Are police biased in their use of force against black men? The Washington Post says it has taken a look at the numbers and presented a report that it claims proves they are. However there are problems with the report. A lot of them.
Post staff decided to log every fatal police shooting since 2014, after Darren Wilson killed Michael Brown in Ferguson, Mo. The report places emphasis on the rate at which police officers kill black men. Early in the article is the following sentence:
Although black men make up only 6 percent of the U.S. population, they account for 40 percent of the unarmed men shot to death by police this year, The Post’s database shows.
At the beginning of the sentence, the Post specifically references “black men” as a percentage of the total population (which, it should be noted, men represent slightly less than half). In the second half of the sentence, they shift to considering black men as a percentage of only men (the more relevant figure, since almost all people killed by police are men, regardless of race). The Post’s wording suggests black men are being killed at over seven times the expected rate.
In fact, since black men are about 13 percent of men, and those killed by police are almost exclusively men, black men are killed by police at just under 3.5 times the expected rate. Purely through its framing, the Post is making the rate at which black men are killed by police look twice as bad as it really is. And the distinction is important, because the Post’s framing suggests the police treat black men radically different from other people, leading to more deaths, while the more honest figure comes much closer to reflecting the substantially higher crime rates among black men.
The Daily Caller also points out a quarter of the 243 police shootings involve a mentally ill individual. Plus, 90 percent of those involve an armed individual. In fact, the DC reported that 90 percent of all shootings involved an armed individual. Apparently, harsh language should have been employed instead or something.
The police have a difficult job, and they perform it under a microscope. Every mistake is magnified because police are supposed to be immune to being human. Sure, they can make some big ones, but they also catch a lot of flak that isn’t really fair.
The Washington Post’s hit piece, and it really is a hit piece, tries to make police look like racist jerks. Folks, this is what media bias looks like. The line quoted by the Daily Caller is a prime example. Whether intentional or an oversight, it paints a definite picture of a bias that doesn’t seem to exist. It’s counting on people to not dig any deeper than the numbers presented. In theory, it probably worked in a lot of cases.