Be careful about what you learn from statistics
All too frequently, when there is a police shooting involving a Black person, the mainstream media publish articles about how a police officer is more likely to kill a Black person than a White person. The Mapping Police Violence Project proclaims, "Black people have been 27% of those killed by police in 2021 despite being only 13% of the population."
It's a scary statement until you realize that the project and other similar articles are so hyper-focused on making the police look bad that they are actually showing that Black lives don't matter to them. Sure, the media proclaim they want to save Black lives by doing away with police violence while ignoring a much more significant source of Black murders: Black criminals.
The 2019 Uniformed Crime Report, the most recent one published online at the FBI website, shows that out of the 2,906 Blacks killed in the U.S. in 2019, 2,574 were killed by another Black person. That is more than 88 percent. Meanwhile, during that same year, police killed 235 Black people.
If the goal is "Black Lives Matter," why focus on the 235 rather than the other 2,671 killed? It's because the media have been irresponsible about blaming police in every shooting incident they can, inciting racial tensions. After all, it helps them make money. But it can also cost lives.
The recent Kyle Rittenhouse murder trial is an example of the media's irresponsible reporting. How many media outlets reported that the three men Rittenhouse had shot were black? (In fact, all three were white.) As a result, a case of White-on-White crime was turned into a racial matter, among other things.
This is not a one-off event. It has been happening for years. Remember the Trayvon Martin killing in 2013? His killer, George Zimmerman, was first identified as White, and the case exploded as a racial one. Then, it turned out that Zimmerman was Latino. Because this didn't create as considerable a controversy, we had media suddenly identifying Zimmerman as a "white Hispanic" — probably the first time that term was used.
If we want to get rid of the few potential bad apples in our police departments, we need to take an honest look at what is happening or risk ruining good officers' lives and losing the protection we need. It hasn't been done because it isn't profitable for the media. The media need to be held accountable for their misleading reporting, and it looks as if Rittenhouse may do that with defamation lawsuits.
It would be better if the police didn't have to kill anyone. While the raw numbers are generally correct with reports from the FBI and even the Mapping Police Violence Project, they are presented in the worst light for police. The Mapping Police Violence Project shows an implied bias, particularly with one chart that looks at the percentage of these shootings that did not result in charges being filed and the heading of "There is no accountability." The fact that charges weren't filed doesn't mean there wasn't accountability. It simply means that the incident most likely didn't rise to the level of charges needing to be filed — for instance, the perpetrator was shooting at the officer responding.
The study also exaggerates some of what its information shows. For instance, it says black people are three times more likely to be killed by police than white people. Yet the figures show that the precise multiple is 2.64.
Despite these problems, it appears that Black men are killed more often by police than White men relative to the population, although police kill more White men than Black men. It's a matter of looking at percentages versus actual numbers. For instance, police killed 1,021 Black men between 2017 and 2021. During that same period, police killed 1,881 White men. Alarming numbers, but even the Mapping Police Violence Project notes a downward trend with shooting deaths in both races.
Part of preserving lives means we need to look honestly at why they are lost in the first place. Then the necessary help to save more Black lives is to address Black-on-Black crime. If the police had killed no Blacks in 2019, it would have made less than a 10-percent difference in total Black murders. That is a lot of Black lives that didn't matter to the media.
Michael Letts is the CEO and founder of In-VestUSA, a national grassroots non-profit organization helping hundreds of communities provide thousands of bulletproof vests for their police forces through educational, public relations, sponsorship, and fundraising programs.