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Yet Another Worthless Study on Police Shootings

Yet Another Worthless Study on Police Shootings

Study excludes single most likely variable in examining fatal police shootings

The Washington Post reports on a new study that suggests racial bias motivates police to fatally shoot black suspects at a disproportionally high rate.  That study, entitled “Fatal Shootings By US Police Officers in 2015: A Bird’s Eye View,” is published in the once well-respected scientific journal Nature.

The first alarm bells went off for me when I noted the source of the “data” used for this “study”:  journalists from the Washington Post itself, as well as the left-wing UK newspaper, The Guardian.  As we’ve seen in the past, “data” collected by journalists is rarely worth the paper it’s printed on, not surprising given their generally utter lack of expertise in the subject being covered.

We covered a recent example of such “journalism data” in a paper that claimed to address the implications of Florida’s “Stand-Your-Ground” law.  In fact, the study’s authors conceded that they did not address the actual “Stand-Your-Ground” statute at all, but merely a journalist’s mistaken understanding of that law.  You can see our coverage of that debacle of faux science here:

New “Scientific” Stand-Your-Ground Study Is Ignorant of the Law

 Stand-Your-Ground Racial Bias Study used “media definition,” not “legal definition”

Social Sciences Study of Stand-Your-Ground Strikes Out

Stand-Your-Ground Study Authors Concede They Didn’t Study Stand-Your-Ground

I haven’t yet had the opportunity to read this newest study.  Fortunately, it’s so defective on its face that reading it is unnecessary to determine the time spent would be wasted.

What is this so obvious defect, you ask?  From the Washington Post’s own reporting:

Researchers said they conducted the study to better understand how to reduce the shootings by police of unarmed people. They said, however, that The Post data has limitations — it covers one year only and did not include information about non-fatal shootings by police. (emphasis added)

Insanely, the study excluded from consideration police shootings that did not result in the death of the suspect.

It should not need to be stated that there exists a factor utterly outside police conduct that is likely to strongly influence whether a police shooting ends up being fatal or not–the timeliness and quality of the medical care provided the shot suspect.

Black people tend to live in impoverished communities in vastly disproportionate numbers relative to white people.  Is it possible that the critical care facilities in these communities is not to the standard of such facilities in white communities?  Is it possible that even if the facilities were at the same standard, their use may be overtaxed relative to white communities, given the far greater rates of violent crime found in black communities relative to white communities?  Might it not then be the case that the disparity in fatal police shootings is largely a function of disparate access to effective critical medical care, rather than police decision making?

This study couldn’t possibly know, because they didn’t even bother to ask these most obvious questions.

It should also be noted that almost all police shootings of suspects involve the use of handguns, and that the vast majority of handgun shooting victims survive their injuries.  By excluding survivors of police shootings, then, these study authors have effectively excluded the vast majority of police uses of firearms on suspects.  This is reflected in the pathetically low number of cases from which this study draws its “conclusions.”

Interestingly, the Washington Post itself did not report on the absolute number of cases covered by the study.  Curious that.  Instead, these figures are found in online news report, ‘Threat and shooter bias’: Study shows US police fatally shoot unarmed black men in greater numbers:

Black men accounted for 40 percent of the 93 fatal police shootings of unarmed people in 2015, according to a new study from the University of Louisville and the University of South Carolina.

According to the report, 38 of those killed were black men, 32 were white, and 18 were of Latino descent.

That’s right:  this purportedly “scientific” paper published in Nature is based upon fewer than 100 shootings by police of suspects.  To put this in context, there have been nearly 140 people shot and killed so far this year–in the City of Chicago alone.

Finally, another obvious flaw of this study is its choice of unarmed suspects, as if the suspect being unarmed indicates that the police use of deadly force was unjustified.  Putting the lie to this supposition is no more difficult than recalling the cases of Mike Brown and Trayvon Martin.  Both of these young black men launched vicious, if “unarmed,” attacks on their victims, both were shot and killed by their victims, and both victims were found to have acted lawfully after thorough investigation.

Oofah. What the Progressive left has done to science, bending it beyond the breaking point to advance their political ideology, is truly one of their greatest sins.

–-Andrew, @LawSelfDefense

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casualobserver | April 8, 2016 at 3:07 pm

I have to give Nature credit at least for also publishing climate studies that anger the mob that self-identifies as “science peers” but is really more political.

But many of the political crowd will likely promote Nature for this BLM oriented piece, while condemning them for the climate pieces that do not conform ideologically.

The great statesman Benjamin Disraeli is credited with saying,”There are lies; there are damned lies; and then there are statistics”.

You can see this embodied here.

Media Bias, it never goes away…

Thankfully, the study data is provided. So I did some random spot checking. Apparently “unarmed” means “didn’t have a gun or knife”

For example, Alfredo Rials-Torres was shot after “he repeatedly swung a metal pole at officers, slashing one officer in the face”

David Felix was shot while bashing in the head of an officer with a heavy police radio.

Ebin Lamont Proctor was shot while trying to wrestle the gun from a policeman’s hand

Raw data:

Lucien Cordier | April 8, 2016 at 4:00 pm

There is not only evidence that more whites are killed numerically but also that whites are killed at a disproportionate rate. First you must consider that you can’t simply compare the total number of whites in the U.S. to the total number of blacks. You must compare the number of blacks with police interactions to the number of whites with police interactions and the number of each of those groups that are killed by police. If a person has no interaction with police the likelihood of them being killed by police is zero. The likelihood increases with the frequency, nature and intensity of interactions with police. Then you might also consider what types of crimes precipitate those interactions and which are more likely to result in a more aggressive police response – violent crimes versus nonviolent crimes.
FBI Uniform Crime Reports
Table 43, Arrests by Race, 2013:

Total arrests, everything from homicide to drunk in public:
6,214,197 whites arrested
2,549,655 blacks arrested
That’s a ratio of 2.44 to 1 which is very close to the ratio of whites to blacks killed by police.

Arrests for violent crimes (where the criminal is more likely to be killed by police):
228,782 whites arrested
151,627 blacks arrested
That’s a ratio of only 1.51 to 1
Fatal Injury Reports, National and Regional, 1999 – 2013

Firearm Deaths by Legal Intervention:

317 whites killed in 2013
133 blacks killed in 2013
That’s a ratio of 2.38 to 1 which is much higher than the ratio of whites to blacks in higher-risk (violent crime) police interactions.

That’s strong evidence that whites are actually disproportionately killed by police. Oh, and about the “unarmed” nonsense…more people are murdered by “unarmed” offenders each year than with rifles and shotguns combined.

1) Handguns: 36,615
2) Knives or cutting instruments: 9945
3) Personal weapons (hands, fists, feet, etc.): 4391
4) Blunt objects (clubs, hammers, etc.): 3059
5) Shotguns: 2031
6) Rifles: 1881

FBI Uniform Crime Reports
Expanded Homicide Data Table 8 Murder Victims by Weapon, 2009–2013


Expanded Homicide Data Table 8 Murder Victims by Weapon, 2010-2014

Great stuff, TZak and Lucien, much appreciated.

–Andrew, @LawSelfDefense

Bruce Hayden | April 8, 2016 at 4:23 pm

One of the more famous recent examples of an unarmed Black being killed by a cop was Big Mike Brown, in Ferguson, MO. As big as a Div I lineman (6’3″, almost 300 lbs), he punched the officer, then grabbed for the officer’s gun, and then shortly after that, when the officer left his vehicle, kept trying to charge (bull rush) the officer, before he was finally shot fatally. He was easily big enough to kill most people with his bare hands, and wouldn’t stop, despite being shot, until then.

Nonfatal gunshots by law enforcement are much closer:

From the CDC data 2013:

White 298
Black 388

Ratio of 0.76 to 1

So for both fatal and nonfatal shootings (not counting cases where shots did not hit their target)

Whites 615
Blacks 521

Ratio of 1.18

It is worth noting that it is almost certainly the case that not all of those shot were suspects and it is very likely that some of those hit were bystanders or victims of the suspects being shot at.

Also interesting is this that I found on the CDD website:

“Legal Intervention
The 16 NVDRS states included in this report collected data on 158 legal-intervention incidents in 2008 resulting in 156 single victim deaths, and three deaths where the legal intervention victim had recently committed a homicide. Of the 159 legal intervention decedents, 51.6% were non-Hispanic whites and 38.4% were non-Hispanic blacks. With respect to location, 44.7% of legal-intervention deaths occurred in a house or apartment, 28.3% on a street or highway, and 8.2% in a commercial or retail area (Table 35). The majority of decedents were aged 20–54 years (Table 36). Of the 90.6% of legal-intervention decedents tested for alcohol, 38.9% were positive for alcohol and 67.9% of these decedents had a BAC of ≥0.08 g/dL. The percentage of victims tested for other substances varied (range: 44.7%–78.0%). The presence of other drugs for which tests were positive also varied: 21.1% of those tested for marijuana, 18.6% of decedents tested for cocaine, 10.1% of those tested for amphetamines, 4.4% of those tested for antidepressants, and 9.3% of those tested for opiates were positive for these substances (Table 37).”

blacksburger | April 8, 2016 at 5:36 pm

It is also important to determine whether the police could tell the race of the person they were shooting at.

There was a recent fatal shooting in Roanoke, Virginia, where the victim’s skin was almost completely covered; he even had a bandana across his face. He was shot because he pointed what appeared to be a real gun at the police and did not obey orders to drop it. The gun turned out to be a broken BB pistol, but the police had no way of knowing that. He was, in fact, a harmless teenager, but this was not obvious.

dorsaighost | April 8, 2016 at 6:55 pm

I say its a good start … the more dead criminals the better …

“This study couldn’t possibly know, because they didn’t even both[er] to ask these most obvious questions.”

Any “journalist” or “researcher” knows to not ask questions that might interfere with the desired conclusion.

NATURE sold its soul to the left a while ago. I do not trust anything published there.

healthguyfsu | April 8, 2016 at 10:30 pm

This is egregious. Nature is one of the top scientific journals in the world, and the standard of rigor applied to peer review is intended to be tough such that only the best science carries that name brand.

Heads should roll for this but instead they will simply swell.

healthguyfsu | April 8, 2016 at 10:33 pm

How stupid can you be….half the crime committed by a small amount of the population and there’s only a slight increase in their legal shooting deaths? What a nothingburger.

After my spot checks found a few problems with the 95 shootings, I decided to dig through all of the data using google. Results are:

5 bystanders were shot – completely irrelevant to study since officers were not trying to shoot them
11 suspects killed while fighting with the officer for their gun. I consider that being armed, albeit poorly
11 suspects who were actually armed. Weapons included rock, broom handle, handgun (3 times), branch, chemical spray, radio, metal pole, stick, and vehicle.

I am now interested in reading the actual study. Because if it does not address these concerns, then I intend to ask Nature for a retraction since 27% of the source data is incorrect.

    Gremlin1974 in reply to TZak. | April 9, 2016 at 4:44 am

    You have done work above and beyond what is expected. I thank you for your research. One only wishes that Nature had been a rigorous in their peer review. I guess google is blocked at Nature offices.

    I would ask that when you do get the study if you can post a link here so that others may join you in your retraction requests.

“There are three kinds of lies: lies, damn lies, and statistics.”

“What the Progressive left has done to science, bending it beyond the breaking point to advance their political ideology, is truly one of their greatest sins.”

A major tenet of the left in this post -modern times is that reality is malleable and accessible in one’s own imagination and, hence, pure subjectivism.