So, a lot of people I know (almost universally white, millennial, left-leaning) are following the Black Lives Matter movement with some real intensity. I don't object to that. It's raising some serious questions that we ought to address. I wonder, though, if there isn't a distortion beginning to appear arising from the intense focus on black people killed by police to the exclusion of other data.
According to USA Today, police kill black Americans about twice a week, which is to say around 100 times a year. But last year, 68 police died in the line of duty. Now there were about 38,929,319 blacks in America last year, whereas the United States has about 120,000 police. So even if you eliminate deaths of police from non-violent causes, the death rate of police from violence is much higher than the death rate of black Americans from police.
But the point is that we're not paying attention to the same information. Everyone who is concerned about the Black Lives Matter movement are focused on the one data set, rather intensely to the exclusion of others. You can be reasonably sure that most police officers hear about it when a brother officer is shot or killed in the line of duty. The world looks very different to these two sets of people who keep coming into violent conflict.
I've talked in the past about how the police treat me as a threat, but they're not wrong to do so. I'm a very dangerous man. I bear them no ill will, and so in point of fact they are not in peril with me, but they have no way of knowing that until I show it to them. Given what they do know -- the availability heuristic operating on all those stories of officer deaths in the line of duty -- their actions are not irrational. Once they've had the benefit of seeing how I interact with them, they've almost always been very helpful (sometimes even when I was really at fault).
We have to get over this hump to fix the problem. Officers are probably being overly aggressive because they are thinking about a subset of information that suggests that interactions with the public (and perhaps especially with black members of the public) are more dangerous than they really are. But members of the public are also overreacting, because they don't see the degree to which peace officers are bearing a substantially higher cost in loss of life and exposure to violence. Both perspectives make sense on their terms, but neither one is complete.
Just a thought.