Hulett: What the data says about 'systemic killing' of Blacks

Americans are being deliberately divided along racial lines by fabricated, hateful lies claiming Black individuals are being “systemically killed” by law enforcement.

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Mike Hulett, opinion columnist for The Forum Michael Vosburg / Forum Photo Editor

The trial of the former Minneapolis police officer charged with killing an unarmed Black man continues on Monday. Businesses are boarded up. Razor wire fences surround the Hennepin County Government Center. Near the burned-out Third Police Precinct, scores of empty lots remain where family businesses were destroyed by violent leftist mobs. A Seattle-like “autonomous zone,” no whites allowed, stands at the location of the incident.

A recent column in The Forum echoed calls for a “national reckoning with systemic racism” and “the need to reimagine and reform” law enforcement. Black Lives Matter was created in part on the premise that law enforcement officers are “systemically killing” Blacks. “Systemic” is defined as “universal, of a system, affecting the whole body.” BLM claims “systemic killing” of Blacks is universal within the whole body of law enforcement, a functioning killing system.

Factual analysis of the BLM premise necessitates identifying threshold numbers of police killings of Black individuals that represents plausible evidence of “systemic.” FBI statistics on 2019 violent crimes - murder, rape, armed robbery, aggravated assault - indicate 129,346 (26%) committed by Blacks and 368,139 (74%) by whites or other races. Deeper analysis exposes specific data on any Black deaths that occurred during arrests for those violent crimes, and any other Black deaths that clear-thinking citizens would consider plausible evidence of “systemic killing.”

Google identifies about 18,000 police agencies in the USA with approximately 686,000 full-time law enforcement officers. They engage in over 375 million public contacts every year. Over 157,000 peace officers are Black – about 23%.



Use-of-force data can vary slightly by source. In 2019, 48 officers were shot and killed on the job. \Washington Post crime statistics from 2019 indicated police fatally shot 1,004 individuals, 231 Black and 773 white or other races. From the Post statistics it can be verified that peace officers, irrespective of their race, when threatened with great bodily harm or death, indisputably used lawful defensive force in 97% of the 1,004 fatalities.
Twenty nine of the individuals fatally shot by police (3%) were determined to be “unarmed.” Nineteen were white and 10 Black. Of the 10 Blacks, five involved officer self-defense, four came after a vehicle pursuit or standoff (two officers were charged with homicide), and one was listed as an accident. All 1,004 deaths were tragic, but factual analysis necessitates determining if the total number of Black deaths constituted plausible evidence of “universal systemic killing of Blacks within the whole body of law enforcement.”

The Washington Post reported the answer: The probability of an “unjustified killing” of a Black person in a contact with law enforcement is too small to effectively measure. Furthermore, a peace officer of any race is far more likely to be killed by a Black male than any unarmed Black male is to be killed by a police officer of any race.

Unquestionably, real racism from any source must be addressed using common sense, realistic proportion and solid facts. Tragically, Americans are being deliberately divided along racial lines by fabricated, hateful lies claiming Black individuals are being “systemically killed” by law enforcement.

Hulett is a regular contributor to the opinion page.

This column does not necessarily reflect the opinion of The Forum's editorial board nor Forum ownership.

Opinion by Mike Hulett
InForum columnist Mike Hulett is a longtime resident of the Fargo-Moorhead area and regular contributor to the opinion page.
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