The recent death of George Floyd on Monday inspired me to shed some light on a highly controversial subject. What happened to Floyd was a tragedy. The officers have been fired and will be investigated by the FBI and the Department of Justice. Now, we must allow the justice system to do its job. It is paramount that we refrain from automatically jumping to conclusions and instead let our perceptions be guided by the facts. Due to the sensitivity of this subject, I am providing a disclaimer that this essay is not for the faint of heart.
Recently, a video surfaced of a black Jackson Police Department officer grabbing a black male by the neck. During the physical altercation, a bystander was telling the officer that the man cannot breathe, and even attempted to loosen his grip on the man’s neck, despite his claim that he wasn’t choking him. In addition, the officer was aggressively “daring” the man to resist. Without a video, some would possibly assume the unidentified officer was white. This can occur because of activists and media journalists who mainly report acts of police brutality when the officer is white, and the victim is black. Is police brutality only a relevant subject when a white officer hurts a black person?
Many may dismiss this incident, as the victim did not end up dead, like Floyd, during the altercation. However, the fact remains that any individual grabbed by their neck has a chance of dying. What if the officer was white and the victim was white?
In 2015, Zachary Hammond, a 19-year-old unarmed white male, was shot by a police officer during a vehicle stop in South Carolina. The officer claimed that he shot Hammond in self-defense because he was trying to hit him with his car. Police Chief John Covington, of the Seneca Police Department, also corroborated the officer’s story. Due to some unanswered questions, Hammond’s family hired a physician to conduct a second autopsy, which revealed that the bullet was fired from the side of the vehicle through an open driver’s side window.
In 2011, a hospital in Madill, Oklahoma called the police for assistance in giving a patient, Johnny Leija, an injection that would calm him. The officers shot Leija twice with a stun gun, then one of them straddled his back and attempted to handcuff him. After the officer got one handcuff on, Leija lost consciousness. The Oklahoma Chief Medical Examiner’s Office concluded that Leija died due to being starved for oxygen during his physical altercation with the police.
In 2005, David Becker was stopped by Utah police officer, Jason Bateman, for a cracked windshield. Bateman suspected Becker to be drinking and driving and proceeded to make an arrest after conducting sobriety tests on him. Bateman stated that he threw Becker to the ground because he was resisting arrest. Video footage was submitted to the U.S. District Court for Utah showing the altercation between Becker and Bateman. The video did not show any signs of resistance, as Becker already had his hands on the vehicle prior to Bateman throwing him to the ground. Due to the officer’s actions, Becker suffered from a traumatic brain injury.
Video footage showing the shooting of Laszlo Latits while he was trying to reverse away from police was submitted to the U.S. District Court for Eastern Michigan. Video footage displaying Gerrit Vos getting shot and killed by police while exiting a store during a mental health crisis was submitted to the U.S. District Court for Central California. These officers were all granted qualified immunity by the court.
Such evidence leads us to conclude that police brutality is not just an issue limited to blacks, but rather, it is an issue for other groups as well. Yet, media journalists, politicians, and activists only seek publicity for blacks that are killed by white officers. What about the lives of whites and Hispanics that were killed by officers? One may counter this claim by arguing that police kill blacks more often than other groups. Such claims are highly regarded as noble and unquestionable truths, yet evidence for these claims is never asked for nor presented.
It is astounding that demagogues only speak of police brutality when white officers kill blacks, yet rarely speak up when black officers kill blacks. According to a study conducted by Greg Ridgeway, a criminologist at the University of Pennsylvania, “black officers are 3.3 times more likely to shoot than white officers.” This is consistent with another study that concluded black officers shot black suspects at higher rates than white officers in Chicago. It also found that white officers were 4 times more likely to kill whites and 2.7 times more likely to shoot Hispanics.
Roland G. Fryer Jr., an economist at Harvard University, launched a study of 1,316 officer-involved shootings that happened between 2000 and 2015. 46% of the shootings involved blacks, 31% involved Hispanics, and 23% were categorized as other with most of the people in that group being whites. Based on his findings, Fryer concluded that officers were less likely to shoot at blacks without having been attacked. For example, the Houston Police Department’s data, consisting of officer involved shootings and a random sample of interactions where lethal force may have been justified, showed that blacks were 27.4% less likely to be shot at compared to non-blacks.
The data presented adds credibility to the idea that most police officers are competent and doing their jobs to protect civilians. However, that does not mean that there aren’t instances that display the opposite; such as the case of George Floyd along with the rest of the ones presented in this essay. In situations where officers display incompetent and brutal behavior, it may be plausible to have them investigated by a third-party agency, rather than by internal affairs. Otherwise, victims and their families may be met with situations where the higher-ups take the side of the officer, regardless of the facts. The incident mentioned earlier, regarding the shooting of Zachary Hammond, should serve as an example of why such a strategy would be more reasonable.
Many like to believe that police officers will always “protect their own” when it comes to these incidents. Such a belief assumes that this act is due to moral principles, but there is no proof of that. However, there is a possibility that this behavior is incentivized by labor unions.
Labor unions may be one of the reasons why officers are rarely prosecuted. Union contracts only allow employers to fire employees based on “just cause”. Just cause is defined as a seven-test process, which includes but is not limited to a full investigation into the situation, the employer’s policies, and the employee’s history. Such stringent requirements for termination make it hard for employers to terminate incompetent police officers, without absolute proof of their negligence and intentions. In addition to presenting hard evidence to justify termination, employers are also met with costs related to the investigation, such as paperwork and court fees. In the case of George Floyd, a media and public outcry has led to an expedited investigation conducted by the FBI and Department of Justice, where the union and the police department may have been incentivized to take immediate action by terminating the officers and allowing the investigation to take place, otherwise they may be risking an even more costly investigation into other matters. This is only a speculation based on incentives.
The lack of proper training could be another factor related to the incompetent behavior of some officers. In 2018, 34% of the new recruits for the Baltimore Police Department failed scenario-based tests regarding basic legal standards such as having probable cause before making an arrest. 4 of these recruits spent 18 months in the academy because they still hadn’t understood the legal concepts. They eventually passed all the tests, but only after the original test proctors were removed. Sergeant Josh Rosenblatt, a trained attorney, stated that the academy leaders ignored the concerns he voiced about these new policemen. After they repeatedly failed tests, the academy leaders decided that testing would be administered by other police officers. When Rosenblatt argued that lawyers are more qualified to provide legal tests, these leaders disagreed. It should not be surprising that the Department of Justice found that unnecessary stops, searches, and seizures were a problem for the police force, in addition to improper training. Consider this thought: it takes lawyers 3 years to learn the law and defend it, yet the ones that administer it get a six month crash course.
Let’s analyze the case of George Floyd again. This report states that the officer directly involved in Floyd’s tragic death, Derek Chauvin, already had 10 complaints filed against him during his 20-year career. Back in 2006, the current senior U.S. Senator from Minnesota, Amy Klobuchar (D), was the Hennepin County Attorney, and she refused to prosecute Officer Chauvin for killing a Native American man. Such evidence implies that Chauvin has a history of misconduct and should lead us to question the leadership in the police and the justice departments.
A story has also come out reporting that Floyd and Chauvin both worked security at the same club in South Minneapolis up until the end of last year. It would seem plausible to consider that Chauvin’s actions were possibly due to a personal vendetta he had against Floyd.
Floyd’s case is not unique. The video below shows Dallas Police Department’s body camera footage of a white male, Tony Timpa, being restrained until the point of death. According to The Dallas Morning News, Timpa was “restrained in a controversial position for more than 13 minutes.” While laughing and joking, these officers continued putting pressure on Timpa’s back. Eventually, Timpa lost consciousness. As the paramedic gave Timpa a sedative, the officers were bantering about waking Timpa up. While Timpa was being loaded into the ambulance, the officers were jokingly saying they hope they didn’t kill him.
The available evidence suggests that there is a pattern of incompetence, improper training, and negligence, but it does not prove that racism was involved. Nevertheless, several media outlets automatically portray a white police officer killing a black suspect as a racially motivated act without waiting for any evidence to come out. Through the lens of the media, a white person killing a black person is proof of racism, yet the act of assuming it is racially motivated is not a form of racial bias against whites. When the situation is reversed, racial motivation is rarely mentioned. In fact, the situation itself is rarely given any coverage.
If we are to assume that all whites that hurt minorities are racist, then we can also equally assume that most blacks are criminals, since blacks commit crimes at a higher rate. The latter is obviously a form of racial bias, but so is the former.
The central belief of the Black Lives Matter movement, and many others, is that police brutality is the greatest threat that blacks face. Such catchy rhetoric may provide benefits to activists that need to justify the relevance of their positions and politicians that need to secure votes, but does it hold any weight under scrutiny?
According to a database created by The Washington Post, in 2015, 994 people were killed by officers. 50% of those killed were white and 26% were black. 3.2% of whites were unarmed and 3.8% of blacks were unarmed. Most of the victims, white and black, were armed or were threatening to use lethal force against an officer.
In 2019, 1004 people were killed by police officers. 1% were unarmed and black, 2% were unarmed and white, 15% were armed and black, and 21% were armed and white. Many may argue that more whites are killed by police because they make up a greater portion of the population, but the black violent crime rate suggests that blacks interact with officers more often.
Between January 1st and March 30th of 2020, 228 people have been killed by police officers in the United States. 31 of those killed were black. In Chicago alone, twice as many blacks were killed by other criminals during that same time period.
The amount of blacks murdered by other blacks every year exceeds the combined amount of white and Hispanic homicide victims. In 2009, blacks made up 15% of the population in 75 of the largest counties in America yet were 57% of murder defendants and 62% of robbery defendants.
In New York City, blacks make up 23% of the population, yet commit 75% of shootings and 70% of robberies. Whites make up 33% of the population, yet commit less than 2% of the shootings, and 4% of the robberies. Based on this data, we can conclude that cops will be sent to minority neighborhoods looking for black suspects most of the time.
We can even compare two neighborhoods in Brooklyn, New York. In Brownsville, Brooklyn, the shooting rate is 81 times greater than in Bay Ridge, Brooklyn. Most people living in Brownsville are black and the majority of people living in Bay Ridge are white and Asian. Due to the significantly higher crime rate in Brownsville, there is a greater police presence there, which means officers will have more encounters with blacks compared to whites or Asians. This results in more blacks being stopped by police officers. Such a reality is forced upon innocent blacks by the small percentage of hoodlums that reside in their neighborhoods.
Anti-police rhetoric dominates the streets in the form of protests and riots and also receives national coverage when a black male is shot by a white officer, yet there is often a disregard for the victims of the violent criminals in these same neighborhoods.
Derrion Albert, an honor student at Fenger High School in Chicago, was brutally beaten to death during a riot of about 50 people on September 24, 2009. His murder was recorded on a mobile phone, and the video was posted on YouTube, but was later deleted. Albert was punched, kicked, and beaten to death with a wooden board.
On March 11, 2015, 6-year-old boy named Marcus Johnson was murdered during a drive-by shooting that occurred a few miles from police headquarters, where protesters were gathered. Why were there no protests or media outcries for Johnson? Do black lives only matter when a black man is killed by a white man? The logic of the media and protesters implies that blacks are inferior and whites are to be held to a higher standard.
Such rhetoric brings much greater consequences for the black community, but demagogues have no incentive to consider these outcomes. Activists, media journalists, and politicians invent catchy slogans and speak emotionally charged words to seek publicity and be regarded as “heroes” of the community, yet the consequences for the behavior their rhetoric produces is paid by the same people that revere them. Sadly, by the time these consequences are realized, these individuals’ antics will be long forgotten, as they will likely be promoted into higher positions and will place the blame on the new leaders of the area.
Recently, the protests regarding the death of George Floyd have turned into riots. The streets of Minneapolis are flooded with looting and fires. A fatal shooting also occurred this past Wednesday. Such acts have been justified and even encouraged by people such as Ilhan Omar and Shaun King, but the consequences of these decisions will be paid by the people residing in these communities while these agitators enjoy the high life.
It doesn’t take an economist to figure out that rioting, looting, and burning down buildings leads to higher prices and less job opportunities. As shops are destroyed and looted, more businesses will be reluctant to open in the area. The cost of doing business will increase due to higher crime rates and higher insurance premiums. Housing quality will diminish even further, as complexes that are not burned down will be subject to more wear and tear while new housing is built. The housing shortage will also cause a spike in rent. In short, the cycle of poverty will continue in the area. The sad irony is that these riots are occurring in the name of police brutality but will only generate a greater police presence.
Anti-police rhetoric also has a negative effect on crime. As activists and political leaders demonize the entire police force, officers will be more reluctant to stop and question suspicious individuals because doing so could risk their career. As officers back off from policing high crime areas, the crime rates increase.
In 2015, murders in 50 of the largest cities in the country rose by about 17 percent. Homicides rose by more than 50% in cities such as Milwaukee, Chicago, Cleveland, Nashville, Washington D.C., and Minneapolis. Based on these numbers, we can conclude that anti-police rhetoric has led to the deaths of more blacks. In addition to his disregard for the lives of blacks that are killed by other blacks, Black Lives Matter activist Shaun King is also a supporter of abortion.
Planned Parenthood’s founder, Margaret Sanger, admitted in a letter to Dr. Clarence J. Gamble, “We don’t want the word to go out that we want to exterminate the Negro population and the minister is the man who can straighten out that idea if it ever occurs to any of their more rebellious members.” Based on the evidence, Planned Parenthood is pushing towards accomplishing Sanger’s goal.
In 2014, blacks made up 13.3% of the population, yet 36% of all abortions in America were performed on black females. In Michigan, black women make up 14% of the state’s female population, yet had 50.6% of all abortions in 2017. In short, abortion supporters, and for all intents and purposes, Black Lives Matter activists, like Shaun King, have killed more blacks than police officers.
Based on the findings, we can conclude that multiple groups have been victims of police brutality, and it is not just limited to blacks. Due to the higher crime rate of the black population, blacks have more interactions with the police. While there is nothing wrong with peaceful protesting, as there are multiple cases where officers are incompetent, perhaps some effort should also be placed in reducing the overall crime in these neighborhoods. Based on the data of the Brownsville and Bay Ridge neighborhoods in Brooklyn that was cited earlier, a reduction in crime would lead to a decrease in police presence, which would lower the chances of an individual encountering an incompetent officer. Lower crime rates would also produce more opportunities for economic prosperity, as businesses would be encouraged to invest in these areas and young people can spend more time focusing on their education.
Between 1940 and 1960, the poverty rate among blacks fell by about 50%. During this same period, the number of years of schooling doubled for blacks. This occurred prior to any major civil rights legislation, which is what is often credited for the advancement of blacks. Thomas Sowell, an economist and a senior fellow at the Hoover Institution at Stanford University, writes, “In short, most blacks raised themselves out of poverty, but their leaders robbed them of this achievement and the respect it deserved — in the eyes of blacks and whites alike — by making it seem like a concession from the government and a product of agitation.”
Many may wonder how we can go about reducing the crime in these neighborhoods. Increasing gun ownership among law abiding citizens that reside in these areas may be a reasonable idea.
In Ferguson, a white owned gas station was protected by black males armed with assault rifles during a riot. In Houston, a gun owner was able to protect himself during a drive-by shooting. In Fredericksburg, an elderly woman was able to protect herself and her husband by shooting a young man that broke into their home and assaulted her husband.
Many national surveys estimate that the amount of defensive gun uses range from around 500,000 to more than 3 million per year. Such findings suggest that gun ownership should be encouraged, yet such an idea would be rejected by gun control zealots. Mass shootings and gun crimes are commonly cited arguments for gun control laws, but these advocates seem to forget that criminals don’t obey laws. More people die at the hands of medical professionals than criminals. A study from Johns Hopkins University found that medical error is the cause of more than 250,000 deaths per year. Is anyone in favor of doctor control?
Hoodlums will persist in their behavior so long as the residents of their respective neighborhoods continue to be vulnerable and unaware of the true vision of the political agitators they vote into office. The public should understand that media journalists, politicians, and activists are not concerned about the problems in their neighborhoods. Instead, they are focused on their own interests, in which publicity and ratings are a priority. Therefore, let us weigh political rhetoric and catchy slogans against empirical evidence, lest we become divided as a nation and lose the freedom that cost our Founding Fathers so much blood and anguish.