The Critics of Proactive Policing Are Wrong
In the last week of 2017, it was announced that homicides in New York City were at a 60-year-low and that gun murders of officers nationally had dropped 33 percent, after rising 53 percent in 2016. Inveterate cop critics seized on the information to argue that there was no such thing as a war on cops, and that proactive policing was irrelevant to crime control, since pedestrian stops had dropped in New York City along with homicides. I responded in National Review Online that gentrification was likely now contributing to New York’s crime decline. Nationally, however, the rising civilian violence in 2015 and 2016 resulted from the prolonged rhetorical onslaught against the police since the 2014 fatal shooting of Michael Brown in Ferguson, Missouri. But now it is considered bigoted even to mention racial crime and victimization rates, or to suggest that demographic and economic change can affect a neighborhood’s crime picture.
Let’s look at the facts.
The fact that should concern us all, and that should be at the forefront of discussions of crime and policing, is that blacks die of homicide at six times the rate of whites and most Hispanics combined. That is a serious civil-rights issue, but to my knowledge, Black Lives Matter protesters have remained silent about it. Blacks disproportionately suffer from nonlethal violence as well. Last year in Chicago, 4,300 people were shot—one person every two hours. Those victims were overwhelmingly black. If one white Chicagoan had been shot every two hours, there would be a national uproar; it is unthinkable. But because the victims were black and not shot by the police, the national media are indifferent. (The Chicago police shot 25 people last year, most of them armed or dangerous, amounting to 0.6 percent of all shooting victims in the city.)
The shooting victims in Chicago in 2016 included 24 children under the age of 12, among them a three-year-old boy mowed down on Father’s Day 2016 who is now paralyzed for life, and a ten-year-old boy shot in August whose pancreas, intestines, kidney, and spleen were torn apart. None of the two dozen children were shot by the police. When white children are shot or killed, an outcry ensues—see Newtown, Connecticut. When black children are shot or killed, the country largely looks away—though cops do not—unless the assailant is an officer. This year’s child shooting victims in Chicago include a four-year-old boy shot on the West Side in July while standing next to his mother, who was fatally shot in the head; another four-year-old boy and his six-year-old sister, shot in July while getting snow cones on the West Side; a ten-year-old boy fatally shot in the back while riding in an SUV with this stepfather; and two girls, seven and 13, shot in June on an elementary school playground during a picnic. In February 2017, 11-year-old Takiya Holmes was fatally shot in the head in Chicago by a 19-year-old marijuana dealer, who was blasting away at rival marijuana dealers. While the world knows the name of Michael Brown, the public at large remains ignorant of these young victims because they do not fit the Black Lives Matter narrative. Black Lives Matter activists have held no rallies on their behalf.
Who is killing and shooting black crime victims? Overwhelmingly, not whites, not the police, but, tragically, other blacks. The high black homicide-victimization rate is a function of the black homicide-commission rate. Blacks commit homicide nationally at seven times the rate of whites and most Hispanics, combined. Black males between the ages of 14 and 17 commit homicide at 10 times the rate of white and most Hispanic males between the ages of 14 and 17. Officer-involved shootings are not responsible for the black homicide-victimization rate, either. In fact, a greater percentage of white and Hispanic homicide victims are killed by a police officer than black homicide victims: in 2015, 12 percent of all whites and Hispanics who died of homicide were killed by a cop, compared with 4 percent of black homicide victims who were killed by a cop. Nor is white violence responsible for the black victimization rate. Blacks commit most interracial violence. Between 2012 and 2015, there were 631,830 violent interracial victimizations, excluding homicide, between blacks and whites, according to the Bureau of Justice Statistics. Blacks committed 85.5 percent of those violent victimizations, or 540,360 felonious assaults on whites, while whites committed 14.4 percent of those violent victimizations, or 91,470 felonious assaults on blacks.
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These national disparities are repeated locally. In New York City, for example, blacks, 23 percent of the population, committed 71 percent of all gun violence in 2016; whites, who, at 34 percent of the population, are the city’s largest racial group, committed less than 2 percent of all shootings. These identifications are provided by the victims of, and witnesses to, those shootings, overwhelmingly minorities themselves. A black New Yorker is thus 50 times more likely to commit a shooting than a white New Yorker. In Chicago, blacks and whites are each a little under a third of the city’s population; blacks commit 80 percent of all shootings, whites, a little over 1 percent, making blacks in the Windy City 80 times more likely to commit a shooting than whites. In Oakland, blacks committed 83 percent of homicides, attempted homicides, robberies, assaults with firearms, and assaults with weapons other than firearms in 2013, even though they constitute only 28 percent of Oakland’s population. Whites were 1 percent of robbery suspects, 1 percent of firearm assault suspects, and an even lower percent of homicide suspects, even though they make up about 34 percent of the city’s population. In Pittsburgh, 82 percent of known homicide suspects were black in 2015, even though the Pittsburgh population is just 26 percent black. In St. Louis, nearly 100 percent of homicide suspects were black through December 22, 2017, though the population is 47 percent white and 47 percent black.
The vast majority of black residents—in high-crime areas and elsewhere—are law-abiding and hard-working; they deserve the same freedom from fear as residents of safer neighborhoods and they beg for more proactive police enforcement, as reporters from the Baltimore Sun and the Washington Post both discovered when covering the aftermath of the Freddie Gray riots. But a disproportionate amount of all violent crime is committed by a small percentage of the black community. This taboo fact has enormous implications for understanding police activity, whether stops, summons, arrests, or use of force, since policing will be more intense where people are most being victimized and are most calling for help in maintaining public order. The national discourse about policing over the last two decades has been conducted in a vacuum, where any mention of racial crime rates is banned as racist, even as the discussion of policing is carried out exclusively in racialized terms.
The war on cops has consisted of an endlessly repeated narrative, amplified in the White House and across the mainstream media, that the nation’s officers were infected by lethal bias and that we were living through an epidemic of racist police shootings of blacks. That narrative was false. Policing today is data-driven; it is determined by the incidence of criminal victimization, not by race. Four studies came out in 2016 that found no racial bias against blacks in police shootings. Blacks have made up about a quarter of all victims of fatal police shootings in 2015 and 2016, according to the Washington Post’s database of fatal police shootings. That proportion does not suggest bias. Police use of force is most likely in confrontations with violent and resisting criminals—and those confrontations happen disproportionately in minority communities. In America’s 75 largest counties in 2009, blacks constituted 62 percent of all robbery defendants, 57 percent of all murder defendants, and 45 percent of all assault defendants, according to the Bureau of Justice Statistics, even though blacks made up only 15 percent of the population in those counties. The roughly 25 percent share of black police shooting victims nationally should be benchmarked against those violent crime rates, not against population share.
Yet so insistent was President Obama about reinforcing the false narrative about lethally biased policing that he even repeated it during the memorial service for five Dallas police officers assassinated in July 2016 by a killer inspired by Black Lives Matter ideology. Black parents were right to fear that a cop could shoot their child merely for doing something stupid, Obama said, as the families of the assassinated officers grieved their loss. This false narrative had tragic, real-world effects in the heightened loss of black life and neighborhood safety.
Chicago Police Superintendent Eddie Johnson addressed the effect of anti-cop narratives on crime last week. The video of a Chicago cop killing Laquan McDonald and the resulting coverage emboldened criminals to break the law, he told the Chicago Tribune. “I think that they used that to their advantage because if you think they don’t pay attention to that type of thing, you’re fooling yourself because they do,” Johnson said. “I think the boldness of them is starting to tick down a bit, but it’s still there.” Deniers of the Ferguson Effect apparently think that they know more about criminal behavior than Superintendent Johnson does.
Cop critics have seized on the fact that gun murders of officers have dropped 33 percent this year to claim that the war on cops is chimerical. “There Still Wasn’t a War On Cops in 2017,” tweeted Reason. Their argument is specious. The war on cops has been overwhelmingly rhetorical. The hatred spewed toward cops on the street at the height of Black Lives Matter agitation, the endlessly repeated media conceit that policing was racist, were realities, with tragic consequences for crime victims. But even if the war on cops were viewed exclusively as a physical one, this year’s decline in murders of police officers cannot be used to dismiss that war without counting last year’s 53 percent increase in cop killings as a confirmation of it. (It is too soon to know what is behind this year’s decline, but one explanation is the near disappearance of the “homicidal racist cops” narrative from the national spotlight, as the media focused almost exclusively on the “Resistance” to President Trump. Officer disengagement on the streets is another possible explanation.) And if the murder rate of officers is used to dismiss the war on cops, then there is also no police war on unarmed black men. In 2015, a police officer was 18.5 times more likely to be killed by a black male than an unarmed black male was to be killed by a police officer. Black males have made up 42 percent of all cop-killers over the last decade.
Read the complete article at The City Journal