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by Peter Moskos

April 9, 2015

"U.S. police shootings not simple as black and white"

Good article by Tom Blackwell in Canada's National Post:
“If we point to the officer and say, ‘You did something wrong,’ we all feel a lot better, and it’s concrete,” said Marcia McCormick, a criminal-law professor at St. Louis University. “But when the problem is the system — you have racism without racists…. It doesn’t seem as harmful, and [is] so abstract that we have a hard timing figuring out how to fix it.”
Factor in the differences in demographics — blacks make up just 13 per cent of the U.S. population — and that means African Americans were four times as likely to be killed by police.

Still, Moskos is not convinced that means black people are being disproportionately targeted, arguing that blacks are five times as likely as whites [per capita] to kill police officers, and that much of the policing in America focuses on black street crime.

“The narrative that cops are out gunning for unarmed black people is just not supported by the data,” he said. “Cops tend to shoot a lot of white people too, it just tends not to make the news.”

Moskos is worried that the focus on race is distracting attention from what he considers the real issues. Those include the “criminalization of poverty ” and the aggressive police enforcement of relatively minor offences, such as traffic violations and failure to make support payments, the transgression that relatives say made Scott run from police.
But the incident in South Carolina points to a concerning mentality, [Eugene O'Donnell] said. The officer appears to have taken steps to make his actions seem legal, until the video blew the story apart.

“It raises the question of whether there is not a culture in some parts of the country of, ‘We can do anything we want and get away with it,’ ” he said. “I worry that at least some of the many police forces in the country work in a culture like that.”

Even if blacks are not lopsided victims of police force, a larger issue emerged in Ferguson, and again at protests in North Charleston Wednesday: the widespread sense among law-abiding African Americans that they are in a sense harassed by officers.

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