Fundamentally Transformed: City after City Seeing Rising Crime Rates

Despite this, the study showed that “officers took significantly longer to shoot armed black suspects than armed white suspects.”  On average, the officers took 0.23 seconds longer to shoot an armed black suspect than an armed white suspect.  Of the unarmed suspects, whites were shot 54 times but blacks only twice.  Adjusting for the actual ratio of blacks to whites among the suspects, the researchers found that “officers were slightly more than three times less likely to shoot unarmed black suspects than unarmed white suspects.”  One of the researchers, Lois James, summed it up nicely.  “These findings,” she said, “call into question the validity of the widespread assumption that implicit racial bias is the cause of the disproportionate number of racial minorities in officer-involved shootings.”

James believes the difference detected can be traced to officers’ fears of the “consequences of shooting a member of a historically oppressed racial group…paired with the awareness of media backlash that follows an officer shooting a minority suspect.”

One doubts that the officers use terms like “historically oppressed racial group,” but so be it.  Remember, the study was conducted before the uproar that followed the Michael Brown shooting in Ferguson, which was not a singular event marking a sea change in police work, but was rather a highly charged and highly publicized example of a trend that began years ago.  Indeed, back in 2001 I concluded a column at National Review Online with a little prayer that summed up the police officer’s lot, then as now: “God, if I have to hurt someone today, please let it be a white guy.”