Disproportionality does not Equal Racism
Dr. John F. Fisher, Christina Ritter

At the beginning of any reform movement, the narrative defines why this reform must be conducted. After the May 25, 2020, death of George Floyd by Officer Derek Chauvin, the singular narrative created by those who oppose law enforcement is that the police are systemically or institutionally racist and that the police need to be defunded, dismantled and reorganized with some sort of social work response team. This research project addresses this singular narrative by answering two questions. First, what alternative factors could be associated with the use of deadly force? Second, of these alternatives, which explains the elevated risk of police use of fatal force faced by the African American community? The study subjects were the 1003 individuals killed during use of force exchanges with law enforcement in 2019 (as reported by the Washington Post Fatal Force Database). Using SPSS, our team analyzed data using descriptive, frequency, and cross-tabulation to seek out patterns in the use of fatal force. The results suggest two alternative factors influencing police use of fatal force. The first police perception is of the threat posed by the decedent, and the second is whether or not the decedent was armed with a gun. Although African Americans were over-represented in our sample, our findings suggest that factors other than systemic racism exist and should be explored. Law enforcement reform should not be driven by the divisive, emotionally charged narrative that disproportionate representation of Blacks proves systemic racism on the part of the police. Instead, a more comprehensive approach is in order.

Full Text: PDF     DOI: 10.15640/jlcj.v10n1a3