My Guess Is This Means Utah is A Peaceful Paradise

Still, it's really surprising.
In the past five years, more Utahns have been killed by police than by gang members.

Or drug dealers. Or from child abuse.

And so far this year, deadly force by police has claimed more lives — 13, including a Saturday shooting in South Jordan — than has violence between spouses and dating partners.
Clearly, those numbers don't hold everywhere. But who thought they'd hold anywhere?


Cass said...

From the article you linked to:

Through October, 45 people had been killed by law enforcement officers in Utah since 2010, accounting for 15 percent of all homicides during that period.

Last time I checked, "homicide" is the intentional and unlawful killing of a human being. Is this author suggesting that that 15% of the homicides in Utah since 2010 were police, unlawfully killing other human beings?

So what, exactly, does this comparison really mean?

Crime (especially violent crime) has been on a downward trend for more than a decade. If crime were on an upward trend, would that mean policing was ineffective (police were failing to protect the public)?

If violent crime declines, does that mean the police tactics are working (policing is deterring/preventing violent crime)?

Are the police more dangerous to innocent people (people not committing crimes) than gang members, child abusers, or drug dealers? Why pick those particular categories? Are those 3 categories the only ones police have to deal with? And what is the breakdown of homicides (as opposed to police shootings) by type?

Again, from your article:

Over a five-year period, data show that fatal shootings by police officers in Utah ranked second only to homicides of intimate partners.

In 2012, here's the breakdown:

Arguments 20
Domestic violence 7
Unknown 6
Child Abuse 3
Other felony 3
Drug related 2
Gang related 1
Officer killed in line of duty 1

Ah. They picked 3 of the smallest groups, perhaps by accident? In the 3 years of reports I pulled, these three categories were always in the bottom 5. Sounds like a pretty meaningless stat to me, and cherry picked to boot. I wonder what is included in the police shootings.

Hopefully not that officer who shot himself, his wife, his mother in law, and his 4 kids this year, because that would really skew the numbers (that's as many police shootings as there are most years in Utah, and this isn't a 'line of duty' shooting, but rather a domestic dispute shooting that happens to have been committed by a police officer - IOW, an actual homicide).

Cass said...

Just to make my point clear: imagine that the article had begun with this claim:

In the past 5 years, there were more fatal police shootings in Utah than there were homicides committed by 3 of the least frequent groups of people who committed homicide in Utah?

Is that still surprising? And would we know what that really meant, either?

Grim said...

Homicides don't have to be unlawful: justifiable homicide is still homicide.

It just surprises me because, when I talk to supporters of police departments fielding SWAT-type teams, the threat they usually cite is drug gangs. So I get the sense that gangs are perceived as a substantial menace.

And clearly they are some places. Which is why I figured these statistics must mean that Utah is a pretty idyllic place.

raven said...

anecdotal- but last time I drove through Utah all the cops I saw were doing good deeds- helping change a flat, directing traffic away from collisions, etc. And the only time I was ever stopped by a Utah State Patrol he seemed more concerned with me hitting a deer on a dark mountain highway than in giving me a ticket.
And there was time I spent most of a day outside a small town on the interstate trying to hitch a ride, with no success till a USP stopped and gave me a ride to the county line.
So my very limited experience left me with a generally positive feeling about Utah Police.

Cass said...

The problem I have with so many of these articles is that the "research" is so sloppy.

I would be really interested to know what percentage of officer involved shootings involve SWAT teams. I think that's a great (and very relevant) question. I'd also like to know what the circumstances were in these shootings: I'd like some kind of breakdown of what precipitated the shooting and demographics of those who were shot.

There is a rhetorical tactic that I first became very aware of because Obama uses it all the time: he talks about things in a deliberately vague manner full of suggestions that are never quite made explicit, but come through loud and clear nonetheless. But often, you can't point to exactly where he came right out and stated what he's suggesting clearly, so it's hard to refute his vague assertions. If you try to pin him down, he just says, "Oh, you misunderstood what I was saying".

Well no kidding: all that lawyerly circumlocution was no accident.

This article refers to a "study" they never link to (nor do they provide any detail whatsoever about the data, which seems odd). Then, they compare the results of their "study" to homicide stats that are freely available on the web... but don't link to their sources.

They then cherry pick the homicide source data (a la the NYTimes, who are famous for selecting a non-representative reference point that skews any comparison they might make). Despite supposedly having 5 years of "data" from their "study", they don't refer to it; preferring to link to several isolated stories to suggest there's something horrible going on.

And there may actually *be* a problem - it's just that they haven't given the reader enough information to decide.

I've pointed out before that despite our tendency to almost reflexively defend the military, there are plenty of scumbags in all professions. This is certainly true of police. But to know how big a problem anything is, we need a relevant point of comparison.

In a single year in Utah (2011) there were something like 130K arrests. If we assume the average # of police shootings, there were 9. One has to assume that the number of pursuits or confrontations is larger than that.

But if there were 130 fatal police shootings per 130K arrests, the fatal shooting rate/arrest would be .001 or .1 percent. Is that too high? If so, why? What rule should we apply?

I don't really know, but it is food for thought.

Cass said...

Here's another possible point of comparison.

In a single year (again, 2011), there were more than 610 assaults on police officers. If we again assume the average fatal police shooting rate, we get 9/610 or a 1.4% ratio of fatal police shootings to assaults.

Now the actual number of assaults is higher than that (not all LE orgs reported data), and officers might also shoot a fleeing suspect. But again, food for thought: what is "too high"?

And perhaps more importantly, if (as you have often suggested) lots more private citizens began "enforcing the law", would the number of shootings of suspects be likely to go up? Or down?

We are often told that police need more training to handle stressful situations in which they may feel their lives are threatened. But ordinary citizens would have no such training. Is there reason to believe having lots of folks with guns enforcing the law would have a better or worse outcome?

If so, what is that reasoning based upon?

Grim said...

A buddy of mine who was a police sniper on a rural county SWAT team -- I knew him chiefly in his capacity as a farrier who came round to work on horse shoes regularly -- talked about getting into fistfights a lot. Assuming that his stories are often reflective of what kinds of assaults we're talking about, a lot of the time it's just drunks who can barely stand up throwing a punch.

Now in a way, these drunks are very dangerous. Their judgment is impaired, and they were often driving cars at the time of the encounter. In another way, they represented very little threat to someone like this farrier, who wrestled with 1,200 pound horses as a hobby.

I think he would have had little respect for someone who responded to every such character with (even potentially) lethal force. He saw his job as bringing them in off the street, so they wouldn't run anybody over, could sleep it off, and be put into some sort of DUI education program (or, if a repeat offender, jail).

As a quick sketch of a more principled and less anecdotal answer, I think we might suggest that 'too high' occurs when the danger being mitigated is exceeded by new dangers being created by the remedy. That's the standard we use for other sorts of medications: is the risk of side effects, and the severity of those effects, greater than the good to be hoped from the medicine? Sometimes it is, in which case a doctor wouldn't prescribe the medicine to you. That's a very general answer to a lot of specific questions, but it's a principle from which one could reason.

Cass said...

As a quick sketch of a more principled and less anecdotal answer, I think we might suggest that 'too high' occurs when the danger being mitigated is exceeded by new dangers being created by the remedy.

How do you measure that? And what is the "remedy" in this case?

Allowing police to carry guns at all? Or allowing police to defend themselves (or stand their ground, or pursue fleeing suspects at all, as is now the case in many counties in the DC area)?

Grim said...

I think this is a general principle, so it might be applied to many kinds of remedies -- to the whole class of prescription drugs, just as perhaps to the whole class of police actions or methods. You'd measure it in the way you do in these kinds of 'social science' experiments: you control the other factors as best you can, make one change, and see what happens.

High speed chases are a good example of that. We had a debate about that in Atlanta after some deadly accidents (killing perfectly innocent people, because of the loss of control associated with driving at very high speeds). It's a dangerous method. Applying the principle, then, when is the remedy worse than the illness? Well, you might decide that there are some cases when it's worth the risk of the side effects -- cases of kidnap victims, who are thought to be in the car, Amber Alerts, that sort of thing. But you might disallow it for a general run of traffic offenses, reasoning that the danger to the community is out of order with the good to be achieved.

Ymar Sakar said...

This is the price of Disobedience.

When was there ever a peasant that thought the wages of disobedience were life?

Even the friendly Park Rangers made it known what the punishments for disobedience were.

Ymar Sakar said...

Allowing police to carry guns at all? Or allowing police to defend themselves (or stand their ground, or pursue fleeing suspects at all, as is now the case in many counties in the DC area)?

Most of the US police are merely puppets to political factions and the Leftist alliance at large. They are not the source of the issue. Much as the rioting and gang violence don't come from the residents of cities. It comes from something very close though. Much as an insurgency can be local but also funded and controlled by foreign forces, so the same is true for US cities.

Dealing with the individual police issues may solve the tactical problem temporarily, but it cannot change the strategic plane.