With protesters promising more civil unrests Monday after last week’s spate of high-profile shootings, it’s easy to assume that black people are disproportionately shot by police than their white counterparts, but a new study on police use of force from a Harvard economist challenges that notion.
Though the study, conducted by Roland G. Fryer Jr., did find that black people are more likely to be roughed up by police during arrest — with Hispanics and blacks 50 percent more likely – white suspects in similar situations are shot more than black people.
Using data collected on the New York Police Department’s “stop and frisk” program, the Police-Public Contact Survey and other datasets on police use of force nationwide, the study framed 1,332 shootings over a period of 15 years, taking also into account situations where police could have opened fire, but chose not to.
The NYC’s stop and frisk program – whose goal was to reduce violent crime and drug distribution through officer stops and searches of suspicious individuals – has undergone criticism for disproportionately targeting black males, according to civil rights groups.
Late last year, the New York Civil Liberties Union found that after stop-and-frisks were decreased by 95 percent between 2011 and 2014, the city saw a 35 percent drop in murder and a 36 percent decrease in shootings. During that time, shootings dropped from 1,510 to 1,162 and are expected to drop 23 percent in 2015 from 2011.
At its peak, the program saw close to 700,000 stops in 2011 and during 2003 to 2013 — the period during which the Harvard study gleaned data — there were some five million.