How Much of a Factor Is Race When Cops Kill?

A reader, Charles Black, ventures into fraught territory, and my colleague Conor responds below:

I’ve become a regular reader over the past several months. I’m looking forward to the new Notes section. And I want to point out some facts about police shootings and crime rates that a couple of your authors seem unaware of.

In this Atlantic piece from May, the author cites a ProPublica study claiming that blacks are 21 times more likely than whites to be killed by police. That study—“Deadly Force, In Black and White”—has been thoroughly discredited in separate work by criminologist Peter Moskos and RealClearPolicy editor Robert VerBruggen. Even criminologist David Klinger, who was consulted by the ProPublica study’s authors, has accused them of cherry picking the data and said the study “needs to be shut down.”

So that study should only be referenced to point out how bad it is. But the question remains: Are blacks more likely than whites to be killed by police? When you account for the much higher violent crime rates among blacks, the answer, given the best current evidence, appears to be no.