Surviving a Police Encounter

Surviving a Police Encounter April 14, 2015

Bears and Police

Sometimes satire is the only way to give voice to immense frustration and anger about something that has happened. The Onion did it well with its article about the Department of Justice deploying smartphone-carrying bystanders to the nation’s streets. I think the above image does an admirable job too. Because let’s face it, if you can take an infographic about bears and substitute “police,” and it makes sense, there’s a serious problem.

For a non-satirical approach to the topic, see this SALT Project video with ten rules to getting home safely:

The image at the top comes from Christopher Keelty; HT PZ Myers.

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  • Why only African-Americans? If this has to be racialized, can I refer to Derbyshire’s excellent The Talk: Non-Black Version for something of a reverse look? And are there no “African-American” police officers?

    BTW, from the look of things, it seems that general police presumption is to see everyone as a potential threat. And that’s reasonable. Try to look at things from the other side’s point of view. The advice given by the video should, indeed, always be heeded. The comic is not serious- looking down makes one look shifty-eyed. Playing dead is very dangerous.

    Because let’s face it, if you can take an infographic about bears and
    substitute “police,” and it makes sense, there’s a serious problem.

    -Don’t see why. There’s no fundamental difference in threat detection in humans and bears.

    BTW, the problem is not so much police brutality as police unaccountability. For too long there has been entrenched corruption in numerous local police systems, resulting in tails wagging dogs (e.g., NYPD go-slow last December). Police unions should be treated by conservatives just as teachers’ unions are now: as narrowly self-seeking organizations which are potentially enemies of the public.

      • Since when did the plural of anecdote become data?

        • The Eh’theist

          Why do people make this statement? Go to a used book store and pick up a textbook on qualitative research in the social sciences.

          Now if you’re suggesting that his sample may be biased, or that the questions asked of the interviewees weren’t good questions, that’s another issue, make a specific criticism and people can consider the merit of it.

          If you’d like something more quantitative, the Department of Justice has produced some work on the topic that fits the bill.

          • People made this statement because too many people used anecdotes when they should have used data.
            Here’s a local psychiatrist’s review of the evidence on U.S. Blacks’ treatment by law enforcement and the judicial system:
            http://slatestarcodex.com/2014/11/25/race-and-justice-much-more-than-you-wanted-to-know/

          • The Eh’theist

            Hmm…it identifies several categories of studies, identifies racial effects in multiple categories and then summarizes the article by claiming there is only significant effect in sentencing.

            Note that no analysis of racial bias in prisoner treatment during custody or incarceration was done as part of the article, two of the areas where racial bias has been asserted.

            This doesn’t seem to support the comments you’ve made.

          • Not directly, but it does shift your priors, doesn’t it? And moves the burden of proof onto you.

          • The Eh’theist

            Actually no it doesn’t. (1) I provided you with a source for quantitative data (DOJ) which you appear to have ignored; (2) you engaged in dismissive and inaccurate clichés when provided information by others, which when pointed out to you, you brushed off; and (3) you offered “evidence” that when I took the time to sit down and read it, not only didn’t support your assertions, it had methodological flaws for which you just tried to make me assume responsibility.

            Three strikes and you’re out. I won’t invest any more effort in discussing this topic with you, since your efforts appear to be solely in bad faith (and given that I’m an atheist, that isn’t a compliment).

          • “I provided you with a source for quantitative data (DOJ) which you appear to have ignored”
            -I didn’t see it.I saw it, but it was not specific enough to consider.
            “you engaged in dismissive and inaccurate clichés when provided
            information by others, which when pointed out to you, you brushed off”
            -I’ve stated nothing inaccurate here.
            Edit: that I didn’t later recant
            “you offered “evidence” that when I took the time to sit down and read
            it, not only didn’t support your assertions, it had methodological flaws
            for which you just tried to make me assume responsibility.”
            -No, I didn’t.
            “I won’t invest any more effort in discussing this topic with you,”
            -All for the better, since your replies are difficult to parse. See ya.

            “since your efforts appear to be solely in bad faith”
            -Well, they’re not.

      • Also, James, if what you’re suggesting is even real, it should be investigated whether this is due to the average U.S. Black possibly having a greater propensity to live in areas with especially violence-prone policemen.

        • So what you suggest is that there are places which would have violence-prone policemen regardless who lived there, and people with darker shades of skin just happen to move there? I don’t find that a plausible scenario.

        • Jonathan Bernier

          Why should anyone investigate such a possibility when it flies in the face of not only reason but the accumulated knowledge of human behaviour and society generated by two centuries of social scientific endeavour? This is like asking a physicist to investigate the possibility that rather than a ball falling toward the ground the ground came up towards the ball. If you cannot see that this is a precise parallel then all you’ve done is demonstrated such a degree of ignorance regarding the empirical study of society that you have disqualified yourself from the discussion.

          • Jonathan, you do understand I am proposing a correlation, not a pattern of causation, right? And that one is not the other.

            There are several ways more violent police and a higher Black population can be tied.
            1. On average, Blacks may be more accepting of living around concentrations of physical violence. For circumstantial evidence of this, look at this graph of the population of Detroit:
            http://detroit1701.org/untitled.png
            2. The property values channel: low property values may breed an influx of Blacks and may lead to underfunding of city government at the same time, hindering the supply of competent officers.
            There are more ways that I can think of, but you get the drift?

          • Breech

            The Freddie Grey incident in Baltimore involved 6 officers; 3 white, 3 “people of a darker shade”. So, the question becomes; does reality trump what you perceive to be reason and the accumulated knowledge of two centuries of social scientific endeavour?

            You could perhaps take the anecdotes are not data (when they don’t support my conclusions) stance, or you could admit that there is perhaps a great deal of the two centuries of social scientific endeavour that you are not that familiar with.

            There is not a social scientist on the planet that would equate what they do with what a physicist does. A physicist would be willing to posit that when you drop a ball, it will fall towards the earth at a specific rate 100% of the time because there are laws that govern physical bodies at that level. There are no social scientists that would ever say that given a particular set of circumstances, any person would act in this specific way 100% of the time. Social science does not work like that.

    • Jonathan Bernier

      It has to be racialized because the empirical data indicates that African-Americans (and Hispanics) are more likely to experience police violence than Euro-Americans. Also, there are laboratory studies that indicate that police officers are more likely to shoot when confronted with an African-American target than an Euro-American target. And this is regardless of the officer’s own descent (and note in any case that the question “Are there no ‘African-American’ police officers?” is entirely a red herring as neither the infographic nor the linked video nor the blog post speak to the race of the offending officers). It will only be racialized if one is cured of ideological blinders that preclude one from seeing the obvious: that policing in the US (and the Anglosphere more broadly, and Europe, but other stories) is in large part an enterprise designed to maintain white supremacy.

      • It has to be racialized because the empirical data indicates that
        African-Americans (and Hispanics) are more likely to experience police
        violence than Euro-Americans.

        -Whoa! Dude! And, as my previous link pointed out, police are (far) more likely to be experience shootings from Black and Hispanic perpetrators than from Euro-Americans!

        “Also, there are laboratory studies that indicate that police officers
        are more likely to shoot when confronted with an African-American target than an Euro-American target.”
        -[citation needed]. And was that adjusted for actual threat risk?

        “It will only be racialized if one is cured of ideological blinders that
        preclude one from seeing the obvious: that policing in the US (and the
        Anglosphere more broadly, and Europe, but other stories) is in large
        part an enterprise designed to maintain white supremacy.”
        -What is obvious to you is utterly laughable to me, and as you made your claim without evidence to back it up, I promptly dismiss it without evidence to back it up. White supremacy in what?

    • I note that I’m still the only person in this comment section who’s made a comment that isn’t a reply.

      • What do you think the significance of that is? Please provide data and not mere anecdotes to support your interpretation of the significance you allege.

        • The significance of this is that it implies there’s not much of an audience for this post.

          James, your second sentence is beneath you. I don’t want you to turn into economist Bob Murphy (the other PhD recipient I know who makes similarly lame replies).

          • I suspect that, since I didn’t say much, others responded likewise. Your comments generated replies for reasons that are obvious. My second sentence is a response to a snide comment of yours when I provided examples which relate to data that is well known, and so it seems ironic for you to complain about it.

    • sanctusivo

      Anyone who invokes John Derbyshire on any point whatsoever pretty much invites derision across the board. And to consent to a view that every citizen is a potential threat is an admission to a preference to a police state.