There has been quite a bit of discussion lately about the frequency of African Americans becoming the victims of police violence, a fact made obvious by the number of people who have recently been voting on my old question on the frequency of police violence on African Americans. I have heard certain groups claiming that the increased tendency for violence against African Americans is not the result of racism but instead cause by the African Americans being more prone to committing crimes which thus results in more altercations with police and thus a higher tendency of violent police interactions.* I'm looking to address this specific claim, that a tendency towards criminality is the primary cause of increased incidence of police violence experienced by African Americans.

This article goes into some detail analyzing this claim. It concludes that statistically African American's may be more likely to be involved in criminal behaviors, but it trails off before addressing rather the apparent increase in criminal behavior is enough to explain the increased frequency of police violence against African Americans.

Thus my question, To what degree, if any, can the increased frequency of police violence experienced by African Americans be explained by a potential increase in police altercations caused by increased criminal behavior?

I realize this is a very hard question to answer, and thus I am open to any relevant studies even if they can only partially address the claim. I'd accept studies looking at police shootings in general, or any other form of police violence targeting African Americans. I'd even be willing to consider accepting studies that simply controlled for socioeconomic level (as this is one of the biggest deciding factors in criminality) if no more relevant research can be found. I'd rather have a partial answer then no answer at all.

Finally before anyone attempts to close this as a duplicate let me say I believe this question is different from my previous question linked above. This question is not asking if African Americans are more prone to police violence in general, but specifically rather controlling for criminality can explain the disparity in police violence between the races.

*To make it clear I'm not personally arguing for this claim. I've simply heard this justification come up often enough that I felt it would be worth taking a proper skeptical look at the claim so that there was a valid source to cite the next time I, or other's, hear someone making this claim in the future.

  • As several (deleted) comments show, this question is very deep, and brings up issues of: whether differences in criminality exist, whether that is relevant to the bigger issue, whether violent crime is a confounding factor, whether wealth, education, height, city versus country, etc are a confounding factors, whether treatment of crime is different (including any biases in policing levels, police discretion, DA discretion, jury/judge discretion, etc. I am worried this is too broad; won't it take a book-length answer to tease out the issues? – Oddthinking Jun 12 at 11:53

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