The Five Myths of Systemic Racism in Policing

The belief that law enforcement is infused with systemic racism is a myth. As the evidence demonstrates, blacks are not disproportionately killed by the police. Moreover, the perception of white officers as trigger-happy is also baseless. Here is a rebuttal of five popular lies.

Myth 1: Blacks are disproportionately killed by the police.
Blacks are 13.4 percent of the population yet they account for 48.9 percent of murder offenses, according to 2019 FBI crime statistics. Telling us that they are more likely to be killed by the police relative to their share of the population is irrelevant. Obviously, if blacks are overrepresented in committing violent crimes, then the likelihood they will be killed by police will be higher as well.

The harsh truth is that blacks are disproportionately perpetrators and victims of violent crime. Furthermore, research reveals that since 2015, police have shot and killed 168 unarmed white people, 135 unarmed black people, and 74 unarmed Hispanic people. Since more unarmed whites were killed by the police than unarmed minorities, the logic of activists suggests the real victims of systemic racism are whites.

Myth 2: White officers are trigger-happy.
Researchers have known for a long time that black officers show a greater tendency to shoot unarmed suspects compared to white officers. A possible explanation for the aggression of black officers is that they may more often be stationed in volatile areas requiring greater use of force. Work by the Crime Prevention Research Center compared cities where whites are killed to cities where blacks are killed, and found the latter exhibit higher rates of violent crime on average.

Another issue is that officers are usually situated in communities in which most citizens are of the same race. Hence the findings of Greg Ridgeway, that black officers are more inclined to employ deadly force, could be driven by these factors:

Black officers had more than three times greater odds of shooting than white officers. This finding runs counter to concerns that white officers are overrepresented among officers using lethal force and is consistent with several previous studies of officer race and police use-of-force.

Likewise, a 2015  Philadelphia Police Department study found that black officers were 67 percent more likely than their white peers to mistakenly shoot an unarmed black suspect. John Lott is the latest researcher to confirm these results.

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