Black and Blue

Jamelle Bouie, Slate, October 13, 2014

When the video begins, all you hear is yelling. “It was just a cigarette! Mister, it’s just a cigarette, sir!” The video focuses, and you see a plainclothes police officer holding 17-year-old Marcel Hamer to the gutter with his foot. He bends down, punches the man in the head, and tries to arrest him. “Do you wanna get fucked up?” the officer says, “Yeah, get it on film,” he continues. At this point, the young man is unconscious and unresponsive, and his friends are still shouting, screaming that he’s knocked out, begging him to get up.

This footage–taken on June 4–comes from New York City, and follows video of a similar incident from August in a nearby neighborhood, where an officer pistol-whipped an unarmed 16-year-old for briefly running away from police.

But there’s an important difference between the two videos. In the second, we see a familiar scene: black youth, white cops. The first, on the other hand, shows something less common: a black youth and a black cop.

In the aftermath of the shooting in Ferguson, Missouri, where Michael Brown–a black teenager–was killed by Darren Wilson, a white police officer, we learned that Ferguson Police Department was nearly 95 percent white in a town where blacks were the large majority. Residents wanted change. “We want answers, we want justice in our community, we want diversity,” said Rev. Derrick Robinson in one of the early protests.


{snip} For as much as police diversity has value for image and community relations, it’s not clear that it does anything to cure the problem of police abuse and brutality in black and Latino communities. Just because an officer is black, in other words, doesn’t mean he’s less likely to use violence against black citizens.

The best look at this comes from Brad W. Smith, a researcher from Wayne State University in Detroit. In a 2003 paper, he looks at the impact of police diversity on officer-involved homicides in cities of more than 100,000 residents and cities of more than 250,000 residents. Regardless of city size, there wasn’t a relationship between racial representation and police killings–officer diversity didn’t mean much. {snip}

What mattered for police shootings wasn’t the makeup of the police department, it was the makeup of the city. In all measured cities, an increase in black residents brought an increase in police shootings. In smaller cities, a substantial change in the proportion of black residents resulted in a slight increase in the predicted number of police-caused homicides. And in the larger cities, the same change increased the chance for police-caused homicides by a factor of 10 compared to smaller cities. Put another way, the quickest way to predict the number of police shootings in a city is to see how many blacks live there.

And, in turn, the most likely victims of fatal police shootings are young black males. According to a ProPublica analysis of federal data on police shootings, young black males ages 15 to 19 are 21 times more likely to be shot and killed by police than their white counterparts. “One way of appreciating that stark disparity,” notes ProPublica, “is to calculate how many more whites over those three years would have had to have been killed for them to have been at equal risk. The number is jarring–185, more than one per week.” What’s most relevant for the diversity of police departments is this fact: While black officers are involved in just 10 percent of police shootings, 78 percent of those they kill are black.


Over the weekend, activists launched renewed protests in Ferguson and St. Louis. Thousands of people marched for Michael Brown, demanding justice for the slain teenager. On the other side were scores of police, prepared to make arrests if necessary. And in both groups–police and protesters–there were black Americans. From a distance, it’s hard to tell if this mattered for people on the ground, but my hunch is it didn’t. We want to believe that diversity can transform the relationship of police to the communities they serve. But odds are good that it doesn’t, and it won’t. Given the fraught history of blacks and law enforcement, blue–it seems–is the only color that matters.

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  • MekongDelta69

    Slate (bless their little leftist hearts), states what every person with an IQ over 75 has always known.

    • mikekingjr

      Slate is odious.

    • me

      Not really. The author seems to be turning himself into a pretzel in order NOT to state the obvious–Negroes are violent criminals, and even a brutha cop has to shoot or be killed. Race is the ebola-infected African elephant in the room that the socialist Left refuses to discuss.

  • All that matters:

    What mattered for police shootings wasn’t the makeup of the police department, it was the makeup of the city. In all measured cities, an increase in black residents brought an increase in police shootings.

    That’s pretty much all that matters for violent crime rates in general.

    It’s also common sense: Would changing the race of the cop change the nature of the black undertow he is patrolling? Do ghetto thugs like cops any more because the cops are black rather than white?

    • mikekingjr

      I believe not.

      • Alexandra1973

        They shoot each other on a regular basis anyway.

  • JSS

    “Put another way, the quickest way to predict the number of police shootings in a city is to see how many blacks live there”.

    It’s also the quickest way to predict how dangerous and 3rd world a city is to. I wonder if the people who write things like the above sentence actually believe their own asinine drivel or are just habitual half truth tellers and liars.

    • Robert Binion

      We are witnessing how fragile white economies are, indeed, how frail civilization itself. Blacks (and Ebola) may do to the industrial North that which my agrarian, Confederate ancestors could not. Vulnerable are societies whose only capital is the dollar. Does anyone feel like me, a digital barbarian nostalgic for the card catalog?

      • Julius Caesar

        You’re not the only one. I long for a traditionalist, agrarian society with pre-industrial revolution technologies. I’ve been told by people I work with that I was born in the wrong century (though I prefer wrong millennia). I consider myself a Luddite…yet here I sit on my laptop.

        • mikekingjr

          Laptops are difficult to avoid now. Using one right now.

      • MBlanc46

        ” Does anyone feel like me, a digital barbarian nostalgic for the card catalog?”

        I do indeed, but I realize how much more efficient computerized records are (in general; when you know just what you want and are only looking for the shelf number, the item isn’t always the first one in the list). Plus, I could never access library card catalogs from my living room.

      • mikekingjr

        Yes I do, Mr. Binion. I learned how to use said card catalog at the public library as a child,

      • me

        I’m nostalgic for a White nation, built by and for White people, who have no illusions about a ‘Camp Of The Saints’ future. I’m nostalgic for common sense and the end of misplaced altruism.
        Why aren’t there any Negro characters on the Jetsons?
        The future looks great, doesn’t it?

    • Periapsis

      More like how many blacks and Hispanics live there, a lot of them provoke police and white citizens alike into shooting to kill first and asking questions later. You are right though, the more blacks the more police shootings there will be. The more police and private citizens too shooting aggressors, the more dangerous a given area or city is.

      • M&S

        Have you ever considered that falling for the “Blacks are bad, now give me my own homeland /back/!” is part of the problem with our movement?
        If whites, as a group, without apologies, simply insisted that they wanted ‘the human right’ to live with other whites exclusively, what could the government do?
        Invoke the number of blacks and Hispanics who have ‘done great things for us’?
        The essence of Slate’s argument is the baited trap condition. He doesn’t outright -say- that black criminality causes black deaths. Instead, he -says- that blacks together form large victim populations.
        And that leaves open room for a twisted interpretation (hence ‘the blue’ comment at the last) that indicts the institution itself as a control theory which disparately punishes blacks and therefore must be racist because it’s effects apply only to them, even if ‘institution’ does not and cannot be a living artifact of will to impose such a prejudice.
        This blaming nobody but the system is a convenient last-step way to lambast whites who are tired of being fed the Racial Guilt nonsense in a world where their economic status is collapsing.
        So… Make the “Blacks Get What They Deserve!” argument and you set yourself up for some Tseyanagi footsweeps when the implied argument is taken back or warped.
        Whereas, if you just say: “I don’t care about them, I want my own life for my own people.”
        You wrest free the argument from overt racialism as the Cultural Marxist agenda and reset it to: Personal Choice.
        They may -call- you racist. But they cannot prove that you wanting to be with other whites is necessarily wrong because of it.
        That is the path we should have taken, long ago. It remains the only way forward for whites who want to live free and separate from the ethnic diversity today.
        Imagine the power of a Million White Men March on Washington D.C., backed by 20-30-50 million white letters stating simply: “We reserve the right to ourselves whom we will associate with.”
        Congress and the Jewish Media might be aghast at the ‘closet racism’ but they _could not_ (“Let’s see your own zip code Senator!”) deny it outright. Because the demographics would not support it in their next reelection run or ratings period.

        • Periapsis

          I know they are bad, because I had too many dealing with them. No matter what we do, the Tribe and other hostile racial aliens will continue to force themselves upon us. No sir, the only way we will get and maintain separation is at gunpoint with smoking weapons, literally. We are not going to talk our way out of this one.

    • mikekingjr

      It’s also the quickest way to decide where not to reside.

  • TruthBeTold

    where an officer pistol-whipped an unarmed 16-year-old for briefly running away from police.

    How do you ‘briefly’ run away from the police?

    • It is “brief” when the “yoof” is tackled, tazered and pepper-sprayed.

      • Ron Cheaters

        Yeah, If they don’t call in the k9’s, its brief. At least where I’m from.

  • Conrad

    Maybe, just maybe, if just once, one of these black yoofs was really innocent somebody would care. Since they spend so much time & energy “protesting” in favor of criminals, it’s just hard to hear their complaining.

  • Slate: Just because an officer is black, in other words, doesn’t mean he’s less likely to use violence against black citizens.” Gee, thanks Mr Obvious!

  • Luca

    Don’t be surprised if the Al Sharptons of the world start demanding an increase in the number of Whites shot by police to achieve parity.

    However, if we factor in White murder victims of black crime, I think we just may have to ask the police to step up their efforts to achieve true parity.

  • shawnmer

    “Just because an officer is black, in other words, doesn’t mean he’s less likely to use violence against black citizens.”

    Would it give you a seconds pause, then, to ask WTH your point is?? That maybe this is not about “racism? “

    • M&S

      It’s inherent to the title and the end sentence. The implication is that the white man’s law enforcement is racist and thus any black caught within it’s grasp as ‘The Blue Wall’ of Law Enforcement is tainted by the same control theory.
      Slate cannot say and likely, given who employs him, does not mean, what we take the statistics to mean.
      Ideally, from the leftist view, this ‘extreme brutality’ would apply to everyone and thus be considered something that made cops dangerous to all and sundry as merely a /male/ dominance pattern psychopathology.
      But because of Disparate Impact issues with highly criminal blacks, it is racist by outcome.

  • serious123

    Common sense would say that black cops shoot blacks at the same rate as whites because they want to live just as much.

    • M&S

      The correlate to which is that blacks should feel safer around a black officer and thus not feel like they had to fight or flee to survive.
      If blacks are preempting a fear based behavior that gets them shot, the Slate implication is that it is as a subconscious response ‘to the blue’.

  • RacialRay

    Isn’t putting black cops in black ghettos tantamount to asking the fox to guard the henhouse? After a time it might be nigh on impossible to tell the good guys from the bad guys.

  • archer

    If you are a cop for a while I’m sure it get’s tiring dealing with the same trolls day after day.
    The Ferguson police are no angels I’m sure but you can only arrest the same bums so many times and you finally realize that society is in trouble, no where to put them all and keep them long term, felons being released on probation early etc. The black population in Ferguson was causing problems with serious crime and the police know this, they are going to be less inclined to give a black trouble maker the benefit of doubt and be more apt to be defensive for their own safety. I certainly don’t believe in police brutality but we are after all dealing with humans that are far from perfect.

  • Christorchaos

    Am I wrong to be guessing that black officers’ shootings are less “by the book” than white officers’ shootings?

  • My only encounter – ever – with a black policeman was in Boulder when I was speeding southbound on the 47th St. parkway. I had a very large number of rifles visible in the back of my old Mazda RX-7. He asked me what all the rifles were for, so I explained that I was returning to my mother’s home from the gun show that weekend at the old north Boulder National Guard armory.

    He gave me a warning to slow down and sent me on my way.

    Cooperating peacefully and politely with cops – something the “yoofs” don’t seem to understand – usually works out pretty well.