Police Brutality

Nearly everyday, a new article pops up on the news about police brutality. Some cop shot and killed an unarmed man. Cops kill again. Everyday people die at the hands of cops, but is it always the cops fault and do cops go out to kill specific races of people? I do not think so, but as seen in new campaigns such as #blacklivesmatter, many people believe otherwise. Not all cops are bad, but there are a few that aid in drawing a bad reputation towards law enforcement. Although there are some instances in which cops use excessive force, not all cases involve excessive force or cop killings based on race. That is just what is seen in the news. Unlawful acts draw a larger crowd to news sources, ultimately bring more money and higher ratings to that source.

As I looked for data on police involved killings, it was difficult to find a source that was not over the top biased. Many of the first options that pop up when you google “police brutality” send you straight to #blacklivesmatter websites. I am not saying that black lives do not matter, but their data obviously stated that police kill more black people than white people. According to Mint Press News, that is technically incorrect. Up until September 2015, police had killed 385 white people which is nearly half of the 776 people killed by police. Although there were technically more white people killed, black people are about two times more likely to be killed than white people or Hispanics based on the percentage of each race in the entire population of the United States.

In the news, the police deaths that are continually top headlines all over the country continually emphasize police killing black people. If I can think back to every story I heard in the last year about police killings that blasted through Facebook or top news outlets, I would say most, if not all, were about police killings of black people. Based on how many times I read these stories compared to similar stories with a different race, I would think that police kill black people much more than two times as much as people of other races. According to Daniel Kahneman, I have fallen to an availability bias. Availability bias is judging frequency by the ease with which instances come to mind. I can think of at least 5 police related killings of black people to maybe one police shooting involving a white person. That makes black people five times more likely to be killed by police, but in reality it only about two times more likely.

Although it is obviously an issue that black people are two times more likely to be killed by police than other races, everything heard on the news must be cross checked with available data so we do not fall under the availability bias. The news puts out stories that will people will listen to, that they can get more viewers off of, and stories they can get more money off of. They do not necessarily put out news stories that show the whole story. All lives matter. Excessive police brutality should be diminished for everyone.


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