How are blacks treated
American police officers treat black women and men more rudely and sometimes far more brutally than white people. This assumption has been wafting through the minds of the people who are grappling with these recent cases of alleged racist police violence not only since the deaths of Alton Sterling and Philando Castile. The list of clashes with police officers and auxiliary ships that are fatal for African Americans is long. A study by the American National Bureau for Economic Research has now confirmed this suspicion. But with one caveat that nobody would have expected.
Police officers get violent against black people more quickly than they do with whites. Police officers are more likely to handcuff them, push them against the wall or the floor more quickly. And law enforcement officers use pepper spray or batons more quickly against people with dark skin than against people with light skin. So far, so expectable.
"There are big differences," says the study. According to this, police officers, for example, are more likely to pull their guns when they are dealing with a black person than in a comparable situation with a white person.
According to the study, police officers are more likely to shoot white people than black people
But when it comes to the real use of firearms - i.e. shooting - the study does not identify any racist tendencies. "We have evaluated the data sets with innumerable approaches and have not found any evidence of racial discrimination when police officers use their firearms," it says there.
On the contrary: According to the survey, police officers are more likely to shoot white suspects than black ones if they have not attacked them beforehand. There is a 20 percent chance that police officers shoot black people less often than white people.
The study's results "are informative and, in some cases, surprising," writes Roland Fryer, the study's author. The 39-year-old is an economics professor at the elite Harvard University and an excellent American economist. Fryer and his team evaluated police reports from three cities in Texas (Houston, Austin, Dallas), six cities in Florida (including Orlando and Jacksonville) and Los Angeles in California.
The scientists examined 1,332 cases of firearms use between 2000 and 2015. In addition, the scientists consulted freely available statistics on the New York "stop-and-frisk" program. According to this, police officers are allowed to stop pedestrians, question them and search for weapons.
Are cops more likely to pull the trigger when they have a black man at the muzzle of their gun?
The scientists tried to answer questions such as: How old were the suspects? What skin color were they? How many police officers were there? Were they mostly white? Why were the police there: because of a robbery, an act of violence, a traffic stop? Was it at night Did the police shoot before or after they were attacked? One goal was to find out if police officers shoot black suspects faster than white ones - which the study says they don't.
Whether that means that there was no racist bias on the part of the officials in known cases like those of Sterling and Castile, the study leaves open. Fryer's results contradict the suspicion the videos arouse of the killings of Sterling and Castile: White police officers snap the trigger when black suspects stand in front of the muzzle of their service weapons.
But Fryer himself mitigates this apparent contradiction by severely limiting the validity of his survey on the police use of firearms against African Americans.
In the New York Times he emphasizes that his results do not allow any absolute conclusions to be drawn. More data sets are needed to understand the country as a whole. That the study cannot provide generally valid explanations for the whole of the USA is also made clear by the fact that more blacks live in the cities examined by Fryer than in American cities on average. In addition, the data on which Fryer and his colleagues rely come from the police, who are themselves the subject of the investigation.
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