The study has a few other problems:
- 1o cities were used. None of those 10 cities have a police department whose racial composition is as disparate from that of the community it polices as, for instance, Baton Rouge.
- Cities with well-kept and accessible records imply a level of orderliness and oversight not in keeping with that of cities with records that are more difficult to obtain. Cities such as Ferguson, for example, had officials who were proven to engage in obstructionist tactics; what does that imply about the data they collect? Would it be made available for a study like this? Would it even be reliable? It follows, then, that any data you can find on this matter is likely inherently biased; good police departments provide better data. As an extreme example, you could point toward Somalia, where virtually no data exists about anything because no government agency exists to collect it, and you could conclude that nothing is happening. The real rates of criminality in Somalia, then, could not be factored into global figures and could not be accounted for in data-driven studies. It doesn’t mean no crime is happening in Somalia.
- The data published by the New York Times was incidents per 10,000 stops. But, black people are more likely to get stopped than white people. So, even if the incident numbers for 10,000 stops were identical (which, they aren’t, and black people have it worse in virtually every measured parameter), the fact that black people are stopped more often in the first place is already problematic. Disparities that point toward black people being subject to further action by police at a higher rate just adds to that. What’s more, each further degree of investigation (read: harassment) a person is subjected to, of course creates a new potential for escalation.
I’m not even sure the author of the study implied all of the things the New York Times reported, but I am sure the New York Times did no real critical analysis of these numbers. I would say it’s irresponsible journalism, but is the New York Times even journalism anymore? Nah.