KHAVICH: Black Lives Matter protesters have holes in argument
Opinions Column: Self-Evident Truths
On Aug. 26, Colin Kaepernick took a knee to protest what he described as “bodies in the street and people getting paid leave and getting away with murder.” The decision was met by many with criticism, including Kaepernick’s own biological mother. However, around the country, his sentiment was echoed among teams such as the Kansas City Chiefs, the Miami Dolphins, the Denver Broncos and most recently even high school teams like the Auburn and Maury high schools. The trend comes as the latest installment in a conversation that has spanned more than two years since the 2014 shooting of Michael Brown: Are black individuals being knowingly and viciously executed for their race by police? The grassroots movement Black Lives Matter (BLM) has erupted, especially on college campuses, in a unified effort to resound in the affirmative. But BLM has a problem. Several, actually.
The first and most vital is the issue of hard statistics — black Americans simply aren’t being massacred in the streets by any metric. According to The Washington Post’s now-famous database, 990 people were killed by police in 2015. But the vast majority of those were white people — twice as many as black people. The common rebuttal to this is that black people make up only 13.2 percent of the population, which is true, but doesn’t take into account that black people commit violent crimes at a rate around seven to 10 times greater than that of white people, as noted by Jason Riley of The Wall Street Journal. This is compounded with the fact that the majority of police departments engage in a practice known as “hot-spot policing,” in which police focus on policing where crime is concentrated — a method proven in criminological studies to be effective at reducing crime. Hot-spot policing means that black people living in high-crime areas are more likely to interact with a police officer.
When all of these factors are taken into account, the number of black people killed by police appears to be lower than expected, not greater. A recent study by Harvard professor Roland G. Fryer, Jr. confirms this: Black people are actually 22 to 24 percent less likely to be shot at by police. This has also been reaffirmed in a landmark 2016 study from Lois James, who with her team of researchers at Washington State University, has found three separate times that in highly realistic simulations, “officers took significantly more time to fire their weapons if the subject was black,” and that “officers were slightly more than three times less likely to shoot unarmed black suspects than unarmed white suspects.” University of Missouri—St. Louis professor David Klinger, after interviewing 300 police officers, discovered the same thing: “Multiple officers ... didn’t shoot only because the suspect was black … (so as to) not be consistent with this narrative of cops out there running and gunning.” Interactions between black people and police are so skewed such that political commentator Heather MacDonald found that a police officer was 18.5 times more likely to be shot by a black assailant than an unarmed black was to be killed by a cop.
Yet police detractors continue to call for shifts in police departments and tactics. Bad policing is rampant, they insist, and it’s time to clamp down on it by, for instance, mandating body cameras on police officers. Ironically, a study by Temple University has found that not only do body cameras not decrease lethal force use, they actually increase it slightly. The reason? Police officers wearing body cameras have irrefutable evidence that their use of force is justified, so they are less likely to hesitate in deadly situations.
According to Houston City Councilman Dwight Boykins, the solution is that “throughout the country, we need to have officers patrolling areas that reflect the ethnicity (of that area).” Besides being an anti-meritocratic call for segregation, that idea also would not work to reduce shootings. A study of the Philadelphia Police Department released in 2015 found that black and Hispanic officers shot at black unarmed suspects 1.7 and 2.5 times more often, respectively.
Even if we could disregard these truths, the fact remains that BLM has not behaved themselves in a way that is becoming of any organization seeking civilized political change. Whether it’s the Movement For Black Lives publishing a radical socialist and nigh on-racial supremacist platform, or prominent BLM leader DeRay McKesson defending looting, BLM needs to clean up their act and research their facts. Until then, I and the rest of the country will be standing tall for the brave men and women in blue that stand for us.
Aviv Khavich is a School of Engineering sophomore majoring in computer engineering and computer science. His column, "Self-Evident Truths," runs on alternate Mondays.
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