Friday, 29 August 2014

Should police treat all equally?

Quote, from Pew Research:
Amid continuing tensions over the police shooting of an unarmed teen [Michael Brown] in Ferguson, Mo., most Americans give relatively low marks to police departments around the country for holding officers accountable for misconduct, using the appropriate amount of force, and treating racial and ethnic groups equally
But should they be treated equally? 

For interesting and educated discussion of the issues around this, see here.
That 2% [15-24 year old black males, as % of the US population] is responsible for almost all of 52% of U.S. homicides. Or, to put it differently, by these figures a young black or “mixed” male is roughly 26 times more likely to be a homicidal threat than a random person outside that category – older or younger blacks, whites, hispanics, females, whatever. If the young male is unambiguously black that figure goes up, about doubling.
26 times more likely. That’s a lot. It means that even given very forgiving assumptions about differential rates of conviction and other factors we probably still have a difference in propensity to homicide (and other violent crimes for which its rates are an index, including rape, armed robbery, and hot burglary) of around 20:1. That’s being very generous, assuming that cumulative errors have thrown my calculations are off by up to a factor of 6 in the direction unfavorable to my argument.
Now suppose you’re a cop. Your job rubs your nose in the reality behind crime statistics. What you’re going to see on the streets every day is that random black male youths are roughly 20 times more likely to be dangerous to you – and to other civilians – than anyone who isn’t a random black male youth.
Any cop who treated members of a group with a factor 20 greater threat level than population baseline “equally” would be crazy. He wouldn’t be doing his job; he’d be jeopardizing the civil peace by inaction.
Related: why Michael Brown was not holding his hands up, when he was shot.