A study that claims white police are no more likely than their non-white colleagues to shoot people of color is coming under fire.
The study, published July 22 in the Proceedings of the National Academy of the Sciences found police of various races were more likely to kill civilians of their own race. The researchers said this data makes sense considering police tend to be drawn to work from communities they are from. However, the study concluded there were no anti-Black or anti-Hispanic disparities across police shootings based on the race of the officer, which critics pointed out does not necessarily disprove racial bias.
The study compiled a list of over 900 fatal police shootings from 2015, then asked police departments for information on the race of the officers responsible for the shootings.
Critics have found the study to be flawed in its data collection methods, along with the narrow conclusion it draws. Dean Knox, a political scientist at Princeton University published a critique of the study, which claims research methods for determining racial bias are often biased in and of themselves. He spoke to ScienceMag, saying the original study failed to take into account how often Black and white civilians encounter police officers, a statistic the authors would need to determine before concluding anything about racial bias.
Also, critics point out, the original study does not acknowledge the fact that people can hold biases against people of their own race. Additionally, it would be careless to say a police officer of color shooting another person of color is not police brutality.
Internalized bias against one’s own race is reality in a society that centers whiteness while pushing other racial and ethnic identities to the sidelines. Even prolific academic and civil rights activist W.E.B. Du Bois wrote about experiencing “double-consciousness” in his famous publication, The Souls of Black Folk. He explains looking at himself both through the lens of the white outsider and of himself, which damages his self-image.
Critics are not questioning the validity of the data collected, but rather the way the researchers framed it without the right evidence.
The evidence is hard to come by because many police departments do not usually want to share their data on use of force.
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The reality is unarmed Black men are 3.5 times more likely to be killed by police than unarmed white men, regardless of the race of the officer pulling the trigger.