Horowitz: There is no systemic racism in policing

· June 2, 2020  
    Font Size A A A
Policeman and police car
kali9 | Getty Images

Putting the violent rioting aside for a moment, politicians in both parties are insinuating that the killing of George Floyd was racially motivated and reflects a broader injustice against black citizens more than anyone else, which legitimizes the rage undergirding the riots, if not the riots themselves. This assertion is simply not borne out by reality.

According to the Washington Post’s searchable database on police shootings, nine unarmed black people were shot dead by cops in 2019, while 19 unarmed white people shared the same fate. So even before we examine whether these shootings were justified, there were more than twice as many fatal police shootings of white people than of black people.

Now obviously this database only analyzes shootings, not choking incidents, but if the case of Floyd is part of a broad trend rather than an aberration, we are certainly not seeing that reflected in the shootings. One poster on Twitter has done research into the nine cases of unarmed black people being shot by police, and in each one, it appears that the suspect was in the process of using potentially deadly force against the cop or another civilian.

According to the Bureau of Justice Statistics, approximately 53 million people come into contact with the police each year, often with multiple encounters. Now what does this rate look like? Obviously, that doesn’t excuse any maleficent officers, but it also doesn’t justify a broader grievance demanding that every cop kneel to the ground in order to avoid a riot.

If that were the case, don’t other groups have equally “valid grievances” that should justify grinding other people’s lives to a halt? Last August, a Dallas cop shot at a dog charging toward him and killed the white female owner. There were no riots over that. Also last year among the 19 unarmed white people killed by police was a Houston couple killed in a botched drug raid. Two police officers were indicted for tampering with evidence. There were never any protests. Nor would anyone have tolerated them. We should expect the same from all human beings.

As researchers from the University of Michigan and University of Maryland reported last year, “We did not find evidence for anti-Black or anti-Hispanic disparity in police use of force across all shootings, and, if anything, found anti-White disparities when controlling for race-specific crime.”

If anything, according to this study analyzing 917 officer-involved fatal shootings published last August, they found “officers are less likely to fatally shoot Black civilians for fear of public and legal reprisals” and therefore, “all else equal, this would increase the likelihood that a person fatally shot was White vs. Black.” They conclude that “per capita racial disparity in fatal shootings is explained by non-White people’s greater exposure to the police through crime.”

Also, for every one case of unjustified police force, such as against George Floyd, how many cops have been beaten or were killed because they went the extra mile to use underwhelming force, particularly when dealing with African-American criminals? Last night, five cops were shot and one is in critical condition. Another cop was run over by a protester in Buffalo, NY.

While George Floyd has become a household name, how many Americans have heard of Officer Cody Holte? He was gunned down in the first police killing in Grand Forks, North Dakota, in 33 years by a career criminal who happened to be black. Salamah Pendleton had a history of violence against police and shot over 41 rounds from an AK-47 when officers came to his apartment to serve a warrant last week. Three bullets fatally struck Holte.

Last year, 49 police officers were killed, and 30 percent of the suspects were black. So far this year, the number of cops killed is more than last year, despite the lockdown for two months. Has anyone made that a racial issue? Of course not, because individual criminals alone are the ones responsible for their actions.

Then, of course, there are the black-on-black crimes that are the biggest threat to black lives, yet they don’t seem to matter to the media and politicians. Just over the past weekend, 82 individuals were shot, 22 of them fatally. Black people are killed by homicide at eight times the rate of white people. That is the true disparity in the justice system we should be talking about. Having tougher policing and sentencing helps reduce that disparity and save exponentially more black lives, as we did from 1993 to 2015 before the advent of criminal justice deform reversed the positive trend of reduced violent crime.

In New York City, cops are beleaguered by political accusations of the Black Lives Matter movement. They are experiencing some of the most violent attacks in recent months, not just during the current riots. But is this really about protecting black lives, and are the police really the problem?

According to NYPD crime data, of the 209 homicide suspects in 2018 whose race is known, 149 (71 percent) were black or “black Hispanic,” 40 (19 percent) were “white Hispanic,” and just 14 (6.6 percent) were white. In other words, 93.4 percent were committed by “minorities.”

At the same time, however, of the 289 homicide victims in 2018 whose race is documented, just 26 (9 percent) were white, 196 (68 percent) were black or “black Hispanic,” and 54 (19 percent) were “white Hispanic.”

Thanks to more aggressive policies over the years, thousands of black lives have been saved in New York City since the days of 2,000 annual murders. We see the same principle in reverse in Baltimore, when unjustified rioting in 2015 led to a hands-off approach that kicked off several years of record murders, mainly harming African Americans.

The critical point is that we need to take a holistic view of justice and combat crimes vigorously whether they are committed by police or civilians – black or white. The cop who killed George Floyd seems well on his way to meeting swift justice, something that cannot be said of many other criminal offenders in this country. So no, there is no valid grievance in a broad sense here. There is no systemic racism in the justice system, and making our system even more lenient will just result in more lives lost, particularly among black people.

Indeed, if the death of George Floyd somehow justifies widespread uprisings, we should have riots every day on account the grievances of other groups of people who appear to be much more aggrieved in terms of crime victimization and lack of justice. Then again, how about we follow the dictates of Martin Luther King and judge each case individually and each person as an individual, and stop turning everything into a racial war?

Author: Daniel Horowitz

Daniel Horowitz is a senior editor of Conservative Review. Follow him on Twitter @RMConservative.