It might seem like there are more stories in the news about white police officers shooting black suspects than black officers doing the same, but that doesn’t mean that it happens more often. Research shows that the media is far quicker to cover the cases involving white officers, leading people to erroneously believe that they are behind most of this behavior.
Real Clear Politics reports that the national media only covered nine percent of stories involving a black officer shooting a black suspect from 2013 to 2015. In contrast, they covered 38 percent of stories involving a white officer shooting a black suspect during the same period.
Of course, this selective coverage gives people the impression that white officers are the problematic ones, even though black officers, according to the evidence, are no less likely to shoot at unarmed black suspects.
Unfortunately, the ramifications of this coverage extend beyond simply showing a media outlet’s bias. By giving the public such a one-sided and inaccurate picture of what’s really going on, they are only heightening racial tensions and creating even more distrust of the police among the very communities that need their protection the most.
One only needs to look and how quickly gun violence is rising in many of the country’s biggest cities as police are sidelined to see what can happen if society loses trust completely in law enforcement.
Last year, research on fatal officer-involved shootings that was published by the Proceedings of the National Academy of Sciences concluded that during the year studied, 2015, police officers’ race, experience level and gender did not predict the race of the person who was killed.
For example, white officers were not any more likely than officers who were not white to shoot civilians of a different race. In counties where individuals from one particular race were more likely to commit violent crime, people of that race were more likely to have been shot and killed by police. For example, in a county where more whites commit violent crimes, more white people were fatally shot by the police.
The study broke ground for the detailed information it offered on a topic that has historically been difficult to research. The researchers reached out to 684 police departments that were involved in fatal shootings to obtain the race, years on the force and gender of the officers involved.
The authors of the study argued that because the racial disparity seen in deadly officer-involved shootings did not vary according to the officers’ race, any efforts made by police departments to increase their diversity based on race wouldn’t necessarily bring about positive changes in the disparities in shooting deaths.
By the way, you can see a similar effect in coverage of mass public shootings. If you listened only to the mainstream media, you’d think most mass shooters are white and right-wing.
Although it is true that 58 percent of them from 1998 to 2019 were indeed white, around 75 percent of the American population is white, so white people are actually underrepresented. Meanwhile, Middle Eastern Arabs make up 1 percent of the American population, but they accounted for 8 percent of all shooters. When it comes to political affiliations, 72 percent have no known affiliation, while just 3 percent are known to be Republican or conservative.
While the media is quick to cover stories involving white officers hurting black suspects, you won’t hear much out of them when the police do something heroic. There have been countless incidents in the last month alone that involve heroic officers saving lives, but the mainstream media isn’t reporting on them at all.
As long as the media continues to report selectively in ways that promote the idea that all cops are bad, racial tensions will continue to grow. All the violence we are seeing now is partly the result of this irresponsible reporting, and it looks like it’s only going to get worse.
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