This article appeared in the August 26, 2020 edition of the Monitor Daily.

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The Jacob Blake shooting: More confirmation of police racial bias?

Stephen Maturen/Reuters
Letetra Wideman and Zanetia Blake, sisters of Jacob Blake, who was shot several times in the back by a police officer, embrace during a news conference outside the Kenosha County Courthouse in Kenosha, Wisconsin, on Aug. 25, 2020.

A white officer was filmed shooting a Black man in the back in Kenosha, Wisconsin, Sunday while his three children watched. Outrage and riots have followed. 

Jacob Blake’s shooting once again tragically confirms racial bias in policing. Or does it?  

It turns out the research on police brutality is all over the map.  

Black men are about 2.5 times more likely to be killed by police over the life course than are white men,” a 2019 study by sociologist Frank Edwards concludes.

But commentator Coleman Hughes writes that other studies show white Americans are just as likely as Black Americans to be fatally shot by police. (One of the four research papers cited by Mr. Hughes has since been withdrawn from publication.) This isn’t to say that racism doesn’t exist in law enforcement. In fact, one of those studies found that for all non-fatal police interactions – such as traffic stops and arrests – even when they’ve been compliant, Black Americans are 21% more likely to be subject to use of (non-lethal) force than white Americans.

On average, every day three Americans are killed by police. The racial breakdown of that data can be parsed various ways. But as Mr. Hughes, a Black writer, suggests, we need an “honest and uncomfortable” conversation about the problem. And if the data suggests the problem of excessive force is less fueled by racism and more by police training and a hair-trigger mindset, that should be addressed. 

And solving that problem could make all Americans safer.


This article appeared in the August 26, 2020 edition of the Monitor Daily.

Read 08/26 edition
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