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).
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.
Salon: “Number of fatal shootings by police is expected to reach 1,000 for third year in a row”
“‘Police officers across the United States are on pace to fatally shoot 1,000 people in 2017, making it the third year in a row. During the first half of this year a total of 492 have already died at the hands of law enforcement, according to the Washington Post.
The numbers from 2017 are near identical to last year’s, however the number of unarmed people killed by police has dipped slightly so far this year. ‘These numbers show us that officer-involved shootings are constant over time,’ Geoffrey Alpert, a criminologist at the University of South Carolina who has studied police use of force, told the Post. ‘Some places go up, some go down, but it’s averaging out. This is our society in the 21st century.’”
Here is what the “Cop In The Hood” said:
“Recently I came across a breathless headline in Salon: ‘Number of fatal shootings by police is expected to reach 1,000 for third year.’ That’s an odd way to put it because A) it implies the number has been at a record high the past three years when B) this is only the third of three years the Washington Post has been counting and C) it’s not true.
According to the Washington Post data they cite, there were 991 people shot and killed by police in 2015 and 963 in 2016. The more accurate headline, as see in the actual Washington Post is: ‘Number of fatal shootings by police is nearly identical to last year.’ Well, that’s a bummer if one is trying to hype a crisis. Also ‘reach’ is not synonymous with ‘approach.’ But I’m not hear to quibble about the semantics of a few dozen deaths.”
If you follow what was said in Salon, the author is stating the numbers are averaging out to be ~ 1000 annually. The Cop in the Hood author has a tempest in a teapot going. Lets look at one paragraph and a sentence from his article.
“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.”
Maybe I am wrong in how I read this; but, here is my take-away from his comments.
– The ratio of 2.6:1 blacks to white in any state whether >10% Black or <10% Black does not change much.
- Following on with the first point, blacks per capita are still more likely to be shot overall.
- All people are 1.6 times more likely to be shot and killed by police in a state with more white citizens and fewer black citizens and the ratio of 2.6:1 for black citizens remains the same?
Draw your own conclusion.
Your last point is correct. Moskos is pointing out cops shoot more people when Blsck people are a greater part of the population, but the ratio of Black to White people getting shot remains the same. I find it to be interesting. My working theories for why have policy implications that align with those that fall out of my earlier posts on the topic.
Maybe I am not being clear enough. The more white citizens there are as compared to black citizens, the more likely black citizens will be killed. And black citizens are the problem?
Blacks are more likely to be shot no matter where they are standing.
Any theory still needs to contend with FBI statistics showing that given the size of the respective populations, a greater percentage of Black people than White people are murder offenders.
As I showed earlier (http://angrybearblog.strategydemo.com/2016/07/police-killings-gender-and-race-2.html) if you don’t break out Hispanics, There are about 6X White people as Black people but the two groups commit about the same number of murders.
Also, I haven’t checked the numbers but I imagine you could replace the word White in your comment with the word Asian and it wouldn’t change your logic.
All of this is to say, I think your theory is headed in the wrong direction.
I think in addition to the FBI statistics you should consider my post on police shootings and self-control and that look at police officers in Philadelphia.
I note that Moskos himself has a theory he mentions in comments to his post:
I think his theory, unlike yours, is compatible with all of the the data with which I am familiar and may go part of the way toward explaining what he noted. However, I don’t think its the biggest effect. I have two ideas (that are related to each other) but have to think about if and when I can find the data to test ’em, but in the meanwhile, I want to see if anyone suggests them.
Do you believe all police departments report shootings and killings by them? They do not even though they are supposed to do so. I would suggest the data of police killings you are drawing from is inaccurate. Hundreds of Police Killings Are Uncounted in Federal Stats
I did not propose a theory. I just followed the logic of the author. He used data to pointing to the numbers of black citizen being the issue, the same data also points to the numbers of white citizens being the issue. The author did not take it the next step which was to examine each alternative. He stopped there. If you agree with his findings, the data points in two different directions.
It would be more illustrative of the difference in Black v non-Black populations if the data were charted:
X-axis =State Black population proportion
Y-axis = State Black police killings (as proportion of Black population)
In that way the trend would be obvious (if there is a significant trend) OR the states with outlier’s would be obvious. I can’t figure out why Moskos didn’t do this sort of analysis though, since the ratio of Black to Non-Blacks killings by police are the same for both types of States and the total number of police killings in each type of state are nearly identical (over two years:973 for states with >10% Blacks & 918 for states with <10% Blacks … a 5.6% difference, which given the high degree of variance within each state type group is statistically insignificant).
Also, since the ratio of killings of Black & Non-Blacks are both 1.9x for States with 10% blacks all this says is that some states have a higher police killings rate for both races by nearly 2x relative to others… why would this be related to the proportion of Blacks in a State? Does this mean if there are fewer blacks in a state that the cops are more likely to use deadly force independent of whether blacks or non-blacks are involved?
Police Killings, Average Annual for 2015 & 2016
Police Killings / million population of each demographic (Blacks & Non-Blacks)
States Type………………Overall…….Blacks….Non-Blacks….Ratio Blacks/Non
>10% Black (18.1%)…….2.46……….4.96………1.91…………….2.60
<10% Black (5.7%) …….3.66……….9.58 ……..3.57…………….2.68
Ratio: 10%……..1.49……… 1.93………1.87…………….1.03
1. The ratio of Blacks to Non-Blacks killings is insignificantly different (2.6 & 2.68 or 3% difference) for both types of states.
2. Blacks & Non-Blacks (in proportion to their respective populations) are both killed at 1.9x the rate in States with <10% Blacks.
3. States with 10% Blacks.
Data taken from spreadsheet in link
Item 3 in my prior note didn’t print out for some reason
3. States with 10% Blacks.
WTF? It still didn’t print out ..
3. States with less than 10% Blacks have a 1.5x greater Police kill rate than States with more than 10% Blacks.
For once I agree with Longttooth. A scatter plot to accompany the bar charts would have been useful.
The data on police shootings is not from the Federal Gov’t. It is from the Eadhington Post. They started their database a few years ago to track police shootings specifically because they worried about the issue you noted.