If you’ve ever read very old newspapers, you would have noticed among other things, the way in which grim news regarding race, was reported. Take lynchings. Although very few newspapers had the courage to print the true horror of the act, most stories I read showed an incredible denial and suppression of facts surrounding vigilante killings. Eerily, the tone of these stories seemed rote and incidental, as if a minor traffic accident had occurred.
Newspapers today suppress facts too, either in commentary, which is frequently the paper's opinion by proxy, or in hard news. The June 11, Savage Pacer commentary read, “men running from the police were shot..., black men were violently arrested and killed for crimes like selling cigarettes, broken tail lights....”
Oversimplification can keep the word count down, mostly however, it disingenuously puts the reader exactly where you want them.
Information surrounding fatal police encounters such as: were victims on drugs, did victims attempt to disarm officers, was anything in the victim's hand, are equally valid in retelling.
While we look for answers we shouldn’t forget hundreds of white men, along with other ethnicities, are shot and killed every year by officers at traffic stops, fleeing or wrestling police. Do we know who these men are? Andrew Thomas, James Boyd, Alfred Redwine, Michael Parker, Loren Simpson, Brandon Stanley, Dylan Noble, are a fraction of them, shot justifiably or not. Their names were not kept in the news, commemorated or referred to.
Heather MacDonald, a fellow at the Manhattan Institute, testified June 10 before the House Committee on Judiciary. Paraphrased here she said, police have killed around 1,000 people a year, most victims were armed or dangerous. In 2019, the police killed 235 Black victims, most were armed or dangerous.
Officers make about 11 million arrests each year, the number of deadly weapons attacks on officers are 27 a day in just two-thirds of the nation’s police departments. It isn’t clear that 1,000 civilian deaths shows a law enforcement profession that’s out of control.
Glenn Loury, a Black professor of Economics at Brown University, said in a recent interview, paraphrased here: If we foreclose debate over contentious issues by declaring there’s only one way for a decent person to think about them, how can we fulfill our mission to educate students critically?
Newspapers seem to be in the business of educating people too, don’t you think? Data shows causes for police shootings are frequency of contact with violent suspects, incompetence, victim mental illness, minimal use of de-escalation tactics, suicide by cop, insufficient police training.
Any reasonable person knows police use of force should continue to be evaluated. Any reasonable person knows racist cops exist. We can come to our own conclusions based on the limited or expansive amount of studies, research and data we are willing to consider. Add “The War on Cops” to June 11’s commentary recommended reading.