Treyvon Martin, Michael Brown, and Eric Garner: There Is an Elephant in the Room

December 9th, 2014
in Op Ed

by Elliott Morss, Morss Global Finance

The unfortunate deaths of three black men has focused attention on unacceptable police behavior and continuing racial bias in the United States. And legitimate questions have also been raised about the US justice system and in particular, prosecutors' discretion in whether or not to get indictments.

Follow up:

But with all three incidents, there has been one set of statistics that few have has chosen to mention. The "elephant in the room" are the FBI reports on crime. As the following table indicates, blacks are 13.2% of the US population but they are arrested for 38% of all violent crimes and 50% of homicides and other intentional killings. Their share of property theft arrests is slightly lower - but is still more than twice their population share.

Source: FBI Reports

So do and should blacks get more police attention than other races? Yes on both counts. The police are responsible for maintaining public safety and they would be failing in their job if they ignored these statistics. So blacks do get more "police attention" than other races. And yes, police employ "profiling" in their work as they should.

Profiling has recently gotten a bad rap. But it is an essential tool for police and other crime fighting agencies. It is ironic that the National Security Agency was recently criticized for not doing enough profiling when it came to whose phones they tapped. But when it comes to all forms of crime and terrorism, it is important for authorities to use all data at their disposal to maximize public safety.

Will the authorities overstep at times? Of course. And foolish laws like the Florida law saying a civilian can make the determination on whether to shoot someone or not do not help.

In the aftermath of these three deaths, little mention has been made that all three victims broke the law. Treyvon Martin had been sent home by his school for illegal possession of drugs, Brown had just robbed a convenience store, and Garner had been selling cigarettes illegally.

Of course, their crimes in no way justified their killings. And renewed attention should be given to how police handle these cases, grand jury procedures, and what more can be done to reduce racial divides.

But the fact remains that blacks are far more likely to commit crimes than any other race. And because of this, many Americans are scared of them and want police to watch them more carefully than any other group. I wish this was not the case, but it is. The tragedy of this with both blacks and Muslims is that most are law-abiding but they are "branded" by the crimes of a small segment of their group.

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