In the wake of the death of George Floyd in Minneapolis police custody, major cities from Los Angeles to New York City have slashed their police budgets by the millions and countless others continue to face calls to “defund” their police departments.
Now Harvard economist Roland Fryer, the youngest African-American to receive tenure at Harvard, is warning that such defunding could be a disaster for the black community.
“Defunding the police is not a solution and could cost thousands of black lives,” Fryer said in an interview with The College Fix about his latest research.
In a Manhattan Institute discussion last month with the Wall Street Journal’s Jason Riley, Fryer expressed his frustration with the media’s “absolute refusal to grapple with the data.”
In his latest working paper, Fryer and doctoral student Tanaya Devi studied federal and state “pattern-or-practice” investigations into viral occurrences involving alleged police brutality and the death of a black person.
The paper made disturbing discoveries. The investigations, which the government uses to fight unconstitutional policing, resulted in “893 more homicides than would have been expected with no investigation and more than 33,472 additional felony crimes, relative to synthetic control cities.”
That spike occurred over a two-year timeframe in five cities — Baltimore, Chicago, Cincinnati, Riverside, California, and Ferguson, Missouri — where viral incidents triggered investigations after the deaths of Freddie Gray, Laquan McDonald, Timothy Thomas, Tyisha Miller and Michael Brown.
“The leading theory for why some investigations have led to an increase in crimes is a striking decrease in the quantity of police activity – which is evident in all cities we were able to collect data,” the paper theorized.
But in an era in which leftists are repeatedly trying to stoke racial fires, such hard data is necessary and vital.
Fryer has not catered to constituencies on either the left or the right. He looks at raw data and reports what he finds regardless of the blowback.
His 2016 research into police practices found that while black and Hispanic populations were more likely to experience non-lethal uses of force, such as being handcuffed, black people were not more likely to be victims of lethal force at the hands of police.
“On the most extreme use of force — officer-involved shootings — we find no racial differences in either the raw data or when contextual factors are taken into account,” he wrote.
Based on the study, it was clear genuine reforms were needed in certain areas, but the idea that police officers were more likely to kill black suspects was not proven.
Fryer’s June 2020 working paper concludes: “One way forward is to design a set of incentives such that we increase the penalties of unconstitutional policing and, simultaneously, lower the probability of being wrongfully accused when controversial interactions occur. In this sense, we might keep the expected price of policing constant for officers.”
“If the price of policing increases, officers are rational to retreat. And, retreating disproportionately costs black lives.”
One of the only legitimate purposes of government is to protect citizens, yet that seems to be the only thing that leftists want to prevent the government from doing. If they succeed, communities become even more dangerous, as this professor makes clear.
Fryer is no stranger to bucking left-wing racial narratives. He reports the truth, regardless of who the truth may offend. Let’s hope city governments start listening to his warnings.
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