Race

White Officers Not More Likely to Fatally Shoot People of Color, Says Report

Taylor Walker
Written by Taylor Walker

White officers appear to be no more likely than their black and Latino colleagues to shoot people of color, according to a new report from researchers at Michigan State University and the University of Maryland. Thus, the report suggests that increasing officer diversity may not effectively reduce the racially disparate proportion of black and brown people killed by police nationwide.

“We find no evidence of anti-Black or anti-Hispanic disparities across shootings,” Joseph Cesario, a professor of psychology at MSU, and David Johnson, a social-cognitive psychologist from the University of Maryland, wrote in their report, which was published in the Proceedings of the National Academy of Sciences.

“There are so many examples of people saying that when black citizens are shot by police, it’s white officers shooting them,” Cesario said. “In fact, our findings show no support for the idea that white officers are biased in shooting black citizens.”

(It’s important to note, however, that the report’s authors only looked at shootings that resulted in death, not shootings in general.)

The report’s findings come as a surprise in light of high-profile police-involved fatalities, and growing nationwide concerns about racism in policing. However, due to poor local, state, and national data tracking and analysis, there’s been no real way to see the bigger racial picture of fatal police shootings through data. Specifically, the researchers noted that fatal uses of force are underreported to the FBI’s Uniform Crime Report and those fatal shootings that are reported “lack details about officers,” including details about their race. This omission “prevents asking whether certain types of officers are more likely to show racial disparities,” the report states.

“Until now, there’s never been a systematic, nationwide study to determine the characteristics of police involved in fatal officer-involved shootings,” Cesario said.

The researchers created a new database with details of each law enforcement deadly firearm usage during 2015. Some of the data that Cesario and Johnson gathered was from comprehensive police shooting databases compiled by the Washington Post and the Guardian.

The duo contacted every police department with an officer-involved shooting to gather details that included the race, sex, and years of experience for each officer who shot a citizen.

The researchers found that “race-specific county-level violent crime strongly predicts the race of the civilian shot.” In counties with high rates of homicides committed by black individuals, black people were more likely to be shot by police. The same was true for areas with high rates of homicides committed by Latinos. As murders by white people (the control group) increased, people of color were less likely to be fatally shot during encounters with police.

While their research found no evidence that white officers are more likely to shoot black civilians, Cesario and Johnson do stipulate that when the data is broken down into rarer circumstances–like the shooting of unarmed citizens, or in cases of “suicide by cop”–it becomes harder to draw conclusions.

The report points out that black civilians killed by police are more likely to be unarmed and less likely to pose an immediate threat to officers before they are shot. White civilians are more likely than black civilians to be fatally shot by police while experiencing a mental health crisis. White people are also far more likely to commit “suicide by cop.” (In general, white Americans are more likely to commit suicide than Americans of color.)

Examining racial disparities between types of fatal police shootings matters, the report says, because disparities “may cancel each other out” when you look at fatal shootings as a whole. “Even if a person fatally shot during a criminal encounter is more likely to be Black than White, this disparity will be difficult to detect if White civilians commit suicide by police intervention more frequently and such cases represent a large proportion of the overall [fatal officer-involved shootings],” according to the report.

“The uncertainty around these estimates highlights the need for more data before drawing conclusions about disparities in specific types of shootings,” Cesario and Johnson wrote. “Continued work on this issue will require more information about the officers, civilians, and circumstances surrounding these events … to better understand the relationship between civilian race and police use of force.”

The report urges the federal government to implement policies requiring the collection of more comprehensive data surrounding law enforcement officers’ fatal uses of force.

25 Comments

  • The myth of colorless people being racist is always debunked, all people are racists. I know a lot of racist people just by the way they speak, Ilham Omar, Elijah Cummings, Mark Thomas-Riddle, Hilda Solis, Alejandra Ocasio-Cortez, Rashida Tablid, Ay-Anna Pressley, Yulian Castro, Kamala Harris, all these so-called people of color are equally racist or worst. It only takes a few minutes watching them speak to see how their hate toward the people of no color, reverberates around them.

    The focus should be whether a person hurts another because of their racial bias, regardless of their color. And judging by their actions, the people above are extremely racist. The presumption of colorless people being racist, and the people of color not being racist, has been overused, it has no longer any meaning.

  • Something tells me this report will be ignored by the likes of Witness La, who will continue to obsess over finding the next “great white” racist cop. For them it’ll be 1992 forever.

  • 1. I’m surprised Witness LA and the author are publishing this. 2. Where was this article and data while the CA legislature was advancing a narrative of of white racist cops killing men of color and passing an Assembly Bill to boot.

    CF….????

    Was that bill based on emotion, false hoods and prejudical biasis against white cops? Was that bill based on feelings, media hype and isolated incidents that garnered way more media and political attention than they deserved? Was that bill based on certain people’s agenda and willingness to rush to a hasty judgement?

    Who cares at this point….the seeds of distrust and hate of law enforcement have been sown, fertilized and cultivated and the irreversible damage has been done. A generation has been brought up to have no respect for authority of any type.

    Blah..blah…blah…story…

  • Easy people. I read this story posted on Reuters the other day and passed it on to Celeste. Yes, she does lean a little to the left, but had the personal integrity to publish the article where perhaps others with an agenda would not. I applaud her for her journalistic integrity as should we all. Now if we can just get the main stream media to pick up on the story. Maj Kong get off the pipe…….

    • Bandwagon, I’m glad you and Celeste are now besties and all, but I thought you had been reading this blog for awhile, long enough to know how biased and lazy it can be. From here on I’ll endeavor to point it out to you as the articles come out. I’m pretty sure it won’t take long.

  • “The report’s findings come as a surprise in light of high-profile police-involved fatalities, and growing nationwide concerns about racism in policing.”

    Question Ms. Walker: just who is surprised by the findings? You? Those of us who have been out in the streets see no racial difference in attitude about defending ourselves between our brother and sisters officers. We aren’t surprised.

    Maybethe ones who are surprised are those who have preconceived Ivory Tower notions they form while pounding the drums for “nationwide concerns about racism in policing.”

    Sometimes I’d like to throw a bucket of water on your articles.

  • As a white cop, I was damn lucky throughout my career to never have to shoot a bad guy. It was very close many times, like a trigger pull past half-cock that nearly dropped the hammer. I didn’t give a hoot what color the bad guys were. As long as they didn’t go for the gun or whatever else they had, they were good-to-go, just a trip to the house and a booking – nothing personal.

    What’s sad is that it took this long for empirical data to emerge to prove to folks what we knew to be true all along.

  • Interesting article. However, this article, although studied by academia scholars does not reflect the sentiment and racism that has been perpetrated by the MSM (main street media) and that lovely, caring, wonderful group of extraordinarily scholars, known as BLM (black lives matter). The MSM is no longer journalistic in nature. Rather, it has become a platform for ideological, biased, political rhetoric.

    Why doesn’t the MSM put out the real problem within black community?

    1.) 13% of the black population is responsible for approximately 90% of the crime
    2.) 76% of black families are fatherless
    3.) 37% of prison inmates are comprised of blacks
    4.) 69% of blacks graduate from high school

    If BLM is really concerned about black lives, why don’t they do something to improve the aforementioned areas, instead of always deflecting and blaming others for their inadequacies?

    This false narrative of blacks being the victims is getting a little antiquated and tiresome.

    • Because it’s easier and more lucrative to follow the race-bating formula of the past “civil rights leaders” (Jessee Jackson, Al Sharpton, etc.). They have made a great living by blaming whitey for blacks’ failures. Given the choice of elevating their constituency or leaving them to be dependent on government for assistance, which one do you think continues to line the pockets of the leaders’?

      • As a Black man in America, I query as to why every non black person feels that BLM, Jesse Jackson and Al Sharpton has the cure all for the woes of Blacks in America, THEY DO NOT!
        As in every race and culture, or any organization, for that matter, there is always some quack, clown, idiot or so-called spokesman who wants to be in the forefront.
        Do not go by sound bites, click baits and typical stereotypes that show the most negative examples of a race or culture as a whole.
        Get with an intelligent Black person who is not a part of the negative fray while you are “quick to listen and slow to speak”. You’ll be surprised at what you learn.

  • The devil is in the details and this crumb that WLA (thank you Bandwagon) has thrown the cops on this site is full of asterisks. The largest being that it’s not saying cops IN GENERAL aren’t targeting blacks and Latinos. It’s just saying WHITE cops don’t target them anymore than black and Latino cops.

    Taylor should (but won’t) take the next step and admit that cops (of all colors) tend to target CRIME. She might then conclude that the only explanation for all the blacks and Latinos in the criminal justice system is due to their disproportionate criminality. That’s not racist. It’s a fact.

    The REASONS why this is true are much more complicated and are open to debate.

    I’ve mentioned author Heather MacDonald before, but this review of her book is a good primer for how radical groups like BLM have served up a steaming false narrative which the liberal (mainly white) media has eagerly gobbled up and vomited back up to Americans.

    I’m not a fan of the right-wing National Review and this review IS written by a retired cop, but Ms. MacDonald is HARDLY a conservative.

    https://www.nationalreview.com/magazine/2016/08/01/heather-macdonald-the-war-on-cops/

  • Speaking of hate, the encouragement given by liberal socialists to certain people who now feel empowered to exercise their sense of ownership, is showing results. https://www.latimes.com/california/story/2019-07-27/lapd-officer-fatally-shot-in-lincoln-heights

    The LAPD is going to respond the way Baca/Tanaka did when the same gang killed that deputy from the Central Jail.

    Just kidding, the LAPD is managed by people like Jim McDonnell, it is okay to screw officers, and when they are killed, do a nice ceremony, say how great they were. But if that officer gets acusase by the same gang of false misconduct, fire him.

    https://www.latimes.com/california/story/2019-07-27/lapd-officer-fatally-shot-in-lincoln-heights

  • Rolman: Yes. Blacks make up approx 13% of the population. The last time I researched the FBI crime statistics it should blacks made up approx 38% of criminal arrests annually . Not 90%. The statistics also didn’t list convictions for those arrests. But I would agree 38% is an alarming number and clearly indicates problems within the black community.

  • Brother: That is because the liberal press and politicians put out that false narrative. Black politicians in Washington routinely play the race card and stoke up minorities in their district. Maxine Waters is one who comes to mind who uses racial conflict to keep her power base. It may not be fair, but until blacks who disagree with the aforementioned are allowed to express their opinions I don’t see much changing. The liberal press has nothing to gain by giving dissenting views within the black community a voice.

    • Blacks, Whites and all others are divided politically, even within their ranks.
      That is why we are known as the Divided States of North America.

  • If everybody in life of all colors were given the same equal playing field, things would be different in America. You gotta walk a mile in another mans shoes sometimes to understand where he’s come from, well for some men of color, many of you couldn’t make it a few steps in their shoes.

  • Yes. We could all learn something walking in another man’s shoes. I would suggest that poverty is racially unbiased and affects people of all colors/cultures. I remember attending a DIA class once where the guest speaker was a former Hispanic gang member from Oxnard. His father had been a major drug dealer who was in prison. His mother was a housekeeper who worked in wealthy homes trying to provide for her family. When he spoke it was apparent he felt shame for the fact his mother had to work cleaning rich people’s homes. It was also apparent he was blaming racism for his life struggles. A Hispanic investigator than spoke up and said maybe it wasn’t racism he felt, but poverty. The investigator related he had felt a lot of the same feelings of the former gang member growing up, but realized it was poverty he felt, not racism. He also told the speaker he should be proud that his mother worked so hard for her family and there was no shame in that. I not going to say racism does not exist or impact people’s lives. I will suggest you don’t have to be a person of color to be affected by poverty.

    • It should be noted that this report is from “The Independent” which, in the words of Wikipedia, is “a British on-line newspaper.”

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