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by Peter Moskos

August 30, 2014

"Excited Delirium" is not a real medical condition

Best I can figure, it was invented (or at least inspired by) the Taser corporation (correct me if I'm wrong here).

But it's not a real cause of death. That being said, it's usually used to get cops off the hood when someone dies after being Tased.

But now some high guy dies and the police officer might (but probably will not) get in trouble? If there's any crime here, it sure wasn't committed by the police.

The story from the New York Times.

And I've never heard of this pseudo bullshit medical condition being used in a situation that wasn't Taser related. Again, correct me if I'm wrong.

And since when did the NYC M.E. buy into the concept of "Excited Delirium"?

August 27, 2014

"Unarmed" man not shot by police

One of the things that keeps coming out of the Ferguson shooting is that Michael Brown was "unarmed." As if "unarmed" people cannot be a threat to cop.

That's bullshit.

Now I'm not talking about whether Michael Brown was or was not a threat. I do not know. But the fact that he was "unarmed" does not mean he wasn't a threat.

This is a video (from 5 months ago) of an "unarmed" man on the whom I think the police officer should have shot. But the cop didn't. I guess the officer didn't feel his life was in danger. Kudos to him. Seriously. But I think his life was in imminent danger. And I think I would have shot the guy.

Just based on the description of the video (and the fact that the train isn't leaving and a police officer is involved), let's assume guy threatened to shoot subway passengers. A cop responded. The guy attacks the cop. That's where the video starts.

The cop tries to retreat. Then the cop maces him at 0:15. There's a nice deflection at 0:17. (Shazam! Jujitsu shit.) The asp comes out at 0:21. [Wack.] Little if any effect. The guy keeps coming at the police officer. Notice how few seconds have passed.

The grappling continues. The guy keeps coming. What would you do?

Now when you can use lethal force is not cut and dried. It's up to the police officer. And I can't read this police officer's mind. But he didn't use lethal force. That was the choice he made. Maybe he never felt his life was in danger.

But I'm telling you I think I would shot guy point-blank at 0:45.

Would this have been a "good" (ie: justified) shooting. Abso-fucking-lootly.

I've been in fights. And I haven't shot anybody. For whatever reason (backup, for instance) I never felt my life was in danger. I won't say this cop should have shot the guy. He felt he didn't need to. And he turned out to be right. But had he shot him, I would defend that shooting (as would the law).

But what if there's no video? What if the cop does shoot? What if, as would happen, some "eyewitness" on the subway says "the guy had his hands in the air [which, actually, he kind of did]. And he was surrendering when the cops shot him for no reason!" Then what do you assume?

Because when cops hear of a cop shooting an "armed person," they assume something like this happened. Cop know, based on everything they have done and seen, that police do not shoot people for no reason. Cops think: there but for the grace of God, go I.

Also note there is a train of people, not one of whom helps the cop. (Or you could say it's good nobody helped the other guy, who was asking for help).

So this subway cop showed amazing (and perhaps even unwise) restraint in use of force. But yes, in hindsight, it's clearly better that nobody got shot.

So did this officer receive any kudos for his bravery or his restraint? I don't know. Should he? Yes. Did he? I doubt it.

Bad cops

OK, my cop friends: please tell me what I'm missing here or how any of this (from February) is defensible. It's so rare I can watch a video and not understand or at least empathize with the police.

These Bloomfield, New Jersey cops are going to end up in jail right? And is the salary range really $57K starting up to $100,000. 

Here's an update from July. I don't know the latest.

August 26, 2014

Race and justifiable police homicides (VII): hispanics

Fact 7: What about hispanics? Hard to tell because many police departments don't keep track. Half of all homicides (justifiable police homicides) have no "ethic origin" listed. When it is listed, 1/3 of those killed are hispanic, which strikes me as very high. Overall, including all the missing data, hispanics come out at 16 percent. So the real number of hispanics killed is somewhere between 16 and 33 percent. The census lists 17 percent of Americans as hispanic (which includes all races).

That's all I got for now. If you can think of any other question I can answer with the data I have, leave a comment, and I'll do my best.

Race and justifiable police homicides (VI): black police shoot white people, too

Fact 6: Black police officers do kill white people. This really isn't surprising, but I mention it because I've seen a few people on twitter doubt this fact. Black officers (about 1 in 7 of all police) kill about 27 blacks and 9.4 whites per year. White police (of whom there are many more) kill an average of 81 blacks and 200 whites each year (both for the past 15 years).

Like the previous fact, this doesn't mean much without greater context. But it's worth pointing out that there aren't too many black officers working in high-crime white neighborhoods.

The next and last fact concerns hispanics. Spoiler: the data isn't good enough.

August 25, 2014

Race and justifiable police homicides (V): black police

Fact 5: Black officers are disproportionately more likely than white police to kill black people. But this should come as little surprise since black officers are much more likely to work in black areas and in cities where there are more blacks. Again, given the bad data, take all this with a huge grain of salt, but according to the data we do have (UCR justified police-involved homicides 1998-2012), 73 percent of those killed by black police are black (which is kind of amazing). For white police officers, 28 percent of those killed are black.

Put a different way, if you are black and shot by police, the odds are about 1 in 5 you'll be shot by a black cop. If you're white and shot by police, there's less than a 1 in 20 chance your police-officer shooter will be black.

In these 15 years, 547 black police officers killed 402 blacks and 141 whites. 4,388 white police killed 1,213 blacks and 2,998 whites.

Also, the officer's race is "unknown" 10 percent of the time. (n = 535)

Next question: Do black police shoot and kill white people?

Update: Additional data were added to this post in January, 2015.

Race and justifiable police homicides (IV): On the increase

Fact 4: Police-involved killings are going up. This one surprised me. Because police-involved shootings are generally correlated with overall homicides. But homicides are more or less steady right now, and down 10,000 since 1998 (14,000 in 1998, 13,000 in 2012).

The trend is about five more killings a year, for the past 15 years. Keep in mind this is based on flawed data. So it could be indicative or something, or maybe it's not.

Meanwhile the trend is for fewer officers to get shot and killed. (If you go back further, like to the 1970s when more than 100 officers were shot and killed each year, the trend is way down.)

So cops may just be quicker on the draw. Or perhaps too quick on the draw. Or some combination of the two.

The next post examines if black police are more or less likely to kill people. What do you think?

As a side note, justifiable killings by civilians have been increasing at an even greater rate over the past 15 years. From 191 in 1998 to 309 in 2012. I would assume (but do not know) that "stand your ground" laws have something to do with this. Also, (surprising to me) the race relationship of those killings have become even more intra-racial (and the greatest increase is seen in justified killings by black).

[Data on police fatal shootings comes from the Officer Down Memorial Page.]

August 24, 2014

Race and justifiable police homicides (III): one a day

[Update: Using better data, the number is more like three a day.]

Fact 3: UCR data on justified police-homicides are notorious incomplete. These numbers are an undercount. But given the data we have, as reported (or not) to the DOJ by local police departments, police kill at least one person a day (426 in 2012, to be exact, 30 percent were black, 63 percent were white). Again, how you want to use or misuse that statistic is up to you. And you need to take it with a large grain of salt. Either at least one person a day needs to be shot to protect somebody from getting killed or seriously hurt. Well, either that or police are cold blooded murderers who fill a one-body-a-day quota in the murder department. I'm more partial to the former explanation...

But it might be worth mentioning that the combined total for deaths from police shootings in Japan and Britain was... zero. Germany had eight.

Now ask yourself this: are police-involved killings in the US going up or down. That's tomorrow's fact.

And now, for the nerdy set, some numbers:

In 2012, police killed a total of 426 people. Of those:
white men: 267
black men: 128
white women: 6
black women: 4
"Asian or Pacific Islanders": 9
"American Indian or Alaskan Native": 5

The rates of justifiable police homicide, are roughly (per 100,000):
black: 0.33
Indian/Native American: 0.17
white: 0.12
Asian: 0.06

To put these numbers in some perspective, there were 13,063 total homicides in 2012.
white men: 4,332
black men: 5,745
white women: 1,651
black women: 858
Asian men: 160
Asian women: 82
Native/Indian men: 72
Native/Indian women: 22

The 2012 US homicide rates (per 100,000, and again, roughly):
black: 16.5
white: 2.7
Asian: 1.6
Indian/Native: 3.2

One other interesting tidbit, if you're still with me, is if one looks only at murders in which the killer is known to be a "stranger" (which is just 15 percent of all homicides... and this does not include the larger category of "relationship not determined"). Then the numbers plummet:
white men: 912
black men: 812
white women: 112
black women: 90
Asian men: 45
Asian women: 9
Native/Indian men: 15
Native/Indian women: 1

I mention this because fear and public policy is built so much around the concept of people (I'll say it: white women) being killed at home or in a robbery by some stranger (I'll say it again: a black man). And yet there were just 32 such victims in 2012. And 2012 was a high year. 2011 saw just 25 white women killed by black strangers.

The odds of being killed by a stranger, especially if you're a woman, are almost infinitesimally small. Though to be fair, they're still greater than the chance of being killed by lighting or attacked by a shark.

[Rates are based on these population numbers (which are not cut and dried): white 224 million; black 40 million; Asian 15 million; Native/Indian 3 million. Homicides from the 2012 UCR homicide supplement.]

August 23, 2014

Race and justifiable police homicides (II): white and black

Fact 2: Blacks are more likely than whites to be shot and killed by police, but probably less so than you'd suspect. 34 percent of those killed by police are African American. But put another way, 62 percent of those killed by police are white. (Actual numbers provided in next post.)

What you want to make of these data probably depends on your ideological persuasion. While the percentage of blacks killed by police (1/3) is disproportionately high compared to the percentage of Americans who are black (about 13%), one-third is low compared to other indicators of violence, such as the percentage of homicide victims and offenders who are African American (about 50 percent, give or take).

Since police-involved shootings correlate with gun violence in the population -- and many black communities receive a disproportionate amount of police attention -- one might expect the percentage of those killed by police to be closer to (or more than) 50 percent.

Based on the data, it does not seem that police are particularly trigger-happy around blacks compared to whites. (Though once could still argue that police are too trigger-happy overall.)

And keep in mind I make mistakes. If something seems fishy about my facts, let me know and I can double check.

Question for tomorrow's fact (#3): how many people (per year or per day) do police kill in the US?

[The source for all police-involved homicides is self-compiled UCR homicide supplements from 1998 to 2012. I've selected the value of 81 ("felon killed by police") for V29 ("Offender 1: circumstance"). I know that not all police departments report to the UCR, so the real numbers may be a bit more. But most police departments -- certainly all the big ones -- do report to the UCR. And the UCR covers "93.4 percent of the total population as established by the Bureau of Census." The coverage for justifiable homicides, however, is less complete.]

Race and justifiable police homicides (I): Over time

Back in 2008 I posted about what I called the "Al Sharpton effect": cops shooting white people doesn't generally make the news. That post has gotten a lot of hits recently (roughly 2,000 page views a day, when normally my whole blog gets about 700).

So I've re-crunched these numbers, both to make them more current and to look at the past 15 years, from 1998 to 2012. This is fact 1 of 7 (give or take).

Fact 1: The racial percentage of those killed by police hasn't changed. In other words, police are not more (or less) likely to shoot and kill blacks than they were 15 years ago. (In more academic terms, there is no correlation between year and race, from 1998 to 2012, selecting for whites and blacks).

Before I post the next fact, ask yourself this: what percentage of those killed by police do you think are black?

I ask because because it's good to know if your "facts" are actually based on reality And if the actual facts don't coincide with what you think is true, then you need to reconsider your opinions based on lies. Too many people don't do that.

August 13, 2014

Is the silence deafening?

That's because I'm out of town, in New Mexico ("not really new and not really Mexico"), and only have my phone to type on.

I'll be back home and posting in about two weeks.

August 5, 2014

How to arrest a very large man who doesn't want to go

Telling officers what not to do doesn't tell them what they should do. And it's never going to look pretty. That doesn't make it wrong.

Here's my op-ed in today's New York Daily News:
If you’re a cop, how do you cuff a 6-foot-tall, 350-pound man who doesn’t want to go to jail?

Most arrests happen without a problem. Police order a guy to put his hands behind his back. The cuffs click or zip, and that’s that. But sometimes people make it clear that they don’t want to go. Then what?
Read the whole thing here.

August 1, 2014

I stand corrected

The medical examiner's office says Eric Garner was murdered. To wit: "compression of neck (chokehold), compression of chest and prone positioning during physical restraint by police."

Asthma, heart disease, diabetes, and obesity were contributing factors.

His death has been ruled a homicide, and presumably we're going to be in for a Staten Island trial with Daniel Pantaleo and perhaps other police officers as defendants.

Update October 2014: This is a picture that shows a choke hold. I hadn't seen it before. Garner was not taken down with a choke hold. But this, once he was down, clearly shows a choke hold.