Saturday, April 4, 2015

The Ferguson Police Department's treatment of African-Americans was normal

Before I begin my posts about the Ferguson incident, I will devote one post here to the Obama Administration's argument that the false version of events about the incident was accepted so readily because the Ferguson Police Department ticketed African-Americans disproportionately for traffic violations and other minor offenses.

Against that argument, I offer two objections:

1) The false version of events was accepted readily by millions of Americans who live far from Ferguson and never were subjected to that city's ticketing.

2) The Ferguson Police Department's treatment of African-Americans was normal. Practically every police department in the USA arrests and punishes African-Americans disproportionately. That is because African-Americans commit crimes disproportionately.

The newspaper USA Today found at least 1,581 police departments with worse statistics.
• Blacks are more likely than others to be arrested in almost every city for almost every type of crime. Nationwide, black people are arrested at higher rates for crimes as serious as murder and assault, and as minor as loitering and marijuana possession.

• Arrest rates are particularly lopsided in some pockets of the country, including St. Louis' Missouri suburbs near Ferguson. In St. Louis County alone, more than two dozen police departments had arrest rates more lopsided than Ferguson's. In nearby Clayton, Mo., for example, only about 8% of residents are black, compared with about 57% of people the police arrested, according to the city's FBI reports. ....
• Deep disparities show up even in progressive university towns. USA Today found police in Berkeley, Calif., and Madison, Wis., arrested black people at a rate more than nine times higher than members of other racial groups. Madison Police Chief Michael Koval said most of the arrests happen in the poorest sections of the city, which are disproportionately black, and where some residents have pleaded for even more police presence. ....

• Arrest rates are lopsided almost everywhere. Only 173 of the 3,538 police departments USA Today examined arrested black people at a rate equal to or lower than other racial groups .

Steve Sailer in his blog provided several graphs showing that Ferguson's arrest rates for African-Americans is normal in Saint Louis County and in Missouri as a state.

 Sailer explains the above graph:
Ferguson is not an outlier, at least not by this fundamental metric commonly used by academics, legislators and federal officials. The Disparity Index, as it’s called, shows that over the most recent ten years for which data are available, on average it’s not even slightly unusual for police at the municipal and county levels, and statewide, to stop black drivers disproportionately—at uncannily similar rates of disproportion.
Put another way, all else equal, police in Missouri generally stop black drivers about 40-55% more frequently than the African American portion of the driving- age population would predict under random conditions. (That presupposes, thornily, that (a) traffic enforcement should be random; and (b) that the underlying driving and criminal behavior of motorists does not vary substantially across different racial groups or neighborhoods.) Nonetheless, by this popular-if-flawed scholarly standard, it seems Ferguson’s police department even compares well.

Sailer explains the above graph:
So perhaps Ferguson Police Department as an agency has exhibited bias by arresting a substantially greater portion of stopped black motorists than comparable law enforcement agencies?

Nope. Here, too, Ferguson PD’s performance is right on pace with County and statewide norms.
Sailer provides another graph:

Sailer explains the above graph as follows:
This graph showing that Ferguson, Missouri’s ratio of black arrest rates to white arrest rates (2.8 to 1) ranks Ferguson 1,582nd out of 3,538 municipalities tabulated by USA Today from FBI statistics.

The vertical axis shows black / white arrest ratios in log scale. The horizontal axis shows the ranking of municipalities from 1st to 3,538th.

The red dot represents notoriously “anomalous” Ferguson.

The abnormal feature of the Ferguson incident was not the ticketing in that town.

Rather, the abnormal feature was that a few self-proclaimed eyewitnesses there were able to lie about a particular incident convincingly and effectively through the mass media.

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