News site cherry-picks data to slime cops

News site cherry-picks data to slime cops
Image: Kenric Ward

A “Right on Crime” advocate has blasted a left-leaning news site for fuzzing numbers and stirring the racial pot over officer-involved shootings in the Lone Star State.

The Texas Tribune admits that statistics in its “Unholstered” report are incomplete and potentially biased.

“Behind bottom-line figures are individual interactions,” says the report, “the outcomes of which boil down to what’s inside the head of a police officer at a very specific moment in time when they’re confronted with an unpredictable situation.”

Randy Petersen, researcher for the Texas Public Policy Foundation’s Right on Crime initiative, said the Tribune “cherry-picked data to be provocative.”

The report asserted that 41% of Texas police shootings involved “black individuals” while noting that African Americans made up 14% of population in the 36 cities studied between 2010 and 2015.

Petersen called the 14% figure misleading because 47% of the 656 shootings occurred in Dallas and Houston, whose black populations exceed 25%.

The Tribune went on to declare that “unarmed people shot at by police were far more likely to belong to a racial or ethnic minority group.” The report identified 109 shootings, in which 47 involved unarmed blacks.

“The study hints that these are unjustified shootings,” Petersen told Watchdog.org. But, he noted, the story failed to characterize the circumstances.

“Someone may have been holding a barbecue fork,” Petersen said by way of example. “A fork in the eye is going to be a pretty bad day.”

Petersen said an officer “can shoot when in fear of great bodily harm or death to himself or others. The individual doesn’t have to armed.”

The Tribune report did not reference Texas crime data that show blacks accounted for:

  • 47% of murder arrests.
  • 42% of aggravated assault arrests.
  • 46% of weapons arrests.
  • 84% of robbery arrests.

(All figures were for 2014, the latest year for which statistics were available.)

The death of Michael Brown in Ferguson, Mo., two years ago – and most police shootings since then – were ruled justifiable. But Petersen said the Tribune, like other media reportage, pushes a racist-cop narrative.

Such coverage has stoked the Black Lives Matter movement and sparked urban unrest from coast to coast.

Five white Dallas police officers were gunned down by a black sniper in apparent retaliation for cop shootings elsewhere.

Milwaukee was burning after a black officer shot a black assailant wielding a gun,” Petersen noted. The armed man refused repeated orders to drop his gun.

Since Ferguson, violent crime has surged in America’s urban centers. In the largest 56 cities, homicides rose 17% last year, the biggest one-year increase in more than two decades.

“Police shootings are a minute fraction of this carnage. So far this year in Chicago, they account for about 0.5% of all shootings,” says Heather Mac Donald, a fellow at the Manhattan Institute and author of “The War on Cops.”

Harvard economist Roland Fryer examined data from Dallas, Austin, Houston, Los Angeles, and six Florida counties. He found no evidence of racial discrimination in police shootings. Officers in Houston were nearly 24% less likely to shoot blacks than whites, Fryer concluded.

The Tribune acknowledged, “Because there is no comprehensive national or state-by-state record-keeping of police shootings, it’s impossible to know how Texas compares to other states or cities.”

Nevertheless, the Tribune report is infused with incendiary, unsubstantiated racial rhetoric.

“If you’re carrying Skittles, if you have a hoodie on, if you’re walking out of a convenience store — for every normal aspect of public life, black and brown people have been killed,” Sara Mokuria, co-founder of Mothers Against Police Brutality, told the Tribune.

Petersen says blanket indictments and context-free statistics aren’t helpful.

“Generating raw numbers can be dangerous. People lose sight of the few bad police shootings,” he cautioned.

Petersen cited an “indefensible” South Carolina incident where a Charleston police office was indicted in the shooting of an unarmed black man.

“We don’t hear much about that case [in the national media],” he lamented.

For all its not-so-subtle insinuations, the Tribune has yet to come up with such a smoking gun in Texas.

Read more by Kenric Ward at Watchdog.com.

Kenric Ward

Kenric Ward

Kenric Ward is a national correspondent and writes for the Texas Bureau of Watchdog.org. Formerly a reporter and editor at two Pulitzer Prize-winning newspapers, Kenric has won dozens of state and national news awards for investigative articles. His most recent book is “Saints in Babylon: Mormons and Las Vegas.”

Commenting Policy

We have no tolerance for comments containing violence, racism, vulgarity, profanity, all caps, or discourteous behavior. Thank you for partnering with us to maintain a courteous and useful public environment where we can engage in reasonable discourse. Read more.

You may use HTML in your comments. Feel free to review the full list of allowed HTML here.

Facebook Comments

Disqus Comments