STARTING TOMORROW: The misreported and the dead!


A long journalistic event:
According to the Washington Post's Fatal Force reporting project, roughly a thousand people per year are shot and killed by police officers around the United States.

What percentage of those events involved misconduct by the officer or officers in question? We know of no one who has ever tried to perform such an analysis.

The Post has tried to sort these events according to the race or ethnicity of the deceased—the dead. The newspaper's reporting project began at the start of 2015. As of this very morning, the numbers look like this:
Numbers of people shot and killed by police officers, 2015 to present
White: 2,530
Black: 1,319
Hispanic: 920
Other race or ethnicity: 218
Unknown race or ethnicity: 611
That's the way the numbers break down according to "race" or ethnicity. The numbers can also be sifted in these additional ways:
Numbers of people shot and killed by police officers, 2015 to present
Men: 5,351
Women: 246
Unknown: 1

Numbers of people shot and killed by police officers, 2015 to present
45 years of age and older: 1,465
30-44: 2,134
18-29: 1,465
Under 18: 102
Unknown age: 251
For whatever reason, the number of racial/ethnic "unknowns" has greatly increased since the start of the project.

In 2015, the Post lists only 29 racial/ethnic "unknowns" among 994 shooting deaths. For 2019, the Post lists 142 such "unknowns" among 999 shooting deaths.

(For 2018: 101 such "unknowns" among 990 deaths.)

For what it's worth, the steady rise in these "unknowns" has begun to diminish the value of the racial/ethnic component of this reporting project. We'll suggest the possibility that the Post has perhaps devoted less time and attention to this project as the years have passed.

(At present, the Post lists four such racial/ethnic "unknowns" for the state of Wisconsin—two from 2018, one from 2019 and one from 2020. Over this past weekend, it was easy to establish that three of these victims were actually white. We didn't attempt to research the fourth, for whom no name is known.)

After adjusting for population, the United States has many more police shooting deaths than comparable developed nation. The fact that the United States is "awash in guns" is almost surely partly or largely responsible for this large disparity.

That said, this country experiences a lot of shooting deaths at the hands of police officers. Some of those deaths involve misconduct. It would be interesting and valuable to know how many.

More specifically, it would be valuable to know how many such deaths involved police misconduct for each racial/ethnic group.

Starting in 2012, the upper-end press corps has taken vastly greater interest in this societal issue. (The existence of the Fatal Force reporting project is one obvious part of this journalistic phenomenon.)

This is plainly a deeply important topic, especially since almost all reporting and discussion of the topic have stressed racial themes. That said, the reporting of this important matter has often been remarkably incompetent.

At this site, we've been reporting journalistic incompetence since 1998. Starting in 2018, we began treating this journalistic incompetence as an anthropological matter—as a marker of the less than wholly impressive way our human brains are wired.

(Presumably, this less than wholly impressive wiring dates back into prehistory, and into the time before that.)

We've been reporting journalistic incompetence since 1998. We'd say that police shooting deaths is one of the most poorly reported topics we've ever covered at this site.

As such, we'd say that the mainstream press corps's work in this area has been an anthropological gold mine, but also a source of substantial misunderstanding and pain.

In part because of long-standing cultural beliefs, in part because of the ways our highly fallible brains are wired, it's hard for us to see the upper-end press corps' work for what it actually is. Tomorrow, we'll start to discuss the many ways this important societal topic has been misreported by this unimpressive corporate elite.

According to major anthropologists, we humans aren't "the rational animal," and we never were. The press corps' handling of this topic brings this anthropological fact into stark relief, as does the way our tribal groups fashion and cling to their favorite beliefs concerning such important topics.

How has this topic been misreported by the upper-end press? Tomorrow, we'll start to count the (many) ways.

No one's beliefs will change one whit, several top experts have said.

Tomorrow: Who on earth was Bijan Ghaisar? The start of a long, winding road


  1. "Numbers of people shot and killed by police officers, 2015 to present"

    Yeah, shit happens. Be polite to the cops, dear Bob, and stay in a safe neighborhood.

    Dear Bob, question for you. We've heard that during your liberal-zombie 'convention', during that whole Orange Man Bad orgy, neither the russiagate hoax nor the impeachment hoax was mentioned.

    Not. Even. Once.

    We know you watched that shit, dear Bob. Is it true? And if so, what's your explanation? Did The Dark Lord Putin hypnotize 'em poor zombies?

  2. "After adjusting for population, the United States has many more police shooting deaths than comparable developed nation. The fact that the United States is "awash in guns" is almost surely partly or largely responsible for this large disparity."

    A profound observation.

    1. This comment has been removed by the author.

    2. This comment has been removed by the author.

    3. Correct! We should not compare the USA to gun free societies like the EU countries, Japan or Australia. We should compare the US to other violent high-crime places in the third world,like Brazil. Something that is rarely done.

      "Between January and August 2019, Rio police killed 1,249 people" (found in two minutes of Googling). So in 8 months cops in one city (Rio, population 13 million) in Brazil cops kill more people than all the cops in the USA (pop. 330,000,000) kill in a year.

      The United States has the 30th-highest rate of police killings per 10 million people (about the same as rate as Mexico).

    4. Why shouldn't we compare ourselves to non-gun societies?

    5. Because we're not a non-gun society. We don't behave like one.

    6. Technically, there is no difference between a gun and non-gun society. Guns exist on this planet and there are smugglers everywhere. So, the difference between a gun and non-gun society is that the non-gun society has made rules against owning and using guns (some applying to both police and citizens). The question of whether such rules reduce violence is best studied by comparing gun and non-gun societies. If we don't behave like a non-gun society, perhaps it is because we don't have such rules, but should have them.

    7. The US gun homicide rate is 25 times that of other high-income countries.

      Women in the United States are 21 times more likely to be murdered with a gun than women in other high-income countries.

    8. In the USA there were more than 1.2 million acts of violent crime in 2018 and 16,214 homicides. Homicide was the third-leading cause of death among those ages 15-34 and the fourth-leading cause of death among children ages 10-14.

    9. I didn't suggest comparing the US to high income countries. I suggested comparing it to non-gun countries. How many times higher is our rate than theirs?

      Tautology. Because we have guns we use them whereas non-gun countries have no guns and thus do not use them. The answer to our problem is pretty obvious -- get rid of all those guns.

  3. can't wait. blogger is going to prove "driving while black" doesn't exist. Black parents who teach young black males how to conduct themselves at police stops are deluded. their dread for "that phone call" about young black relatives is baseless.

  4. Somerby asks: "What percentage of those events involved misconduct by the officer or officers in question? We know of no one who has ever tried to perform such an analysis."

    This is not a question that most liberals care about. The fact of anyone being killed by police, except in direct self-defense, is concerning because most crimes short of murder (and even murder itself in some states) do not carry a death sentence in the USA. There is no reason why officers should be shooting so many people.

    And if it is true that the officers were not engaging in misconduct, then the solution must be to change the rules that permit them to kill people in the performance of their jobs. And the same concern applies to the use of other kinds of violence against the people cops are supposed to serve and protect.

    Somerby's preoccupation with justified versus unjustified shootings is NOT the way a liberal person thinks about these shootings. Loopholes and excuses are seen by most liberals as a legal sanctioning of police abuse and excess force. Liberals are more likely to support gun control and to ask why our police cannot function more like officers in other countries where police do not carry guns at all.

    And then there is the question of disproportionate use of force with black people compared to white people in the same circumstances, an example of racism (among many other examples) that needs to be excised from our society. This aspect of police shootings has been ignored by Somerby (unlike most liberals) and his exclusive focus on the statistics seems to be a way of evading the question of racial disparities in policing (and in all aspects of the justice system).

    I have no objection to Somerby's defensive examination of statistics, but I do object to his representation of himself as a liberal, and his pretense that his is a liberal viewpoint when it is not.

    Neither Biden nor Harris has called for defunding of police but they, both liberals, have called for reform and they do support BLM and attempts to eliminate racism in policing and other aspects of society. Unlike Somerby. They are examples of what many liberals believe -- not the crap that Somerby writes here.

    1. "The fact of anyone being killed by police, except in direct self-defense, is concerning because..."

      Dear dembot, the cops are here to protect the public, not criminals.

      And so, when (hypothetically) a criminal is pointing a gun at you with the clear intent to kill you, alas, the cop will shoot the criminal.

      But of course you're free to file your complaint afterwards.

    2. What if a cop decides you are a criminal, for no good reason, and begins treating you like one? You haven't had your day in court, but that cop becomes judge, jury & executioner. You might shout, "wait, wait, I'm not a criminal, I'm one of you" and do you think that will do you any good?

      Some cops are criminals. When they point a gun at you, who will help you then?

    3. Right... In a discussion on the morality of law enforcement guidelines as to the use of deadly force, it wouldn’t be logical for liberals to care whether the police were actually following their own policy.

    4. There are written policies and unwritten ones. The unwritten one says that cops won't be punished if they break rules in order to harm certain categories of people. This is part of what people mean when they call the system itself racist, not just individual people.

    5. Cecelia, go back and watch that video of Rittenhouse walking down the street, gun in hand, after shooting three people. Watch how the cops treat him. Then ask yourself whether a black man would have been treated the same way.

    6. Anonymices, I’m not sure how your posts bolster Corby’s argument that police misconduct is not germane to such a discussion.

    7. I don't see any post by Corby. Which comment are you talking about?

    8. I think @11:55 is saying that all police shootings are a form of misconduct by police, whether permitted by police rules or not because the rules exemplify institutional racism. Also, rules are not the same as morality. There can be immoral rules. The point is whether the behavior itself is moral, not whether the rules permit it or not.

    9. In the USA there were more than 1.2 million acts of violent crime in 2018 and 16,214 homicides. Homicide was the third-leading cause of death among those ages 15-34 and the fourth-leading cause of death among children ages 10-14.

      I say we let BLM and our own brave woke-white Anons handle those 1.2 million 911 calls, unarmed of course. Or at minimum, we should direct the 7,400 murdered by blacks 911 calls to them. Our own brave woke-white Anons seem to have lots of time to make long-winded knowledge-free comments and this would give them some real-life experience. It is a perfect opportunity for them to show their plan in action, after they finish their current project of burning and looting.

    10. I wonder how she feels about your assigning her such an idiotic point of view.

      The rest of your statement says nothing to address the notion that it is illiberal...un-liberal to explore whether the cops are even abiding by their own standards in the use of deadly force.

    11. The above is in reply to Jake Winkman.

    12. I dunno about the "standards", Cecelia.

      Being a city cop is not like selling insurance. You have to react instantly, real-time in life-death situations. Standards? No, I don't think so. Judgement, experience, intuition.

    13. Glaucon X,
      If BLM complains about the toothless SEC, will you let them handle securities violations?

    14. "What if a cop decides you are a criminal, for no good reason, and begins treating you like one? [...] who will help you then?"

      And what if an icicle falls from a roof and smashes your head? Or a blood vessel pops inside your head, and puff, you're dead. Who will help you then?

    15. Мао ест свои фекалии

    16. You’re right, Mao, but cops don’t make it up as they go along. There are written policies on what constitutes the lawful exercise of deadly force that guide them. .

      The policies and the level of compliance with them is a valid part of the discussion.

    17. And if you leave out some milk and cookies, elves will come during the night and mend your shoes.

      Cops get trained at their police academy, then they get different lessons from their training officers, THEN they make it up as they go along and do whatever they can get away with while no one is watching (or while fellow officers stand by observing Blue Omerta.

      I will guarantee that wherever there is a cop who believes that black people are animals, those black citizens are going to be treated like animals, and their complaints will go into a file folder with no redress. Because cops do what they want, have too much power, and have a tradition of supporting each other in their wrongdoing.

      You cannot have a discussion unless you know what cops really do and no one is talking about that, certainly not Cecelia.

    18. Thanks for making my point right along with me, Anonymouse 6:41pm.

  5. "Over this past weekend, it was easy to establish that three of these victims were actually white. "

    How would Somerby have established that so-called white people were not Hispanic?

    1. Somerby seems to want to discredit the Post's database by suggesting they are not keeping it up properly. Then he can ignore the patterns in the stats. That's how the game is played.

      If someone's name is Martin, are they white or Hispanic? Ojeda? White, Hispanic or Asian? It isn't as easy as just lumping all the Garcias into a single group. There is no blood test that tells you someone's ethnicity and race. If someone is dead, you cannot ask him or her. For Hispanics, it is a matter of culture and how can you know that if someone is dead and there are no relatives to tell you their identity?

      Somerby of course does not believe in culture. He thinks that dividing people into groups is wrong, unless you are talking about NAEP scores for black youth.

    2. The term Hispanic does not designate race.

    3. @cecelia
      And yet, the WaPo lists “Hispanic” as a separate category from White and Black. (The NAEP also lists it separately.) It’s an ethnicity, as Somerby and the commenter indicate.

    4. That doesn’t have anything to do with whether Somerby could rightly have labeled two people white.

    5. It is entirely inappropriate for Somerby to claim that he "easily" assigned people when the Post could not, and that this means that the Post's database is unreliable. That isn't how you deal with data. The fact that he thinks it was "easy" to reclassify those people is itself suspicious (of Somerby, not Post).

      If you don't like the way research is being done, you can redo the study yourself (in its entirety) or you can complain about it and call/write the researchers (WaPo), but you CANNOT take a few data points and move them around until you find them more satisfying.

      Somerby is no expert in anything related to this study and his manipulation of the data inspires no confidence. He is behaving badly in order to discredit a study in an inappropriate way. When you don't like the results in a database, you don't get to throw out or move around the data you don't like.

      This is so obvious that Cecelia's comment about whether Somerby rightly or wrongly classified two people is ridiculous. She can no more determine whether Somerby's reclassification was right or wrong than anyone else can. But when you have conservatives defending you, and you are claiming to be liberal, something is wrong with that picture.

    6. Yes, it does. Somerby notes that there are more victims of unidentified race/ethnicity than before, then claims that it was easy to identify these two as “white.” But the WAPo doesn’t simply jam people into the “white” category, because they also have a “Hispanic” category. Assuming they don’t double count victims, which category they go into is not known just from sight.

    7. Previous comment directed at Cecelia.

    8. “This is so obvious that Cecelia's comment about whether Somerby rightly or wrongly classified two people is ridiculous. She can no more determine whether Somerby's reclassification was right or wrong than anyone else can.”

      You statement about it being impossible to know if Somerby got it right would include your knowing too, I would think.
      ThereforeIt was entirely germane for me to reply to a comment by pointing out that Somerby could possibly be correct in labeling these people as being white despite their being Hispanic.

      It’s also hardly beyond imagining that Somerby could have bothered to find more info about these people than the WP found. That the WP was getting slack is a point he made.

      Which answers mh post too.

    9. That's why you don't mess with the data, especially to make it fit some point you are arguing yourself.

      Somerby's point about slackness is supposedly proven by his ease of classification, which we have no way of testing. It is a ridiculous argument, and so is yours.

    10. You have no way of testing Somerby’s ease in discovering the race of two people who the WP listed as being unknown because you haven’t seen iit.

      Have you seen the WP’s reasoning or criteria that causes them to be unable to ID the race of subjects?

      I was responding to an appeal based solely upon the WP’s authority without evidence from either the newspaper or Somerby.

  6. "It is human nature to hate him whom you have injured." -- Tacitus

  7. Somerby and others seem unaware that the alt-right has infiltrated police and other law enforcement agencies. The police are turning a blind eye to the activities of alt-right militias and Trump supporters at protests and they rarely enforce any laws at alt-right and white supremacist rallies. The same motive that causes someone to join an alt-right organization results in harassment and abuse of racial minorities on the job. The rise of such organizations, encouraged by Trump, should be explicitly addressed and of concern to everyone -- its visibility is perhaps why such high numbers of people are supporting BLM -- it is an anti-fascist position.

    From Lawyers, Guns & Money blog:

    This article is about harassment of black people by the Customs & Border Patrol.

  8. From Politicus:

    "President Donald Trump’s popularity is declining among active members of the United States military, according to the latest Military Times poll.

    “The results, collected before the political conventions earlier this month, appear to undercut claims from the president that his support among military members is strong thanks to big defense budget increases in recent years and promised moves to draw down troops from overseas conflict zones,” the outlet notes."

  9. “What percentage of those events involved misconduct by the officer or officers in question?”

    In order to determine misconduct, you have to know what proper conduct is.

    Presumably, each police department has its own standards of proper conduct. Every time an officer kills someone in the line of duty, an internal investigation is launched. If that investigation determines no misconduct, is that the final word? The matters currently under discussion include a debate about what proper police conduct is and who gets to decide that.

    1. Misconduct in God's eyes? 100%

      Misconduct as determined by Barr's Justice Dept? 0%

      Misconduct as determined by a racist Sheriff or Chief of Police? 0%

      Misconduct as determined by an independent citizen review board? 0% < x < 100%

      (depends on who is on that board and which community is involved)

      Local policing doesn't seem to be working. We have a national Bill of Rights, so why not a national code of behavior? I prefer having this issue of what is correct behavior for citizens and police both be determined by our constitution (not corrupt local laws and organizations) and enforced so that all people regardless of their characteristics are being evaluated under the same criteria.

      The current focus is on policing, but the entire justice system needs to be reformed. Who cares if a particular officer acted according to the law if that law is biased? This is a broader issue than Somerby's current narrow focus on whether cops are following local procedures or not when they kill an unarmed person.

    2. If I recall correctly, all Constitutional constraints on unnamed individuals have lapsed. That's a good thing.

      A national code of police behavior would require a grant of police power (which doesn't mean power over the police but does include it) to the fedz. That's a bad thing.

    3. Right, Jake Winkman, because the term misconduct can apply to things that may occur during various fashions and during all stages of the justice process, it’s specious to focus on the part that involves actual police conduct in abiding by their own written policies.

      Policies and conduct that should be analyzed as to morality and efficacy

      That’s all moot and beside the point, yet you say you want a total revamp on the institutions of law and order via a new national standard.

      This is the sort of reasoning that comes from wanting to yell “Up” because TDH has said “down”.

    4. It's the TDH version of "owning the libs".

  10. Atrios says:

    "I find that you can learn way too much about someone, or about institutions, by observing whether they are likely to punch or punch down, or somewhat more generally, sympathize with those in power versus the mostly powerless who occasionally manage to make a bit of good trouble. You know, do you sympathize more with the senator who gets yelled at in the restaurant or the kids that senator puts in cages? Are you more worried about the rich racist, or the college students who get mad at the rich racist? Are the feelings of the person who denies the humanity of African-Americans, and his right to get paid lots of money to do so, more important than the lives he helps to ruin and the systems of Apartheid he helps to perpetuate? Should oil lobbyists have an equal voice, or usually greater, than the millions of lives they damage with environmental poisoning?

    This is not an especially novel or smart point, but when it comes to members of the press, or the organizations they work for, it's a more useful framework than the liberal/conservative one."

    I find it more useful to use the "do you care about property or about people" dichotomy, because I don't believe people actually care about figures of authority when they side with them. I think they are tending to their own self interest and believe that siding with authority will protect their stuff and help them acquire more of it.

    George Carlin: A place for my stuff

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