Is there racism among cops, and how does it affect their job?

Is there racism among cops, and how does it affect their job?

A study has come out (again; it’s been done twice before) that proves there is racism among police officers. But there is a surprising result of that racism.

You’ve no doubt seen the incidents and the resulting protests, and the claims that those incidents are indicative of the system in general. But are they? Do cops have one trigger for blacks and another for whites?

This study may turn some assumptions on their head. It sure did for me. Please take the time to listen to something I’m quite sure you’ve not heard elsewhere. It’s worth the time to consider this.

Mentioned links:

This study found race matters in police shootings, but the results may surprise you

Getting some shopping done? If you're going to shop at Amazon, please consider clicking on my affiliate link. Thanks!

On Apple devices, you can subscribe to the podcast via iTunes.

If you're on Android, listen with Google Podcasts.

Stitcher Radio is another possibility for both Apple and Android devices. If you do download Stitcher to your phone, please use the promo code “ConsiderThis” to let them know where you heard about it.

Browser-based options are the Blubrry Network and Player.fm.

And if you have some other podcatcher or RSS reader, click here to get the direct feed and paste it wherever you need it.

I would love it if you would spread the word about the podcast! Click the Facebook, Twitter, and other icons (or all of them!) at the bottom of this post to recommend "Consider This!" to your social media audience.

Show transcript

Yes, I’m going to discuss race issues again. That’s always a touchy subject, but I’m trying to bring information to the table that you might not have heard elsewhere. I certainly hadn’t until I read this article in that media organ of the vast right-wing conspiracy; the Washington Post.

Washington State University has done a study of cops, using highly realistic police simulators, in which actors in various scenarios approach and respond to officers on large, video screens in an attempt to recreate critical situations on the street. The officers are equipped with real guns, modified to fire infrared beams rather than bullets, and the scenarios can branch into conflict or cooperation, depending on the officers’ words and actions.

This is the third time that these researchers have conducted this study to test how officers react to white and black suspects, testing for racial bias. And all 3 times, here’s what they found; officers took significantly more time to fire their weapons if the subject was black.

Excuse me? Is this counter to the experience of many people? It would seem so. What about the Michael Brown incident? What about the Tamir Rice incident? Indeed, what about them, and others that have been chronicled? These are all legitimate cases for debate about how police react, but they are individual, highly publicized incidents that make the news and become a part of the news cycle and the subject of protests. Again, perfectly legitimate, but the fact that they get so much coverage may make those incidents suggest that this is the norm.

If we look at the statistics, there is no shortage of data showing that blacks are shot by police more often than whites in proportion to their percentage of the population. This data is often touted as proof that police are biased against blacks. But this article in the Washington Post, linked to in the show notes, has a few other statistics that are worth mentioning. Let’s get both sides of the story, and not cherry-pick our stats.

It mentions that in 2001, a study showed that black people, who comprise 12 percent of the population, committed 43 percent of the killings of police officers. We can go back even further and see that a 1978 report found that 60 percent of black suspects shot by the police carried handguns, compared with 35 percent of white suspects. So might there be a legitimate fear on the part of cops based on the race of the suspect? Ideally, in a perfect world, we’d be color blind to the suspect and treat each person as an individual, but I think we’re all pretty confident that this isn’t a perfect world. Police should be the ones in control, and unbiased, but they’re only human, just like the suspects.

So then, what were this latest study’s actual findings? Glad you asked.

For the latest version of the study, they used 80 police officers from Spokane, Washington. Of the 80, 76 were white and 71 were male. You can read the article for the specifics of the tests, including the fact that the officers weren’t told what the study would be testing. There was one exam that was used to detect racial bias by linking pictures of black and white faces with pictures of weapons. The results; 96 percent of the nearly all white officers demonstrated implicit racial bias, with 78 percent strongly or moderately associating blacks with weapons, and zero percent associating whites with weapons.

So with that as a backdrop, let’s take a look at what happened during the shooting portion of the study. With all other variables constant, it says officers took significantly longer to shoot armed black suspects than armed white suspects, an average of 0.23 seconds slower. I’ll admit that when I read that number, it didn’t seem that significant – just shy of a quarter of a second? – but the study does call it that. Still, it’s against type to be any amount slower. Also, when looking at shooting errors, where an unarmed suspect is wrongly shot, they found that officers were slightly more than three times less likely to shoot unarmed black suspects than unarmed white suspects.

Once again, these are not the results we’d expect to hear, if we believed what the Left and the media have been saying. You see, they pick the statistics they like when it suits them, and instead of stats that don’t bear out their narrative, they inflame emotions by concentrating on individual incidents. But if they really want a national conversation on race relations, then we have to bring all the information to the table. Otherwise, it’s not a conversation; it’s a monologue designed to berate one side. (And yes, I get the irony of decrying a monologue in the middle of a monologue. But I do want your thoughts at this particular table as well. Stick around to the end where I’ll reiterate the ways to get in touch.)

Oh, and why were the results so contrary to the perception? Well, while the study didn’t look at this question, researchers looked at other studies, especially noting where interviews with cops showed that they were sometimes concerned about how this would look in the press the next day. True, that didn’t help Tamir Rice, but then there’s the whole incident vs. statistics issue again. You can definitely point to incidents that are clearly at odds with these findings. But overall, and again, with 3 studies showing the same thing, perhaps we’re not being told the whole story by folks with an agenda.

So yes, racism still exists; no doubt about that. Clearly, it’s there among cops in Spokane. And to be honest, I don’t think we’ll ever truly eradicate it. Human history certainly bears that out. A color-blind society is the dream we should always be striving for, because if we get lazy and think we’ve arrived, our baser nature will slowly pull us back.

A couple closing thoughts. First, in spite of the numbers I mentioned earlier, I don’t think that your typical black man on the street is more likely to be carrying a gun than your average white man on that same street. I think those numbers get skewed by gang activity in the inner cities.

And second, there is the question of officers who are convicted of killing blacks vs. those who kill whites. There are claims that killing a white person won’t put a cop in jail nearly as often as with a black person. That may very well be, or it may be another case of incidents vs. statistics. This study didn’t touch on that, and I’m not making any claims about it, but it is something worth looking into. Again, all of this is worth studying and debating, as long as we can get all sides of the story. If you think I’m racist for citing studies and stats (and I’ve been called racist for much less), well, maybe we can’t yet have a true national conversation. And that’s unfortunate.

But we can certainly have a conversation here. Is this study a bunch of bunk? Do you have other information you’d like this audience to consider? Let me know your thoughts .

Filed under: Race Issues