UK Police have released their first-ever report on the Use of Force in Britain. The data don’t support any rational conclusions…
That’s not police selection bias – these were 911 calls.
With good data, we can reduce a seemingly overwhelming problem – like, all Minneapolis Police use of force – to one in which we can examine a small number of relevant cases.
Good data humanizes data problems. This podcast looks at some bad data.
This past September, Jack Sommers, the assistant news editor at HuffPost UK, had a story. An expert, he said, found that the statistics on use of force by officers of the Metropolitan Police – London’s police force – showed “systemic racial discrimination” by officers.
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“Between April and July,” Sommers wrote, “36% of the 12,605 people subjected to police force were black. Black people are around 13% of London’s population.”
See, the headline was that, for the first time ever, this past August, the Met released a report that tallied up all the times Met Officers used force. It covered the period from April to June, 2017. This is part of a wider Use of Force reporting effort across the UK.
On its face, the report was really interesting – it was the culmination of years of planning and argument, and in addition to race and gender, it included all sorts of things about use of type of force used – from touching to handcuffing to TASER application and pepper spray to punches, kicks, grabs, etc.
But it doesn’t matter how good Sommers’ expert is, because nobody – NOBODY – could draw meaningful conclusions about the effect of race on the use of force by Met officers, because the data?
The dataset is bad. The Met’s report fails to provide any meaningful insight into whether police use of force in London is just.”
Now, I don’t mean to claim that the Met isn’t racist. Or that it is racist. I personally think their officers are fantastic, and I don’t personally believe that they’re racist, but that’s irrelevant.
What I am saying is that, the data provided is insufficient for any serious researcher to conclude anything about race and policing, or even about use of force in general. There’s data, but it is so incomplete as to mean you can’t draw from it any racial equity conclusions.