The Austin Chronicle

Real Life, Real Numbers

February 6, 2004, News

The Statesman's dramatic "rate of force" statistics – purporting to show that blacks are the target of police force twice as often as whites – rely on a fundamental fumbling of the data. The daily's disparities are almost entirely explained by the vastly greater arrest rate for African-Americans than for other racial groups, a fact that is true of the U.S. as a whole and of most American cities. Nearly all APD use-of-force reports (92%) relate to arrests; compare those reports to APD arrest statistics, as we've done with the "force/arrest index" below, and you'll find real differences between the races, but nothing close to the statistics manufactured by the Statesman.

% of Austin population* – 52.9% White, 9.8% Black, 30.6% Hispanic
Suspect in arrests** – 36.4% White, 26.2% Black, 37.1% Hispanic
Subject of use-of-force reports*** – 35.3% White, 30.6% Black, 30.3% Hispanic
As of April 1, 2000. Source: U.S. Census Bureau. Total population: 656,562
** Oct. 31, 1998 to May 11, 2003. Source: APD. Total arrests: 553,194
*** Oct. 31, 1998 to May 11, 2003. Source: APD. Total reports: 6,447

Despite what the Statesman says, the likelihood that a suspect facing arrest will be met with force is roughly equal across racial lines ...

White .970
Black 1.168
Hispanic .817

Compares use-of-force figures with arrest figures
Higher number indicates greater likelihood of use of force
1.0 – citywide average

... What the statistics really show is that blacks are more likely to be arrested than are whites, a national phenomenon that prompts serious questions about social equity, which the entire community should address.

White 127
Hispanic 225
Black 495

Based on 553,194 total arrests between Oct. 31, 1998 and May 11, 2003. Source: APD.

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