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More on Police Shootings and Race

In my last post, I linked to a post by Peter Moskos noting that:

People, all people, are 1.6 times more likely, per capita, to be shot and killed by police in states that are less than 10 percent black compared to states more than 10 percent African American. Blacks are still more likely than whites, per capita to be shot overall. But this ratio (2.6:1) doesn’t change significantly based on how black a state is.
For both whites and blacks, the likelihood of being shot by police is greater in states with fewer blacks. And the difference is rather large. There are seven states less than two percent black. In 2015 and 2016, zero blacks were shot and killed in Maine, New Hampshire, Utah, Vermont, Wyoming, Idaho, and Montana. But if you think cops don’t shoot people in these states, you’re wrong. Compared to the four states with the highest percentage of African-American (Mississippi, Louisiana, Georgia, and Maryland are more than 30 percent black), the overall rate of police-involved killings in states with few blacks is higher. And this is despite a lower rate of overall violence.

It seems an odd result, so I have given it a bit of thought. I think I know what is happening and will try to provide a bit of an explanation over a few posts. I will start by noting that this is what the homicide rate looks like by state when put against the rate of killings by police:

Homicides v killings by police, figure 1
(Click to embiggen. Note that data sources are shown on the chart.)

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Police Shootings by State v. Percent of the Population that is Black

After my recent post on police shootings I was curious and did some googling on the topic. By coincidence, right about that time Peter Moskos (i.e., Cop in the Hood) wrote this:

I looked at the Washington Post data of those shot and killed by police in 2015 and 2016 and broke it down by states with more and fewer African-Americans. States that are more than 10 percent African American include 21 states plus D.C. (198 million people, 18 percent black, 36 million blacks). There are 29 states less than 10 percent African American (126 million people, 6 percent black, 7 million blacks).

 

Killed by Police v. Black Share of the Population

 

People, all people, are 1.6 times more likely, per capita, to be shot and killed by police in states that are less than 10 percent black compared to states more than 10 percent African American. Blacks are still more likely than whites, per capita to be shot overall. But this ratio (2.6:1) doesn’t change significantly based on how black a state is.

For both whites and blacks, the likelihood of being shot by police is greater in states with fewer blacks. And the difference is rather large. There are seven states less than two percent black. In 2015 and 2016, zero blacks were shot and killed in Maine, New Hampshire, Utah, Vermont, Wyoming, Idaho, and Montana. But if you think cops don’t shoot people in these states, you’re wrong. Compared to the four states with the highest percentage of African-American (Mississippi, Louisiana, Georgia, and Maryland are more than 30 percent black), the overall rate of police-involved killings in states with few blacks is higher. And this is despite a lower rate of overall violence.

There’s more at the link, including his data. I haven’t had an opportunity to go through the numbers, but I am not seeing a reason to disbelieve them offhand. I have a couple of theories (which are not entirely unrelated to each other) as to what is going on, but I’m curious about what readers think.

As an aside… regular readers may recall my earlier look at Washington Post data on police killings which led me to conclude one or two things that don’t fit the narrative the media, to include the Washington Post, seems to like to support.

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A Key Reason America is No Longer Great: The privatization of state and (especially) local governments, in both the services they provide and in the way these governments (especially the local ones) are funded. [UPDATED.]

Coberly/ July 21, 2016 10:26 am

mike

instead of begging to differ, why don’t you try to explain your case better?

it sounds to me like you are arguing that ignoring traffic violations in black neighborhoods will result in more black on black crime including homicide.

that could well be the case, but i don’t think anyone is suggesting that a lack of normal policing is the answer to police killing black (or white) people who are not posing a threat.

so whatever you are proposing has failed to make itself clear to me.

____

Me/ July 21, 2016 11:15 am

Yup. Just think of all the homicides that have been prevented by the incessant traffic stops of black motorists for a burned-out taillight.

In Michigan, btw, by law you get just a warning for a burned-out taillight or turn signal, since people don’t necessarily even know that the light has burned out. You get the light replaced and mail in or drop off at the courthouse a receipt for the repair within 10 days, and there is no fine.

Which makes a big difference. A huge amount of excessive policing of minor traffic violations, real or fabricated, is the result of conflict-of-interest funding of local government, including and probably principally law enforcement–the police, the courts, the local jails. And the less wealthy you are, the likelier you are to have a burned out taillight or turn signal, because you are likelier to have an older car. Michigan’s law removes this issue.

And the federal government should enact it nationwide–which, in anticipation of a states’-rights/freedom/it’s-unconstitutional push-back, I’ll just say at the outset that it would be clearly constitutional under the Commerce Clause and the Fourteenth Amendment’s equal protection clause and specific authorization in the Fourteenth Amendment’s Section 5.

— An exchange between reader and occasional AB poster (on Social Security) Dale Coberly and me this morning in the Comments thread to Mike Kimel’s controversial July 19 post titled “Interactions Between Black People and the Police

If the public really wants meaningful change and wants to make America great again, one critical component would be to reverse the privatization of what should be, were for most of this country’s history until the Reagan Revolution, and are in virtually every other advanced country, government functions.  And to drastically limit the percentage of government spending that can be paid for by fines for traffic violations and ordinance violations.

And, yes, federal statutes can, within the parameters of the Constitution, be enacted to accomplish these things.

Notwithstanding Freedom and Liberty and states’ and municipalities God-given right to violate individuals’ constitutional rights that have nothing to do with gun ownership, religion, or the purchasing of officeholders via campaign donations or personal-finance donations.*

Really.

*Sentence rewritten for clarity after posting. 7/21 at 5:16 p.m.

____

UPDATE: Comments thread exchanges:

Warren/ July 21, 2016 2:15 pm

“[One] critical component [is] to reverse the privatization of what should be… government functions.”

Such as?

 

J.Goodwin/ July 21, 2016 3:08 pm

Prison management?

 

Me/ July 21, 2016 5:25 pm

Ambulance and firefighter services, for another. Which bill people several thousand dollars a shot.

And entire police departments and court systems and local jails are supported by exorbitant fines and court fees and late fees and this fee and that fee for having gotten a traffic ticket or some such.

Didn’t used to be that way. Used to be that normal taxes paid for these things. Y’know; back when America was great.

 

Lyle/ July 21, 2016 4:26 pm

Note that Ca has a similar thing called a fix-it ticket, that once you get it fixed you drive to a police station have a cop sign that it is fixed and you get the ticket dismissed

The New York Times has been writing a lot on various aspects of this issue, but it’s completely ignored by most candidates for, well, any government office.  Bernie Sanders was the exception, and I think (but I’m not sure) that Elizabeth Warren has discussed some aspects of it, as well.

But Hillary Clinton should discuss it.  It’s tremendously important to many, many people’s lives, and lies at the very heart of much of the blacks-versus-police-and-the-courts issue.  Clinton shouldn’t dodge this.

Added 7/21 at 5:41 p.m.

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