So, let me do some unpacking of that last post really fast, just to put those numbers in some perspective.
1. Based on the numbers I could find, one-quarter of police shootings are by white cops on black non-cops. Based on the available numbers, somewhere between 30-40% of shootings of police are black non-cops shooting white cops. If the former is cause to believe that (white) law enforcement does not value black non-cop lives, then the latter shows that blacks do not value white cops’ lives.
2. Based on the available numbers, there is a case to be made that blacks are not valued as whites are by the justice system, seeing as more than half of all homicides of whites were solved, as opposed to one-third of all homicides of blacks. However, pursuing this line of inquiry might lead to problems getting solved, and, I suspect, blame for everyone involved. None of the movers and shakers in this matter want that.
3. Based on the available data, if you were a law enforcement officer in 2013, you had a 1 in 23,220 chance of being feloniously slain. If you were not a member of law enforcement, you had a 1 in 582,230 chance of being shot by a cop and having it declared justifiable homicide. The chance of being shot by a white cop if one is black is higher, around 1 in 308,403.
Now, admittedly, the data is incomplete. However, even the higher estimates I saw while looking around hovered at about 1,000 total police killings per year, meaning that your odds would worsen considerably if this were so. However, even if the cops killed that many people per year, a non-cop’s chances of being shot by a cop are ten times less than a cop being shot by a non-cop.
So, in other words, can law enforcement be lousy? Yes.
Is there racial inequity? Maybe, perhaps even probably, although one could as easily blame it on economic prejudice if one wished to blame the cops, or a form of omerta if one wished to avoid doing so.
Can cops be jerks? Yes.
Can cops mess things up for people who shouldn’t have them messed up? Most definitely, yes.
Do cops have a very hard, very lousy job? Yes.
Does it involve keeping order in society, something very precious that we take for granted? Yes.
Should we make it harder for them to do it? Good question, and I’m inclined to say no. However, long-term effects of bad policing lead to cops being unable to do their jobs, so one should balance short-term costs against long-term benefits, and vice-versa.
This concludes this series.
‘Til next time,
Lowell Van Ness