09-03-2015, 06:26 AM
Quote:Nobel Prize-winning novelist Toni Morrison says she wants to see an officer shoot an unarmed white teenager in the back before agreeing that the “conversation about race” is over, but she almost certainly already has received her wish.
An analysis released last week shows that more white people died at the hands of law enforcement than those of any other race in the last two years, even as the Justice Department, social-justice groups and media coverage focus on black victims of police force.
“People keep saying, ‘We need to have a conversation about race,’” Ms. Morrison told the (U.K.) Telegraph in an April 19 interview.
Meanwhile, the deaths of whites at the hands of law enforcement typically receive less attention, even when the case is shrouded in controversy. For example, Gilbert Collar, an 18-year-old white student at the University of South Alabama, was shot and killed while naked, unarmed and under the influence of drugs by a black police officer.
The officer, Trevis Austin, was cleared of wrongdoing in 2013 by a Mobile County grand jury in a case that received little media coverage outside Alabama. Mr. Collar’s parents filed a federal lawsuit last year against the officer.
As researchers are quick to point out, FBI data on police shootings by race is notoriously incomplete, which may explain why Peter Moskos, assistant professor at the John Jay College of Criminal Justice at the City University of New York, decided to use figures from the website Killed by Police.
Based on that data, Mr. Moskos reported that roughly 49 percent of those killed by officers from May 2013 to April 2015 were white, while 30 percent were black. He also found that 19 percent were Hispanic and 2 percent were Asian and other races.
His results, posted last week on his blog Cop in the Hood, arrived with several caveats, notably that 25 percent of the website’s data, which is drawn largely from news reports, failed to show the race of the person killed.
Killed by Police lists every death, justified or not, including those in which the officer had been wounded or acted in self-defense.
“The data doesn’t indicate which shootings are justified (the vast majority) and which are cold-blooded murder (not many, but some). And maybe that would vary by race. I don’t know, but I doubt it,” Mr. Moskos said on his blog.
Adjusted to take into account the racial breakdown of the U.S. population, he said black men are 3.5 times more likely to be killed by police than white men. But also adjusted to take into account the racial breakdown in violent crime, the data actually show that police are less likely to kill black suspects than white ones.
“If one adjusts for the racial disparity in the homicide rate or the rate at which police are feloniously killed, whites are actually more likely to be killed by police than blacks,” said Mr. Moskos, a former Baltimore cop and author of the book “Cop in the Hood.”
“Adjusted for the homicide rate, whites are 1.7 times more likely than blacks die at the hands of police,” he said. “Adjusted for the racial disparity at which police are feloniously killed, whites are 1.3 times more likely than blacks to die at the hands of police.”
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