someone else can answer it. It goes to the heart of the matter. If the policeman heads out with the task you mention, yeah, me too. That would be something planned out and thought through in advance, and it probably would not even make the news; that’s understood to be what the police are for. On the other hand, where police get into media trouble is where someone on patrol uses excessive force or any force when it seems unnecessary. That split second decision which looks trigger-happy or even like murder later. And the media trouble doesn’t go away when the police are declared innocent. Where instead of protecting the community, they shoot someone in it. Perhaps a criminal shoplifter or jaywalker or something. And then some poor innocent cop gets ambushed and murdered later.

            In the Rodney King video, half a dozen guys in uniform are standing around watching two cops brutally club the guy, on and on, and nobody steps in to stop them. Only two get charged and they are acquitted. No guns are involved, but the bad press was enormous.

            Lots of people carry guns these days because they have some police-like duties, even the National Park Service. Just in case, but not often used. These people do not get in trouble because they do not have the us-versus-them attitude: that everybody else is a possible criminal.

            Attitude is everything. And don’t resist arrest.

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    • “Or someone else could be dead. Instantaneous decisions are notorious; they lead to shoot first ask questions later. Better to think first, which is easier to do if police do not have the gun mentality”

      The difference is for police it is the only job where, on a daily basis, you never know if you are going home that night. It is a very difficult and stressful job. Perhaps if more people understood this, there would be fewer deaths. However, as we all know, criminals don’t really care about those things nor anyone else for that matter. It is the nature of being criminal. So mind your P’s and Q’s when dealing with police, if you have a complaint take it up later.

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      • Sorry, Tom, not buying that. I spent years working at the most dangerous job in the US … commercial fishing. I’ve also worked as a logger and as a roofer, numbers two and five. It’s more dangerous to be a truck driver (no. 8) or a taxi driver (no. 10) … and cops don’t even make it into the top ten.

        I know that cops and firemen like to play up the danger aspect, especially when it comes to negotiating wages. And they’ve done a great job selling it … but it’s simply not true. There are lots of jobs more dangerous, jobs where you don’t know if you’re coming home at night.

        w.

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        • I would agree with that but with a caveat. None of the jobs you mentioned have the factor of someone intentionally trying to kill you. So accidents that cause serious injury and fatality they are just that , accidents. Facing criminals where you have no idea of what their intentions are is how shootings happen. One false move by someone can start the bullets flying. So I was responding in light of the subject matter of your post.

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  3. Kudos on your analysis Willis. I’ve performed similar exercises. But in lieu of your use of “number of arrests for violent crimes” to estimate the “the odds of a given arrest going bad and ending up in a death ” I’ve used murder rate.. The minute and a half YouTube clip below, from the HBO series “The Wire”,provides trenchant reasoning for using the murder rate.

    Ref. https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=xH_6_8NOfwI
    See also https://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Time_After_Time_(The_Wire)

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    • Stumbling, thanks for your analysis and the movie. I used the “number of arrests for violent crimes” as the denominator for a simple reason.

      95% of the deaths occurred in the context of resisting arrest. Not in the context of a murder.

      As such, using the murder rate can only be a poor proxy for a count of the actual situation where the deaths occurred—during an arrest. I’m looking at deaths during arrest vs the number of arrests.

      w.

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  4. Willis, this analysis is exemplary — careful not to extrapolate beyond the data, careful to cite and validate sources, careful to explain method, careful to give context, careful to point out uncertainties, careful to explain your thinking, surprises, and conclusions. All research should be so good.

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    • Thanks, Gary. I took great care with it because it is such a polarizing and potentially explosive subject that people are hypersensitive to the issues discussed. So I went out of my way to deal with all the possible objections I could think of, and to present it in a way that people could understand just what I was saying.

      w.

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  5. I wonder of the correlation to drug/alchohol use at the time of arrest and the associated rates referenced. I would bet it is pretty high, pardon the pun.

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  6. As usual from Willis a sober and rigorous assessment of the data. I do wonder about the validity of some of the data (police do make stuff up regarding whether an arrestee was armed or resisted arrest) but I don’t see much cause for that to affect the black/white ratio.
    I’m particularly impressed by your conclusion “According to the actual data above, it appears that the mothers of black and hispanic men are doing a better job of getting that message across to their sons than are the white moms, and that black and hispanic men have paid more attention to their moms’ universal message. After all, arrests of white men end up in their death nearly twice as often as do the arrests of black and hispanic men … I ascribe it to arrogance. In my experience, white guys of the kind who run afoul of the law are more likely to challenge and mouth off to the cops, and are more apt to believe they’re invincible, bulletproof, and above the law. But hey, that’s just me, your explanation may vary.”

    I guess boys also follow the example of their fathers’ behaviour. But you’ve shown that there’s a real cultural divide.

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  7. Police officers suffer fatal work injuries at a rate of 13.5 per 100,000 full-time workers per year (2014)[1] and this is less than half of the rate (38.8) for refuse and recyclable material collectors
    [2](2015). This rate doesn’t put law enforcement officers in top 10 most dangerous job categories. I question whether what I understand to be a very large emphasis on “officer safety” in training and operations is entirely justified.[3}

    [1] https://www.bls.gov/iif/oshwc/cfoi/police-officers-2014-chart3-data.htm
    [2] https://www.bls.gov/news.release/pdf/cfoi.pdf
    [3] https://www.amazon.com/Rise-Warrior-Cop-Militarization-Americas/dp/1610394577

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  8. RE your comment about cops on the beat: Author Michael Connelly had his detective character Harry Bosch considering the fact that cops go around in their cars, and hardly ever get out of them except to deal with scumbags. So it comes down to a dichotomy – to a policeman, the world is divided into police – and scumbags. How relevant this is outside of big-city America I don’t know – all I do know is that South African police are seldom visible except at licence-checking roadblocks…

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  9. I studied Akido for a short while and I agree with your proposal. You’re basically directing the other person’s attack in a direction you can control instead of trying to block it. Much more effective than trying to outmuscle a guy who might be way bigger and pumping more adrenalin.

    AFA the Brits and not carrying guns go, IIRC it was a hanging offense at one time for a felon to have a weapon on him when committing a crime. Wasn’t worth it. They did something similar in Virginia awhile ago where they just charged the criminal with a federal crime if they had a weapon and it cut down on the number using them because they didn’t want to serve time in a federal prison (mandatory 5 years I think).

    One other number that has some bearing on the discussion is the number of violent criminals by race per 10,000. If a policeman is more likely to have to confront someone who is dangerous they’re going to be more inclined to react with their weapon in a situation.

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