Police Brutality in Black And White

Do black cops or white white cops, facing the same circumstances, have higher or lower rates with respect to each other of brutalizing members of the public? Do black or white members of the public, facing the same circumstances, have higher or lower rates of receiving police brutality from white cops? What about from black cops?

These questions fascinate me, but I have been unable to find clear data that addresses them. The referenced article, by BlackNews.com writer Earl Ofari Hutchenson, indicates that black officers appear just as likely to as white officers to employ excessive force. Another article by him echoes this theme. In both articles recognizes that because blacks disproportionately commit more "street crimes" than white, you would expect non-racist officers to have a higher rate of violent confrontations with black members of the public. However, Hutcheson also describes cognition of this fact as an example of "prejudice", though he supposes that it equally affects both white and black officers.

But even Hutchenson's essay lacks statistical weight, and does not address the questions about white members of the public experiencing brutality, and the rates of brutality they experience from black vs. white officers.


This hefty .pdf document from the US Dept of Justice provides many data, and some touch on these questions, though none fully or satisfyingly address them head on or completely. We learn here that black and white motorists get pulled over about equally, though men much more often than women. We learn that black and white cops are equally likely to pull over black and white motorists, but that black cops are harsher than white cops on both black and white motorists! Black cops are more likely than white cops to issue tickets to black and white motorists. Where black officers are a little less likely to arrest black motorists than are white cops, white cops are twice as likely to arrest white motorists as are black cops! Where white cops are twice as likely to arrest a black motorist as they are to arrest a white motorist, black cops are THREE TIMES as likely to arrest a black motorist as they are to arrest a white motorist! And black and white motorists are about as likely to believe that white cops and black cops have pulled them over for legitimate reasons.

We learn that white motorists are more likely to consent to a search, and that searches of black motorists are twice as likely to "produce evidence" as searches of white motorists. The stats also show that whites report forceful police interactions 0.7% of the time that they interact with cops, where blacks report this at a rate about three times greater. Unfortunately we don't have these stats broken down by "race" of the cop. And men even more so report forceful interactions than women. Are cops gender-discriminating against men? Are men more violently resistant than women? Or both?


uptownseteve said...

Here's some data. Just for LA over a two year period.

No white folks killed though.


Paul Hue said...

Is this a list of all the people killed by police during this time? If so, and all are black, then that constitutes compelling data that cops of any "race" only kill black folks.

However, the title of the article includes the phrase, "Police Murders", which suggests to me the possibility that the authors of the article have cherry picked from a larger list of police killings, and labeled as "murder" only those involving a black victim.

uptownseteve said...

Blacks pulled over far more often than whites.


Paul Hue said...

What we need here, Steve, are statistics of all people killed by cops, listed by "race", and the "race" of the cop who killed them.

uptownseteve said...

Paul, there is no way that 4 black cops would have opened fire on an unarmed, innocent man standing in his vestibule as those 4 white cops did to Amadou Diallo.

Everytime there is a cold-blooded police murder of an innocent citizen it is a white cop and a black individual.

I challenge you to produce an example otherwise.

Paul Hue said...

So you are saying that although black people on average have nothing that they do worse than whites EVER, when it comes to cop killings, whites on average are much worse than blacks.

If the statistics show that white cops are worse than black cops, that cops only kill blacks and never whites, then I will accept that when it comes to police conduct, blacks today in the US are out-performing whites. But failure of press accounts of any cops killing whites means one of two things:

1. Cops never kill white robbers, burgles, murders, rapists, etc, and never kill innocent white civilians.
2. When cops kill white civilians, the press does not white articles that identify the "race" of the civilian.

Which is it? I don't know. You are certain of the answer. I await evidence, and will accept whatever it is. I am open to the possibility that when it comes to police conduct, blacks are doing a much, much better job than whites.

Paul Hue said...

OK, your data show that in NYC black are getting stopped 6 times more often than whites. I don't dispute that. Now we have to compare that data to other data to determine if this represents white or black cops behaving racistly, giving white criminals free reign and innocent black citizens unwarranted hassles.

You are absolutely 100% certain of the answer to that question. Actually, you have no question.

This same article says that blacks comprise 25% of NYC's population, but account for 50% all stopped people. (Not sure how this agrees with stopping blacks six time more than whites.) Are blacks committing double their fraction of the street crimes in NYC? If so, we should expect that non-racist cops would stop at about this rate.

That is why we need more data, such as arrests-per-stop, stops-per-similar circumstances. For example, stoppage rates in neighborhoods of similar crime rates.

The reason that I am unsure is that I know many affluent blacks, and they rarely ever get stopped or arrested in the honkey suburbs of Detroit, or in Detroit proper. But if data show that the US is a cruel police state where blacks of all walks of life frequently get stopped by honkey cops who brutalize them while they are unarmed and committing no crime, then I will accept that data and the obvious conclusion, and oppose it.

In the meantime, it seems to me that the young black men that I mentor have an approximately 100% likelihood of avoiding police brutality, unjust stoppage, and arrest, and it has nothing to do with massive overhauls of US police departments: make smart choices in life.

uptownseteve said...


Bad encounters with cops have little to do with smart choices and more t do with being male and black.

What bad choices did Amadou Diallo make?

I've been unjustifiably stopped by cops as has most black men I know at some point in their lives.

I know you don't want to believe it Hue.

But I've lived it.

Paul Hue said...

Diallo made no poor choices, and neither did you when you were unjustifiably stopped. The open question: Do white guys ever get unjustifiably stopped by cops? Do they ever get unjustifiably killed by cops? And if so, how do their rates compare to the rates of blacks?

I have been stopped without committing a crime by both black and white cops when I was driving solo late at night in "certain neighborhoods". Why? The cops -- sometimes white, sometimes black -- have sometimes frankly told me that usually when young white men are driving in these areas they tend to be purchasing drugs or hookers. The cops in all these cases looked around for drugs, and sometimes asked permission to perform a search.

I assume that their STEREOTYPE of white guys driving in these areas is accurate; cops pulling over white guys in those areas at night have a high likelihood of finding drugs. If you understand what STEREOTYPING is, you understand that proper use does not entail 100% accuracy.

I have in various other cases had negative experiences with cops.

I assume that groups of white guys listening to loud music in their cars get pulled over in subburbs by cops who assume that they have a pretty good chance of getting a DWI or some drug action. I do not know that this is the case, but it seems reasonable to me.

I seek data before reaching a conclusion. The fact that some black guys get unjustifiably stopped or killed by cops does not conclusively prove that this only happens to black guys, or more often to black guys.