How Adversarial is the Relationship Between African Americans and the Police?

Not as adversarial as you might think based on some radical/extremist activists' rhetoric.

|The Volokh Conspiracy |

According to the federal Bureau of Justice Statistics, 8.7% of African Americans initiate contacts with the police annually, vs. 11.9% of whites. By contrast, the police initiate contact with whites and blacks at the same rate of 11%. The gap in the first statistic, one presumes, represents a trust gap between African Americans and whites in the police, and there is plenty of anecdotal evidence that this trust gap exists. Indeed, those figures likely underestimate the trust gap; African Americans are more likely to live in high-crime neighborhoods, which would imply a higher likelihood of calling police to report criminal activity. [FWIW, according to the most recent data I could find, 15% of victims of violent crimes are African American, while they are 13% of the population.]

On the other hand, some of the rhetoric from Black Lives Matters and other radical activists would suggest that the relationship between African-Americans and the police is almost entirely adversarial. The fact that one out of every twelve African Americans voluntary initiates contact with the police annually strongly suggests otherwise.

UPDATE: Another interesting data point. According to a 2016 survey, 40% of African Americans, compared to 68% of whites, have a favorable view of local police. 54% of African Americans, compared to 78% of whites, said they would definitely report a crime. Which again shows a significant gap, but not an entirely adversarial relationship. (It also shows a perhaps surprisingly high level of distrust among whites in their local police.)

Over on Twitter, I've been puzzled to see that some interpret reporting such statistics as denying a problem between police and the black community exists, or as undermining attempts at police reform. Perhaps I need to spell it out: The trust gap in how whites and blacks feel about the police is real, an it reflects the real lived experiences of African-American interactions with the police as opposed to whites'. In a post yesterday, I suggested a dozen or so reforms, some fairly radical, that I support. [On reflection, I think part of the problem was my subheading about "activists," which could be read to mean "the average person protesting police violence." I've updated the subheading to "some radical/extremist activists" to make myself clearer.]

Nevertheless, the data suggest that the relationship isn't wholly adversarial, which is in stark contrast to rhetoric that, e.g., black people don't want the police to exist at all. An interlocutor suggested that's a strawman. It's not, as this widely circulated anti-police manifesto (written by a white guy, btw) shows. The difference is between "there's a big trust gap between whites and blacks in the police, and that sorely needs to be addressed by sensible, albeit radical reforms," and "the relationship between black people and their local police is so adversarial that we should abolish policing entirely."

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  1. What is it like to be this completely out of touch with reality?

    1. Who are you going to believe? Me, or your lying statistics collected by a respected federal agency?

      1. Lies, damned lies, and statistics…

        But seriously, if you’re not going to control for decades of African Americans being shunted into segregated neighbourhoods with high crime, you might as well post numbers that are completely made up.

        1. I did allude to that issue, but other than homicide, crime victimization rate differentials are not nearly as high as your comment suggests, except for homicide. https://www.bjs.gov/content/pub/pdf/bvvc.pdf

          1. To wit, “Blacks were victims of an estimated 805,000 nonfatal
            violent crimes and of about 8,000 homicides in 2005. While
            blacks accounted for 13% of the U.S. population in 2005,
            they were victims in 15% of all nonfatal violent crimes and
            nearly half of all homicides.”

            1. Sorry to say, your facts mean nothing.

              Next up: court of law are vessels of white privilege. The “people” will decide guilt. French Revolution style.

              1. If you read the comment sections of liberal websites and take a cruise around Twitter (apparently their “inciting violence” TOS doesn’t apply to some accounts) passing out French Revolution style justice is EXACTLY what the plan.

                1. If you read the comment sections of liberal websites

                  I’ve seen the guillotine memes as well. Not really feeling your cry of a threat to our republic, though.
                  Those guys are no more involved in planning anything than you are.

                  1. I forgot that when a Bernie Bros makes overt threats its hilariously funny…of course it isn’t a SERIOUS threat of violence….there is nothing serious about a Bernie Bros…

                  2. Sarcastr0…What are the demands of the BLM protesters, specifically? I’ll help you. See the link below.

                    https://blacklivesmatter.com/what-we-believe/

                    And the result of implementing their demands? It would be the destruction of the Republic. In particular, this gem.

                    We disrupt the Western-prescribed nuclear family structure requirement by supporting each other as extended families and “villages” that collectively care for one another, especially our children, to the degree that mothers, parents, and children are comfortable.

                    Fine if you want to live under communism Sarcastr0, but don’t ask the rest of us to do so.

                    1. You…think the protests are about an endstate wherein families no longer exist?

                      Commenter_XY, use some common sense. It’s not hard to see what the protests are about.

                    2. In some African American communities traditional nuclear families not longer exist. The rate of birth outside marriage is around 70% among African Americans in general and in some places much much higher.

              2. They’re not Bernstein’s, or the BoJ’s facts. They’re simply facts that don’t fit your worldview.

                As for your new French Revolution, oh, yes please. And, do try to look presentable, not just another head in the basket. Why you dimwits think you will be running the guillotines beggars belief. Once the looting is over, and the reality of actual pain & death for themselves arises, your mob & revolutionary movement will fade again to hide behind faux surgical masks and scold people.

                1. He was being sarcastic.

        2. As opposed to segregated college dorms?

        3. Shunted into neighborhoods with high crime? Do you think Crime is just something that rains down from the skies in certain areas but not others?

      2. I don’t think this data point you’re citing can bear the weight you’re putting on it. As I read the underlying questionnaire, it’s not how often you ask the police for help personally; it’s simply how often you contacted them. That would include calling 911 on strangers.

        For example, you’re in your apartment and you hear yelling and violence from the apartment down the hall. Or out your window on the street below. You call 911 to report it. It’s not necessarily because your relationship with the police isn’t adversarial; it’s that you trust the police will come and deal harshly with some other people that are causing trouble. You may have no other contact with the cops at all besides that phone call.

        I don’t know how often that scenario occurs; I’m just saying that “voluntarily initiating contact with police” does not inherently show a good relationship with police.

        1. It’s also WHAT you call them for.

          I don’t call to report illegal fireworks because I think fireworks should be legal and hence don’t care.

        2. I think you are underestimating just how adversarial some activists claim the relationship is. For example, the link in my update states, “When the police get involved, black people, Latinx people, Native Americans, people of color, LGBTQ people, sex workers, women, undocumented immigrants, and people living with disabilities and mental health diagnoses are usually in more danger, even if they are the victims of the crime being reported.”

          If people thought that was true, they would almost never call the police.

          1. I don’t think that quote quite possibly proves your point. The activists are saying that they are in fact in more danger, they’re not opining on whether people feel that they are. People can feel like they aren’t in any danger and in fact be in great danger. They may also feel that there is a risk of more danger by calling the police but feel that taking that risk might be worth it.

          2. An interesting comparison would be the contrast between what the activists consider the campus rape statistics to be and what they actually are. Several objective studies have found that the women counted by the activists as rape victims did not personally believe that they had been raped.

            1. Probably true. I was a peer counselor in the dorms, in San Diego. Women would tell me about their experiences where they went on a date, fended off the guy’s advances at the end, kept fending them off, and he finally forced their legs apart (often ripping underwear). They did not think they had been raped, because they had agreed to go on the date. I, on the other hand, did think there was, at least, some sort of sexual assault. (I would hardly consider myself to be remotely close to an activist on this issue.)

              Your point is well-taken.

          3. Wow, you should be embarrassed. How much more blood do you want? Maybe you should think what you would have been like in the past. Take your talking points there, and relate them.

        3. Table 4 in the first referenced BJS report sheds a bit more light. Based on the 2015 survey, 0.7% of blacks (vs 1.2% of whites) initiated a contact for “sought help/other” reasons, which is a lower black/white ratio than for resident-initiated contacts overall.

          Interestingly, 1.1% of blacks (vs 1.0% of whites) initiated police contact for “block watch” reasons, the only category/race combo in which whites were not statistically-significantly the highest.

    2. Why don’t you tell us from first hand experience?

    3. What’s it like to be a know-nothing?

    4. Reality is that a Rasmussen poll shows that 40% of likely Black voters admit they intend to vote for Trump, and I suspect that there are a lot that intend to without telling anyone.

      Total copy of the tweet pasted below:

      ———————-
      Rasmussen Reports
      @Rasmussen_Poll
      Reader Tip: Coming Later

      Our Daily Presidential Tracking poll today shows Black Likely Voter approval of the job @realDonaldTrump
      is now over 40%.
      10:54 AM · Jun 5, 2020·Twitter Web App

      1. Yeah….that’s not going to pan out for you lol.

      2. So Trump, who got 8% of the black vote in 2016, is going to get 40% this year?

        The only appropriate response is, “How much money do you have?”

        1. 8% is a lot more than 1% — Rasmussen’s poll results are exactly that and if you don’t want to believe them, I could care less….

        2. Right, because Bloomberg’s money bought him so much support it will make your head spin.

          Why would blacks vote for Biden, when he shares a lot of the blame for throwing so many blacks in prison? It was easier to deflect that blame from Hillary and vote against Trump. Not so easy this time.

          1. Do you really think Trump is going to get anything like 40% of the black vote?

            Ed, he’s a lost cause. But you; what do you think?

            1. Perhaps you didn’t read what bernard11 wrote:

              The only appropriate response is, “How much money do you have?”

              I can’t think of anything it applies to other than buying election.

              1. “I can’t think of anything it applies to other than buying election.”

                He’s offering to make a bet.

      3. The poll is job approval, not who they’ll vote for in November. Though the percentage is likely to be higher than activists expect if things don’t change in the meantime.

  2. Dear law school deans:

    I submit this blog as evidence for the proposition that no strong law school should hire another movement conservative for a faculty position.

    P.S. If you’re wavering, don’t miss the comments.

    1. Evidence is more than your ignorant bias.

    2. And it’s people like the Reverend who make me |/dev/null the entire BLM movement and all it says.

      1. You, being a bigoted asshole who makes up anecdotes to support your lies don’t support the equal treatment of black Americans?

        Wow. I’m fucking shocked.

      2. If you’re going to borrow unix terminology, at least get the syntax right. /dev/null is not a program, so the pipe is inappropriate. As it’s a character device, you should use the file redirection operator: ‘>’.

    3. THIS!

  3. How can you possibly imply, let alone state, that progressive/socialist/totalitarians would lie?
    Have you been thinking again? Stop it! Just accept the narrative and all will be well.

    1. Neat trick where you conflate three different political philosophies into one thing.

      1. They are the same thing. They all want the police to kill you if you don’t do what they think is best for you.

        1. Well. That could be said about any government system. Plenty of right wing governments who do the same thing (and for what it’s worth, totalitarianism is a style of rule more than an ideology per se)

          1. Good. You’re beginning to catch on.

  4. I think it’s interesting that instead of consulting the dozens of surveys where Black folks share their beliefs about police, DB choose to consult a statistic that, by his own admission doesn’t give us a good measure of those beliefs. Is he like allergic to actually asking Black people what they think?

    1. Maybe because “what do black people say they think about police when surveyed?” is an entirely different question than “how adversarial is the relationship in practical terms?”

      In any event, 40% of African Americans, compared to 68% of whites, have a favorable view of local police. 54% of African Americans, compared to 78% of whites, said they would definitely report a crime. https://www.cato.org/survey-reports/policing-america. Which again shows a significant gap, but not an entirely adversarial relationship.

      1. This is only true if “adverserial” only means “never coordinates with under any circumstances”

        1. I out of every 12 people in a category, every single year, is a lot more “coordination” than that. If it were 1% or something, you’re point would be well-taken.

    2. Are you saying opinions are always right? Trump supporters agree.

    3. Statistics 101 — population sample variance affects survey outcome.

      Black business owners will give different answers than those who would burn down said businesses.

  5. Stats don’t change their minds…

    What they seem to enjoy is a lot of white liberal protesters burning down minority neighborhoods for some reason.

    When the Babylon Bee looks like reality, well..

    https://babylonbee.com/news/unity-at-last-kkk-and-rich-liberal-join-in-celebration-as-black-neighborhood-burns

    1. Well, Charles Manson wanted to start the race war that these schmucks are fueling.

      1. The Left has had a race war fantasy ever since the 1960’s. They tried so hard in 2018 and 2019 to make connections between those years and the “anniversaries” of 1968 and 1969. The Boomers are trying hard to think that they didn’t waste their younger years on drugs and alcohol and want to see their “revolution” happen before they meet the great happening in the sky.

  6. This statistic doesn’t tell us much beyond the fact that rhetoric that is general may have exceptions. It also doesn’t necessarily address the question head on about the relationship anyway.

    How many of those who called the police did so despite having adversarial feelings because they felt that was a less bad option than not calling the police in a particular situation?

    How many of those calls generated negative Or adversarial feelings? Either because the police were unhelpful or dismissive, or they in fact made a situation far worse.

    1. “This statistic doesn’t tell us much beyond the fact”

      Which is why progressives always are ready to give us “context.”

      1. I have no idea why you’re putting context in scare quotes.

    2. Regardless of your second paragraph, the end result is the same — blacks do not hate the police nearly as universally as the talking points would have us all believe. No matter how much anyone distrusts the police, the very fact of calling them means that they expect a better outcome than not calling them.

      1. Expect? Or think it’s worth the risk? Those were are too different things. Also you don’t need “hate” to have an adversarial relationship…

        1. You continue to quibble, and it continues to show.

  7. Blacks use the “N” word — they despise gangbangers worse than anyone else.

    40% support for a Republican is unheard of — that’s why all of this is happening. We can’t have Blacks voting for Trump.

    1. How about a bet? If Trump gets 40% (or more) of the black vote, I’ll sign off this site, never to be heard from again. If he gets 30% (or less), you likewise sign off forever. Deal?

  8. Also a lot of police departments are now majority minority.
    The NYPD is, the Boston PD is close, etc.

  9. I’m a white guy in a very far left city

    I’ve initiated contact with the police twice in the last 5 weeks: once to report a vehicle break in/burglary/theft attempt, one to report someone yelling “help” repeatedly, probably a couple blocks away.

    One prior time this year I contacted them, to report that the property manager of the apartment complex next door threatened me (while claiming I was in his face, while he was advancing on me).

    Prior to this year, it had been a few years since I’d had any contact with on-duty police, I think the previous time was 4+ years ago when I was the victim of a hit and run, but I’d lived in a less far left, lower crime, community.

    1. Which “very far left” city?

  10. It varies by geographic location and also local culture.

    In some minority communities breaking certain laws is just what is done in the course of a normal day. Some people in these communities will even justify it by explaining it away as “white people laws.” Naturally, if the police are enforcing laws that the local community does not view as legitimate and breaking those laws does not violate the norms of the community well then you are going to have some mistrust and disconnect.

    There are other minority communities that fully support the police. These tend to be urban areas that were plagued with crime for years and have been cleaned up largely due to police reforms and enforcement. The long term residents there recall the days when street gangs ruled the neighborhoods.

    Don’t expect reality though to get it the way of the media narrative. Once the riots and looting end those small businesses that were trashed won’t ever open back up again and all the gains the urban neighborhoods made in the last 20 years will disappear by this time next year when the middle class residents sell at a loss and move to the suburbs. This will leave those areas largely looking like South Central LA does today which is eerily similar to what it looked like after the King riots in 1992.

    1. In some minority communities breaking certain laws is just what is done in the course of a normal day. Some people in these communities will even justify it by explaining it away as “white people laws.”

      Jesus, Jimmy. Be less of a stereotype, please.

      1. I borrowed the phrase from a professor of African American history who recently published an article about how general laws are really just part of our institutional racism. So yes some people in minority communities are of the opinion that generally applicable laws are “white people laws”. Does that really surprise you?

        1. Well, it proves some academics of color believe that. I’d give even odds or better (depending where he’s a professor, and if he’s a full professor or not) that he doesn’t actually live in a minority community though. He’s projecting attitudes on minority urban communities just as much as everyone else who doesn’t live there.

          1. I’ve heard many people of color tell me that “neighborhood code” trumps “the laws” and that “laws were written by white people for white people…” It is not some far out thought that minority communities view our system of laws differently then other communities. I’m not saying that is the right belief, but it is the belief many have in those communities.

            1. I’ve heard many people of color tell me

              ::eye roll::

        2. I don’t believe you. You got it from a black history professor? And you’ve decided that a bunch of black communities agree?

          Moving the goal posts. And lying.

          Again, stop being such a stereotype, only this time of some lame 4chan troll.

          1. C’mon….all he did was give a more academic version of a “the man” speech that has come out of some quarters of black community since the 1960s.

            If he sourced the quote, would he be an official Sarcastro spokesman (TM) then if he was a full professor? Ivy League? Famous?

  11. This can probably be explained by the left’s insistence that every group of people have hive mind.
    It’s important to remember that just because some fits in the category of ‘black’ doesn’t mean they are all the same. I work with lots of black people who are medical professionals and have black friends who are DAs, policeman and lawyers. If you surveyed them they would definitely call the police and have trust in them.
    Individualism is greater than collectivism.

  12. Five Dallas Officers Were Killed as Payback (July 8, 2016)

    DALLAS — The heavily armed sniper who gunned down police officers in downtown Dallas, leaving five of them dead, specifically set out to kill as many white officers as he could, officials said Friday.

    Micah Johnson, the gunman who carried out Thursday night’s attack in Dallas, leaving five police officers dead and seven wounded, was a military veteran who appears to have identified with black power groups.

  13. Perhaps if essayists ponder the expression “Snitches get stitches,” they will understand why people in high-crime areas are less likely to call the police on crime.

    Or perhaps it’s because there is no need to, since the cops are already there checking out some other crime scene.

    1. In which areas are they?

  14. Those statistics don’t say what you think they do.

    If you’re devote to the idea that Black Lives Matter activists are radicals/extremists, then there’s obviously no set of facts that will dissuade you from that position. However, if you’re genuinely interested in understanding the moment, then I would take a look at tables 9 and 18 which use the most recent contact data. That’s going to be a better measure of both incidence and the types of police contact that are relevant to the current protests.

    The central complaint is that police are more likely to mistreat blacks. You can see that the rates of things like street stops, arrests, and use of force are all 1.5 – 2.2 fold higher for blacks than they are for whites.

  15. Here’s a simple thought. Obey the law and you’ll have few interactions with the police. You won’t hear the community leaders say that.

    High crime rate? Apparently that’s just a given. Little can be done.
    Police need to change to accomodate the phenomena.

    1. Obey the law like being in a lawful protest?

  16. I’ve been in Italy since before the world went into lockdown. It’s moved from me giving everyone here sympathy to now everyone giving me a little. I’m also running into a little more anti-Americanism, but like black people thinking any hostility is because of their skin color I don’t want to make assumptions I’m targeted for being Ametican. It could be from anything. I’m living in the most mixed neighborhood of Rome. It feels like inner city US, complete with spoiled upper class white kids who move from the suburbs to hang out in hip cafes. The black migrants are the ones who defend me. Anyone with sense knows you can’t get smug over race relations in the US. Italy in particular. They don’t even have openly gay stars here much less black or Asian. An Italian Ellen DeGeneres or Oprah may never happen, and if it does, ironically it’ll be due to American influences, not despite them. The only people not understanding that here is the far left. No different than in the US. The media here is far less anti-American than our own but its images cone from US sources.

    1. Yes, Europe is worse than us on race relation in a lot of ways. I remember unrest in France about it.

      Add in how militarized our police are, though, and this is indeed a special American problem.

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