Looking for Racial Bias in a Bunch of Numbers

It was Mark Twain who said, “Get your facts first, then you can distort them as you please.”

The FBI collects records from local and state law enforcement every month as part of their Uniform Crime Reporting system, which is what they use to produce official reports on crime rates in the US.  Those records tell the FBI how many crimes were committed and what type, but it doesn’t say much about the characteristics of the victim, offender, or crime.

Statistics show that Black-on-Black crime is far more common than the case of a White-on-Black crime. From the 2011-12 FBI files — 193 Blacks were killed by Whites, while 448 Whites were killed by Blacks and 2,447 Blacks were killed by Blacks.

This isn’t surprising given that the U.S. is about 63 percent White and 12 percent Black.  So it isn’t hard to see how more Blacks might die in confrontations with police than Whites.

There were 41 teens, 14 years or younger, reported killed by police from 1980 to 2012. Twenty-seven of them were Black; eight were White; four were Hispanic and one was Asian.

There were 151 instances where police noted teens they had shot dead had been fleeing or resisting arrest at the time of the encounter. Sixty-seven percent of those killed in such circumstances were Black, while 15 teens shot fleeing arrest from 2010 to 2012, 14 were Black.

Forty-four percent of all those killed by police across that 32 years span, were White. Black officers account for 10 percent of all fatal police shootings and of those they killed, 78 percent were black.

White officers killed 91 percent of the whites who died at the hands of police. They were also responsible for 68 percent of people of color, killed.

Seventy-seven percent of ‘undetermined shootings’ (those that didn’t list the circumstances) were black. Meanwhile, from 2005 to 2009, “officer under attack” was cited in 62 percent of police killings.

What the numbers can’t show is ‘intent,’ ‘motive’ or ‘belief system.’

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