An academic paper from 2019 defies the current progressive narrative about police targeting minorities. The paper has been cited by right leaning scholars, such as Heather Mac Donald of the Manhattan Institute.

Now the authors of the paper are seeking to retract it.

We’re now politicizing inconvenient facts and data.

Retraction Watch reports:

Authors of study on race and police killings ask for its retraction, citing “continued misuse” in the media

The authors of a controversial paper on race and police shootings say they are retracting the article, which became a flashpoint in the debate over killings by police, and now amid protests following the murder of George Floyd.

The 2019 article in the Proceedings of the National Academy of Sciences (PNAS), titled “Officer characteristics and racial disparities in fatal officer-involved shootings,” found “no evidence of anti-Black or anti-Hispanic disparities across shootings, and White officers are not more likely to shoot minority civilians than non-White officers.” It has been cited 14 times, according to Clarivate Analytics’ Web of Science, earning it a “hot paper” designation.

Joseph Cesario, a researcher at Michigan State University, told Retraction Watch that he and David Johnson, of the University of Maryland, College Park and a co-author, have submitted a request for retraction to PNAS. In the request, they write:

We were careless when describing the inferences that could be made from our data. This led to the misuse of our article to support the position that the probability of being shot by police did not differ between Black and White Americans (MacDonald, 2019). To be clear, our work does not speak to this issue and should not be used to support such statements. We accordingly issued a correction to rectify this statement (Johnson & Cesario, 2020).

Here is an example of how Mac Donald cited the study in a column at City Journal in 2019 after hearings related to police killings of African-American men:

False Testimony

The anti-police narrative depends on suppression of facts, and the duplicity of anti-cop forces reached a shameless new low at a congressional hearing last week. Committee members should sanction the false testimony, given under oath, and publicly correct the record.

The House Judiciary Committee, now controlled by Democrats, had called a hearing to address a “series of deaths of unarmed African-American men while in police custody” as well as the “mistrust between police and marginalized communities.” Throughout the four-hour session, a photo array of blacks killed by the police played continuously on video screens around the room, interspersed with statistics allegedly proving that the police harbor lethal racist bias…

The eight remaining witnesses then began their testimony; I was one of the two witnesses called by the Republican minority. I asserted that the narrative that we are experiencing an epidemic of racially biased police shootings of black men was false. A study published this August in the Proceedings of the National Academy of Sciences was just the latest piece of research to undercut that narrative, I said. The study, by faculty at Michigan State University and the University of Maryland at College Park, found that it is the rate of violent crime that determines fatal police shootings. The more frequently officers encounter violent suspects from any given racial group, the greater the chance that members of that group will be fatally shot by a police officer. In fact, black civilians are shot less, compared with whites, than their rates of violent crime would predict.

Many of the same people who tell us how much they love and trust science, are willing to dismiss facts that don’t fit their preferred narrative.

Hat tip:

UPDATE: We have heard from Joe Cesario, one of the authors of the study. He says it was not retracted for political reasons:

We were careless when describing the inferences that could be made from our data. This led to the misuse of our article to support the position that the probability of being shot by police did not differ between Black and White Americans (MacDonald, 2019). To be clear, our work does not speak to this issue and should not be used to support such statements. We accordingly issued a correction to rectify this statement (Johnson & Cesario, 2020).

Although our data and statistical approach were valid to estimate the question we actually tested (the race of civilians fatally shot by police), given continued misuse of the article (e.g., MacDonald, 2020) we felt the right decision was to retract the article rather than publish further corrections. We take full responsibility for not being careful enough with the inferences made in our original article, as this directly led to the misunderstanding of our research.

You can read their full statement here.

 

 
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