New Harvard Study Finds No Racial Bias in Police Shootings

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Roland G. Fryer Jr., a professor of economics at Harvard. Credit (Photo: Erik Jacobs for The New York Times)

Roland G. Fryer Jr., a professor of economics at Harvard. Credit (Photo: Erik Jacobs for The New York Times)

“It is the most surprising result of my career,” Roland G. Fryer Jr. told the New York Times after releasing the results of an interesting new study that found no racial bias in the use of lethal force by police.

Fryer is a professor of economics at Harvard, the youngest African-American to earn tenure at the university, and the winner of the John Bates Clark medal, a prize given to the most promising American economist under 40.

Fryer said his anger after the deaths of Michael Brown, Freddie Gray, and others motivated him to look into the data to determine if it backs up public perception.

And while his study of ten police departments in Florida, Texas, and California seems to reveal police bias in the use of force, he found no racial bias in the use of deadly force. “On the most extreme use of force – officer-involved shootings – we find no racial differences in either the raw data or when contextual factors are taken into account,” the study concludes.

Fryer and his team compiled the data by reading and logging information from thousands of police reports from Houston; Austin, Tex.; Dallas; Los Angeles; Orlando, Fla.; Jacksonville, Fla.; and four other counties in Florida.

This methodology allowed them to control for the complexities of each of the 1,332 shootings they studied. They took into account factors like the suspect’s age and race, the race of the police officers, the time of day, and the particular suspicious activity being investigated.

More information gathered from the study. (Photo: NY Times)

More information gathered from the study. (Photo: NY Times)

They concluded that in the cities in question the officers were actually more likely to shoot without being attacked first if the suspect was white.

The Times is quick to point out that the relatively small sample size renders the study somewhat inconclusive. And Fryer emphasized to the newspaper that “the work is not the definitive analysis of police shootings” and that “more data would be needed to understand the country as a whole.”

Nevertheless, Fryer’s results fly in the face of the now-common public perception that police officers are hunting and killing young black men. In these cities at least, many of which are in the south, the raw data tells a much different story.

The study, of course, does not absolve officers in the most recent police shootings that have gained national attention. But it does suggest that an honest, objective look at the data is necessary before any responsible policy decisions can be made—whether at the national level or within local police departments.

{ 21 comments… add one }
  • flyR November 11, 2016, 3:59 pm

    The foundation of the misperception is that the public has deliberately NOT been informed regarding the racial differences in both perps and victims. According to the FBI the 13% of the population which is black accounts for about 30% of the murders. But there’s a deeper level which also goes un observed……. children in fatherless families of all races are more likely to commit violent crimes, young people who belong to gangs are more likely to commit murder, young people who use drugs are more likely to commit murder.

    While people keep going around yelling “hands up don’t shoot” made famous in several TV interviews on Ferguson the truth according to OBAMA’s department of Justice is that the perp attacked the officer, then charged the officer and NEVER had his hands up in surrender (us govt official ferguson report ) In fact the DOJ determined that of 130 + witnesses NOT ONE told a story which was consistent with the physical evidence and supported the assertion that the officer acted illegally , improperly , outside of department policy or in a way not consistent with his account of the event. Many of the early TV stars either recounted their stories or refused to talk to the Obama DOJ.

    Despite all of this the lies continue to come from the White House, the press and the democratic party . Hopefully all of this will change.

    Most violent/deadly police v civilian encounters occur during felony stops or arrests. As long as blacks are vastly more involved in the commission of felonies they will be the more frequent looser in deadly encounters with the police.

    One more fact black are about 32% of those killed by police while blacks are about 44% of those who kill police officers.

  • Andrew N. July 21, 2016, 11:44 pm

    Blacks are 500% more likely to not follow officer’s instructions. News organizations are 10,000% more likely to report on a White cop shooting a Black than a White cop shooting a White, or a Black cop shooting a White. Why? Because those stories don’t stir up controversy and the public, creating more “Newsworthy” stories as Blacks protest, retaliate, or riot in response, setting up a kind of “perpetual news stories cycle” to boost interest and ratings. Blacks also commit a disproportionately high number of crimes when compared to Whites. Nobody in this group wants to mention that little “factoid” do they?

  • Stuart Dryburgh July 18, 2016, 10:04 am

    Not exactly on this point, but in absence of news and comment on this site about the Dallas and Baton Rouge shootings of police by black suspects, I have to ask this.

    Was Gavin Long possibly just exercising his second amendment rights, in an open carry state, even if with an agenda of protest when the Baton Rouge police arrived on the scene? Is open carry while black the new DWB? Would the 911 call even have been made if he was white. And who fired the first shot? Will we ever be told the truth?

    Stuart, Brooklyn NY

    • John Klumpp September 23, 2016, 6:14 pm

      What this gentleman fails to mention is that the black man shot in Baton Rouge was a convicted felon who was not allowed by law to even be in possession of any type of fire arm. I am giving this man the benifit of the doubt in that he may not have known this either when he wrote his opinion, or when the news of the B.R. police defending themselves. Remember, the primary most inportant thing for any law enforcement member is to end every shift the way it begins, by walking thru their door at home. If you are a convicted felon who makes the decision to have in your possession, or on your person, any wepon you are barred by law from possessing you have also given up any right you or your family has to,bitch,cry,riot,protest, or sue and call for the cop to be arrested.

  • loupgarous July 15, 2016, 9:15 pm

    I’m grateful to Prof. Fryer for risking his career and having his good name slandered by every left-thinking person to discuss his preliminary results. We ought to encourage him to extend his work to a larger base of data. And we need to acknowledge all of his findings, including the ones which we might not care to admit are true.

    But I don’t think the Federal government’s National Institute of Justice will give him any money to do that, when he might destroy the narrative they’re pushing now of Blacks being shot more often by police than Whites are.

    But Frey’s study isn’t clear on his use of context to clarify his analysis. No attempt seems to have been made to quantify cases in which a subject was combative from the beginning of an encounter with police. Not doing that might skew the analysis significantly in ways hard to predict. But Freys’s honesty is encouraging.

  • Ameri Can July 15, 2016, 2:02 pm

    Statistics – Anyone who has taken a basic college course in Stats knows that you can spin the numbers to lie in your favor. Its a profession and we have been duped by phony numbers for years. How do you think the phony NY Times, LA Times, The Post, USA Today and other major news papers along with CNN, CBS, NBC, FOX, (mainstream media) has managed to and manipulate facts and capture their audiences for years. The professor’s (economist not sociologist) figures are as phony as the “Sharptons ,Jacksons”, the ESPY athletes, and the phony politicians who in support of a “Police State” argue that gun ownership equal violence and crime or I guess the potential thereof. Their solution is to limit ownership rights in a move towards confiscation?
    Harvard – Is just another “rip-off” institution that has been elevated by the elites. Look at what it’s given us recently?
    Minnesota Execution – To contend that an individual with no reported criminal record who went the extra mile to “legally” obtain a license carry permit and followed common class room instructions or local laws to disclose to the officer that he was carrying a firearm failed to comply with the officer’s instructions, made a threatening move, or “just had it coming” is absolute nonsense. The guy was shot because he looked threatening; he looked threatening because he was a “black male”; black males look threatening because they have a reputation of committing violent crimes and he died because he looked like the rest or the black criminals and his death was not justifiable. Initially it was stated that they were stopped because of a broker taillight. The latest nonsense is he “fit the description of a robbery suspect” gotta justify the stop right? Last but not least, the girl friend who must have clearly lied (or did she?) on camera when she stated the officer requested or ordered the victim to produce ID which is a standard request by law enforcement when contact is made with a civilian. I guess if the victim was a real criminal, he’d be alive today but maybe locked up.
    The disingenuous anti-gunners always seem to find a way to lump law abiding gun owners and criminals in the the same group of threats against the American people. I am at a loss for enough stories about licensed to carry or average citizens going on a rampages committing mass murders (license not required-criminal intent), or robbing and murdering employees in a retail establishment or civilians who happen to be in the wrong place at the wrong time (license not required-criminal intent) or murdering others due to gang affiliation or other nefarious reasons (license not required-criminal intent). Criminal will be criminals and will not follow anyone’s laws, after all, they are criminals.
    There are criminal civilians and criminals with badges. Their is and has been a deliberate and organized effort to erode our rights as citizens thru searches of our phones, email, and aggressive attacks on our 2nd and 4th Amendment rights. We now a militarized police nation that in the name of protecting our citizens will infringe on your rights. We now manufacture and create fear to support this new era of deception for power. “Protect and Serve’ has evolved us into servants of our own creation.
    When does it end? What happened to our constitutional rights and where is representation for the citizenry? What we have now was not the intent of our constitutional laws as established and I suspect our erosion of rights will continue to worsen while we continue to point the finger at the other guy!~

    • JUST JEFF October 1, 2016, 1:18 pm

      Interesting take on a case that has been sensationalized because there was a video made AFTER the event. The facts are this: The car was pulled over by a police officer, the driver had a gun and a conceal carry permit, the driver was shot and subsequently died from his gunshot wound. The passenger made a video tape that contains her OPINIONS after the police officer shot the driver. THOSE ARE THE ONLY FACTS THAT HAVE BEEN RELEASED TO THE PUBLIC as of 10/01/2016. The rest of the BULLSHIT you added and inferred are nothing more than an opinion laced rant by someone who has a slanted view on the world in which we all find ourselves sharing. Unfortunately we live in an era where:
      Our media sensationalizes select cases and ignores others.
      Gang shooting are now counted in statistics the same as a school massacre, under the umbrella name “mass-shootings” for the sake of making it appear as if though actual mass shooting are occurring nearly twice per day. (Helps the gun control crowd.)
      The way our media picks and chooses what they cover is not based on getting to the heart of the issue, but rather what will sell, what will keep people tuning in. ()
      The divide between the left and right in our government is so vast nothing gets done, special session after special session is called just to make a budget for the following year.
      I could write about the bias and woes of our society for the next six hours, it wouldn’t make any difference. But to let your inaccurate, made up fairy tale story plague this page without a response was something that no one should allow.

  • John S July 15, 2016, 8:36 am

    All well and good, but I noticed that NONE of these “comments” actually commented on the article at the top of the page. How about we stick to the subject at hand, which is the FACT that a HARVARD professor is saying that police don’t shoot black people any more often than whites, and he has real, honest statistics to back up that statement. If you guys want to post YOUR opinion on different subjects, start your own blog!

    • T.C. July 15, 2016, 2:19 pm

      Actually the professor didn’t say anything about blacks being shot any less than whites in this story. As a matter of fact, there was no mention of lethal or deadly force in any of his statistics. This article only shows that blacks were dealt with more harshly than whites. Totally contradicts the GunsAmerica author’s point. Are there no editors to review stories before publishing? If there was any mention of deadly force, which is the point of your story the professors statistics on deadly force should have been included in your story. ? ?

  • Lamar July 13, 2016, 10:24 pm

    I’m watching the ESPY awards and I think many of you here need to be aware of some things.
    Please understand, I can completely sympathize with the notion “I like this activity, it’s an activity where I go and I do it and it takes my mind off my problems, it’s challenging, it’s fun, it give my family something we can do together.”
    I get it.
    It’s just luck that I grew up a tennis player. I could have been other things had circumstances and my interests been different.
    Had someone or even the government taken my rackets away from me and told me “You can’t go do that anymore!” that would have really, really sucked and I’d have been really upset by that.
    I can sympathize.
    We all know the ‘power’ sports and athletes have. It isn’t the kind of raw, naked political power of a politician, it’s actually much stronger and more pervasive power that marquee athletes have.
    The ESPYs gave a posthumous award to a 15 year old named Zaveon Dobson who shielded two teenaged girls from a shooter.
    I don’t say this with any glee or happiness, but that’s what you’re facing.
    You’re facing the mother of a dead teen who stood on a stage in an auditorium with multi-million dollar athletes, coaches, broadcasters and others present to hear her tearful plea to help end gun violence for the sake of young lives.
    You’re countering that with statistics.
    You have every right to fight this fight however you think best, but until you can match the emotional impact of a mother who has lost her child tearfully pleading for these seriously high-profile people to join her in a campaign against guns, then I don’t think you stand a chance at keeping all the guns you want to keep and have and use.
    Humans are a silly species, far, far too emotional for our own good. Our pre-frontal cortexes are too small, our adrenal glands are too big.
    I’m not telling you, pro-gun people, that you’re morally, ethically or logically wrong, I’m telling you that it appears to me you are just on the wrong side of history on this one.
    Our nation is going to reach a point, I think it’ll be sooner rather than later, where legislation is going to come down for emotional reasons, that will take your favorite toys away from you.
    The sensible ones among you will counter with statistics and anecdotes and you’ll fall short, I think.
    I’m actually surprised at the track record you’ve had thus far.
    Call the media liars, rant and rave, threaten, warn and predict doom to your heart’s content, but too many Americans are tired of doing nothing.
    You know the way this is going to come down, roughly, don’t you?
    More and more and more likable, telegenic dead children and their families will go on TV and cry and tell their stories and sappy, emotional Americans are going to demand that something be done.
    Your arguments that the “something” Americans will demand will…….. oh, you pick one……. NOT make us safe, lead to MORE deaths, lead to more crime, erode our citizen’s freedom, whatever, but this issue, complex as it actually is, seems so simple to most Americans; the downside of allowing citizens to keep guns will be greater than the perceived benefits of allowing people to keep them.
    You want to change the course of this?
    Fine.
    Show in ways that are as emotionally moving that the benefits of citizens having guns outweighs the PERCEIVED benefits of banning them.
    More and more Americans are agreeing with Jim Jefferies response to people who tell him “You can NOT change the 2nd Amendment!” He said “Of course you can! It’s called an Amendment. If you don’t think you can change something called an ‘amendment’ then what you really need is a Thesaurus, not a Constitution.”
    Try not to forget that your right to have a gun rests solely in something that, itself, changed the Constitution.
    Your right to have a gun really parallels American’s ‘right’ to own slaves. Yes, it was the law of the land…….. Until it wasn’t.

    • Mig July 15, 2016, 3:38 am

      This is the most intelligent and insightful comment I’ve ever seen in these comment threads. Bravo. Fellow gun owners, please heed this warning.

    • Prinz July 15, 2016, 8:43 pm

      An Amendment would require far too many States to approve of it. Sorry, isn’t going to happen.

      Emotion + Politics = Disaster – Liberals use emotion to decide right from wrong as they have no moral framework. Most people, thankfully, still do not use emotion to decide right from wrong.

      Gun violence is a CULTURAL issue.

      Gun Control America (roughly Blue States and Cities) are the ones that have daily murders, mass shootings, and children that think it is a grand idea to go to school and kill their classmates because they feel bad about themselves. Gun control America is up to its ears in blood and violence. Gun Control America’s culture is garbage and leads to these outcomes.

      Gun Owner America however has peace AND guns. Why? Because our culture is founded not upon emotion, but upon solid, timeless principles.

      Gun Control America has nothing to offer us, but violence and bloodshed.

      Gun Control America should be trying to imitate the SUPERIOR cultural values of Gun Owner America to resolve their problems – Gun Owner America has already SOLVED the violence issue – they don’t have these yearly mass shootings – they don’t have the level of violence – they have PEACE!

      But, instead of trying to imitate a proven solution as lived every day by good, clean Gun Owner America, Gun Control America insanely wants to implement more of their failed solutions that only lead to more violence, blood and death.

      Why would Gun Owner America want the violence, bloodshed and death that is produced by the values of Gun Control America?

      No thank you. You can keep your failed values, failed solutions, failed culture, and most importantly, the bloodshed.

      I will continue to enjoy living in my peaceful gun owner community.

    • John Klumpp September 23, 2016, 6:34 pm

      After reading the very well and smartly written comment, he left out that the punishment for gun related crimes is nowhere strong enough. How many gun crimes are committed by those who have been convicted of gun crimes before, but due to bleeding hearts and liberal committed cats (Hillary,Bernie, Chuck,Nancy, and the like) have received very lenient sentences and are back on the streets way to soon. Maybe the only sentence for any violent crime (with or without a gun) should be death and carried out within 60 minutes of the guilty verdict, and the family of the convicted by made to pay the cost of the trial and exicution.

  • Lamar July 13, 2016, 7:19 pm

    I want to talk about the Minnesota Philando Castile shooting for just a moment, because there are some issues about it that I haven’t heard pro-gun people talk about much, but so much has happened so fast, it’s hard to process all of this in anything like a timely manner. We’re all playing catch-up these days.
    So, Mr. Castile, a manager of a cafeteria in an elementary school got shot while he did have a gun in the car.
    Castile possessed a concealed carry permit. It isn’t clear to me in exactly what circumstances Castile was carrying his gun. Was it in a case or portable safe or even a holster or just under his seat? I really don’t know.
    So, you’re a pro-gun, pro-conceal-carry permit person and that is completely your right, but I’m so concerned about these.
    A news report I heard today said that the University of Texas announced it was allowing students with those permits to carry guns on campus and professors, too, would be allowed to have guns under those circumstances.
    My daughter asked me something which took my attention away from the story, but when I listened again, the story was saying that UT was attempting to enact a ’round in the chamber’ restriction and, predictably, there was much howling and gnashing of teeth from pro-gun folk. “You can’t give us our guns and then tell us we can’t have one in the chamber!”
    I’m not at all interested in Mr. Castile’s race, I’m concerned because he may have been shot because he had his gun in the car, because he was allowed to have his gun in the car because, he had a concealed carry permit.
    Is anyone willing to discuss that exercising your concealed carry ‘right’ actually made you LESS safe?
    Pro-gun people want their guns, want their guns loaded, want their guns on their persons at all times and are willing to go through the administrative hoops to do that. Mr. Castile seems to have done all that.
    Yet he was shot.
    Would he have been if he hadn’t had a gun on him at all?
    I’m not particularly pro-gun, but I am pro-gun-lives.
    I don’t want pro- or anti-gun people to die, I really don’t.
    Did having a concealed carry permit help Mr. Castile or did it lead directly to his untimely demise?
    It didn’t seem to protect him one bit, but I’ll listen to arguments that it did.

    • Zeke July 14, 2016, 8:29 am

      Castile would still be alive if he followed the police’s instructions when he got pulled over.

      • Lamar July 14, 2016, 9:49 am

        Thank you for your response, Zeke, but if the world were perfect, then the world would be perfect.
        Are you not willing to discuss that concealed carry permits can make people less safe?
        I’m not sure you’re right about your assertion.
        I’m not just looking at the specific Castile incident, but what effect the presence of a gun in a car has on a traffic stop.
        When a person gets a concealed carry, are they instructed, during a traffic stop to immediately inform the officer they have a gun? I really don’t know the answer to this question.
        It appears that the timeline indicates an incredibly short amount of time between the initial human contact between the officer and the officer reporting that shots had been fired.
        That seems to me to indicate that the fact that a gun was present in the car was introduced almost immediately and extraordinarily quickly after that, Castile was shot.
        So, I think we can agree that simply introducing that piece of information “Hey, I’ve got a gun in the car,” whether it’s even true or not, causes a significant increase in the chances that someone will be shot and/or killed.
        If you’d like to argue that getting a concealed carry permit makes you safer, I’ll listen, but you’ve got some evidence that runs counter to that argument.

        • Z July 15, 2016, 12:02 pm

          You contend that a concealed carry permit made the situation less safe while ignoring the unknown behaviors that contributed to the shooting. It’s a very narrow point of view. Are you also suggesting that ownership of material possessions makes one less safe because it contributes to the possibility of forceful theft?

      • SuperG July 14, 2016, 4:44 pm

        The number one reason why people get shot is “failure to comply”. Some kid in Fresno just committed “Suicide By Cop”, and we can rule out race as each was Caucasian, and you can plainly see the kid isn’t going to obey the cops and they warned him several times. before they had to shoot him.

    • Joe July 15, 2016, 5:18 am

      In Texas.. When they run your plates and license, it comes up on the police computer that you are a licensed CCW holder.. They know you are the good guy since you took the time and money to take the class, pass the tests, get fingerprinted, and pay the fees. The plates and license also helps when trying to see if there is a warrant for arrest.

      The investigation in MN is ongoing, and the truth will come out… Do note that everybody knows that most cops on the beat have a duty gun on their hip. So it would be unwise to not listen to his commands since cops are aware of traffic stop shootings. If you make several mistakes, the police can probably act on your mistakes.. Sorta of a cause and effect thing.

    • Mackie1 July 17, 2016, 9:23 am

      I have recently received my pistol permit in New York State. I don’t own a pistol yet, but I hope to soon. Additionally I will be applying for my concealed carry permit (CCP) after taking a CCP course. So I don’t really know the exact procedure for informing a law enforcement officer of a gun on one’s person, or in a vehicle, or in the home for that matter. I suppose it would be part of the CCP course instruction. However, there may be no “official” procedure to follow at all, or perhaps an official procedure only in certain states. To make matters more confusing, there could be significant differences between each state’s procedure. So I would have no problem with a federal approach to developing a uniform inform procedure in all states. I immediately see two benefits to such a law. Firstly, all CCP holders would have knowledge of the proper procedure regardless of the state that they carry. Secondly, it would seem to me that law enforcement would want a uniform procedure to help identify legal CCP carry as they would certainly have input into such a procedure and certain elements of the procedure would have the law officer’s safety in mind. Having the knowledge that the person seems to have had some safety training and is attempting to comply with the procedure might lessen the chance of mistaken intentions. Coming from a pistol permit holder, I see no second amendment infringement with such a federalized procedure backed by law.
      Addressing the… “If you’d like to argue that getting a concealed carry permit makes you safer, I’ll listen, but you’ve got some evidence that runs counter to that argument.”, evidence also supports that wearing a seat belt, or having air bags most often decreases the chance of severe personal injury or death, yet either can cause such injury or death in certain situations. The point is if something can be done to help lessen the chances of injury, then why not make it so. Or, we could just agree people do die while using vehicles, therefore we should stop all people from getting into vehicles.

    • flyR November 11, 2016, 4:06 pm

      Any person with a concealed carry permit and a gun who is stopped by the police should recognize the situation calls for a specific series of actions to avoid ANY chance of a mis understanding .

      as the officer approaches – both hands on the wheel, officer I have a concealed carry license and a gun in my coat pocket
      What would you like me to do?
      the real danger comes if the gun is in the tray right below the switch to roll down the window .( open window have been done prior to officers arrival if possible)

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