[See parts 1 and 3 and NYC]
Using the data from killedbypolice.net, I looked at the race of those killed by police. Though before I give you these numbers, ask yourself this question: what percent of those whom cops kill do you think are white, black, and hispanic. Forgive the callousness, but we're talking numbers. And this figure will get to the core of the notion that cops are "gunning for" or "hunting" black men.
[Update: These are based on the best data from April, 2015. As of November, 2015, we have more data, but I don't believe the conclusions have changed substantively. See also the Guardian and also, slightly better for what they exclude, the Washington Post for more up-to-date numbers on those killed by police. All three data sources are more or less in sync.]
Given that blacks are 13 percent of the population and whites about 65 percent, what percentage would expect to see among those killed by police? Presumably police are more likely to shoot a murderer than an average Joe. So I wouldn't think it's reasonable to expect to find that blacks would be just 13 percent of those killed by police. What percentage would you expect to see. What percentage would mean there isn't a problem of police shooting African Americans in particular (as opposed to police just shooting too much in general)?
Presumably police are (and should be) more likely to kill those who are willing or trying to kill other people. [Update: others have used arrest rates as the denominator, which seems like a good way to analyze racial disparities vis-a-vis police interactions.] Nationwide, blacks are also about 50 percent of murder victims (and thus presumably murder perpetrators, since most homicides are intra-racial). Over the past 10 years, according to FBI data that looks at those who have feloniously killed a police officer, whites are 53 percent and blacks are 44 percent.
[For various reasons, none particularly good, FBI data seems to lumps all hispanics into the white category. The data at killedbypolice.net counts hispanics as separate. But it means that hispanics are invisible in the FBI data but counted in killedbypolice data. And I'm using both. So consider this a fair warning about comparing numbers and figures from different data sets.]
One would hope that the racial breakdown of police-involved homicides would be not out-of-wack with the racial breakdown of those who kill police. This indeed seems to be the case: 48 percent if those killed by police are white, 30 percent are black, and 18 percent hispanic (the doesn't-add-up-to-100-percent bit consists of Asian, Indian, Pacific Islander, and other.)
Though if you're so inclined, and I see so reason not to, you could spin the same data this way:
Now the data doesn't indicate which shootings are justified (the vast majority) and which are cold-blooded murder (not many, but some). And maybe that would vary by race. I don't know, but I doubt it.
Still, per capita, blacks are 3.5 times more likely than white men to die at the hands of police. This is now adjusted for population, and only includes men.
Keep in mind the homicide rate for the entire country of Canada is 1.6. So a homicide rate of 1.3 for black men just killed by police (!) is very high.
While it is a very damning figure for our country, it's not necessarily damning for police. There is a 6:1 (per capita) black-to-white homicide rate disparity and a 4:1 black-to-white disparity (per capita) among those who felonious kill police officers. Given disparate rates of violence, it would be naive to expect equal rates among those killed by police.
Adjusted for the homicide rate, should one choose to do that, whites are 1.7 times more likely than blacks die at the hands of police. Adjusted for the racial disparity at which police are feloniously killed, whites are 1.3 times more likely than blacks to die at the hands of police.
Another statistic: A black man is 16 more likely to be killed by a cop than kill a cop. A white man is 20 times more likely.
Though it goes against the all-cops-are-racist narrative, it's not inconceivable, given an equal threat level, that a white person is actually more likely to be shot by police. I've gone into these reasons before, and it's just speculation, but two I want to highlight are 1) cops in more minority cities face more political fallout when they shoot, and thus receive better training and are less inclined to shoot, and 2) since cops in more dangerous neighborhoods are more used to danger; so other things being equal (though they rarely are), police in high-crime minority areas are less afraid and thus less likely to shoot. Based on experience, I suspect that police in high-crime areas deserve more credit than they get for not shooting. Some of the bad shootings I've seen recently... I can't imagine a cop in Baltimore being so damn scared for no good reason.
So I am saying that a guy with a gun in the ghetto might actually be less likely to be shot by a cop who is more used to danger and guns. But a guy with a gun who makes a sudden movement in a neighborhood with a cop who has never faced danger in the face? Boom. [Update: it's not like unarmed white people don't also get killed by police.]
All this said, one should keep all this morbidity in perspective. The odds that any given black man will shoot and kill a police officer in any given year is slim to none, about one in a million. The odds for any given white man? One in four million. The odds that a black man will be shot and killed by a police officer is about 1 in 60,000. For a white man those odds are 1 in 200,000.
But the odds that any given police officer will have to shoot and kill somebody this year? 1 in 1,000. That is not negligible. Add when one adds in the times a cop was afraid for life and didn't shoot? Or an officer did shoot and missed? Or shot and wounded? And then you multiply that by 20 years? Those are odds most people would not accept in a job description.
[Go back to Part 1 or forward to Part 3.]
[My critique of ProPublica's misleading claims. More analysis from St. Louis NPR.]
[Corrections welcome. Please double check my work.]
Those last figures are based very roughly on 1 million cops, 1,000 killed by police, 20 million black men, 333 killed by police, 100 million white men, 500 killed by police. For everything else, feel free to check my math and excel formulas, if you can make sense of this:
For reference, the top-left cell is Row 13, column A. Annual rate =SUM((B14/2)*(24/23)). Rate: =SUM(C14/(E14/100000)). Rate LE killed by= =SUM(F14/(E14/100000)). Final rate: =SUM(D14/G14). Hom rate: =SUM(J14/(E14/100000)). Killed by adj by hom rate: =SUM(D14/K14).