The Washington Post had a great big front-page story yesterday, headlined “Black and Unarmed,” that analyzes fatal police shootings over the past year (that is, since Michael Brown was shot), focusing especially on ones where the person shot was, you guessed it, black and unarmed. A few observations:
First, it was a little hard to get past the first paragraph, which calls burglary “a relatively minor incident.” Try telling that to anyone who has been home when someone’s broken into it, or even someone who’s gone through having a home broken into when they weren’t home — especially if they’ve had to explain to their children that they have nothing to be afraid of.
Second, the Post acknowledges that, of the 585 total police shootings, only 24 involved unarmed black men – “a surprisingly [to whom?] small fraction” of all police shootings, and a minority (40 percent) even of those involving unarmed individuals, most of whom were white or Hispanic. The Post stresses that black males are nonetheless overrepresented since “they make up just 6 percent of the U.S. population”; true, but of course males of all colors are always overrepresented in crime statistics, and one wonders (and wonders why the Post didn’t include) what the percentage of black males is among those arrested in the first place, which would be the better baseline for comparison.
Third, the Post also acknowledges that, among the unarmed, some “may nonetheless pose a threat.” That’s an understatement (and of course Michael Brown himself is Exhibit A). If you go through the summaries of the 24 cases, time after time there it says there was a struggle for the officer’s gun, or the officer was being charged, or was being attacked with something else that the Post does not consider a suitably serious weapon. The Post says that in “many” of the cases the “threat was not readily apparent”; well, I guess it depends on your definition of “many,” but I think it’s fair to say that in “most” cases the alleged threat was both obvious and serious.
Two other things: (1) The Post does not tell us how many of the police officers were themselves black, which would have been interesting to know; and (2) based on the photographs provided for some of those shot, it’s not obvious in all cases that the police would have known that the person was black.
It’s good that the Post was willing to make the concessions that it did and was willing to include some information that might make the Left uncomfortable. Still, the breathless and accusatory tone of the story is unfortunate.