Freedomnomics

Article published Thursday, February 26, 2015, at TribLive.

Facts on police & race

By John R. Lott, Jr.

FBI Director James Comey's recent speech on police and race was about as politically incorrect a speech as you will get these days from a high-ranking government official. Comey acknowledges “the existence of unconscious (racial) bias,” but he doesn't think that racism is responsible for so many blacks being in jail.

Unlike President Obama, he doesn't see a need to change the way police are trained. Comey recognizes that there are real problems, but he believes they arise from drugs, underperforming schools and unemployment.

Comey's comments are at odds with what blacks are telling pollsters. Compared with other Americans, blacks were 29 percent more likely to primarily attribute the disproportionate imprisonment of blacks to racial discrimination. Blacks are much more likely to say that police treat blacks less fairly than whites. And blacks are also more likely to believe that the police are dishonest.

The media bombard people with “evidence” that blacks are being discriminated against. Take the widely reported falsehood that black men age 15-19 are 21 times as likely as whites to be killed by a police officer. These numbers are based on reports from just 1.2 percent of police departments. The departments that provide these numbers are in very heavily black, urban areas. Comey's talk called for improvements in this data to prevent what he called “ideological thunderbolts.”

There is actually strong evidence that blacks trust police at least as much as whites do. What people say and what they do are often very different.

If blacks really believed that arrests are racially motivated, wouldn't they be less likely to turn to the police for help?

Similarly, if blacks thought that police don't care about solving the crimes committed against them, why bother to report the crimes?

If you believed the polls, you would think that blacks are reticent to report violent crimes. Yet, blacks actually act as if they are closer to Comey's views of police.

Less than half of violent crimes are reported to police. Blacks, however, are more likely than whites and other groups to turn to police for help. This is backed up by data from the Bureau of Justice Statistics for 2008-12. Whereas whites reported violent crimes only 45 percent of the time, blacks reported them on 54 percent of occasions. The gap persists across every type of violent crime.

The Bureau of Justice Statistics reports that among people who are below 200 percent of the poverty line, whites face a higher violent crime rate than blacks do. Still, within this income group, blacks are more likely to report violent crimes. Among those with incomes above 200 percent of the poverty line, blacks face a higher violent crime rate. Again, blacks are more likely to report these crimes.

Comey spoke largely from personal experience. Hopefully, his words will help allay public hatred of the police.

Many blacks may feel that life has dealt them a bad hand, and Comey believes that is true. But if we look at what they do and not what they say, it's not clear that blacks as a whole harbor especially ill feelings.

John R. Lott Jr. is the president of the Crime Prevention Research Center and the author of the recently released “At the Brink: Will Obama Push Us Over the Edge?”

Make your own free website on Tripod.com
Home

Johnlott.org (description of book, downloadable data sets, and discussions of previous controversies)

Academic papers:

Social Science Research Network

Book Reviews:

For a list of book reviews on The Bias Against Guns, click here.

---------------------------------
List of my Op-eds
---------------------------------

Posts by topic

Appalachian law school attack

Baghdad murder rate

Arming Pilots

Fraudulent website pretending to be run by me

The Merced Pitchfork Killings and Vin Suprynowicz's quote

Ayres and Donohue

Stanford Law Review

Mother Jones article

Links

Craig Newmark

Eric Rasmusen

William Sjostrom

Dr. T's EconLinks.com

Interview with National Review Online

Lyonette Louis-Jacques's page on Firearms Regulation Worldwide

The End of Myth: An Interview with Dr. John Lott

Cold Comfort, Economist John Lott discusses the benefits of guns--and the hazards of pointing them out.

An interview with John R. Lott, Jr. author of More Guns, Less Crime: Understanding Crime and Gun Control Laws

Some data not found at www.johnlott.org:

Updated Media Analysis of Appalachian Law School Attack

Since the first news search was done additional news stories have been added to Nexis:

There are thus now 218 unique stories, and a total of 294 stories counting duplicates (the stories in yellow were duplicates): Excel file for general overview and specific stories. Explicit mentions of defensive gun use increase from 2 to 3 now.

Journal of Legal Studies paper on spoiled ballots during the 2000 Presidential Election

Data set from USA Today, STATA 7.0 data set

"Do" File for some of the basic regressions from the paper