A new analysis of data that breaks down homicide arrest rates by race showed the extent to which police investigators undervalue Black lives.
The police were least likely to make an arrest in cases involving African-American homicide victims, the Washington Post reported, based on a decade-long analysis of homicide arrest data from 55 of the nation’s largest cities.
African-American victims accounted for more than 18,600 of the nearly 26,000 killings in 52 of those cities. Authorities put someone behind bars in 63 percent of cases involving a white victim, but just 47 percent of the times when the victim was Black.
For many in the Black community, this is evidence of what they’ve long said: the police undervalue Black lives.
“There is a straight line between Black people being outraged loudly about police officers being able to shoot and kill people and being able to get away with it and Black people quietly wondering when that homicide in their neighborhood is going to be solved,” Ibram Kendi, an American University professor, told the Post.
Police investigators offered an explanation. Cases involving gang and drug-related shootings are more difficult to solve than domestic violence cases, they said.
“We don’t care what color you are. Sometimes, because a case goes unsolved, people get the perception that we forget about their loved ones . . . We never forget about them,” said Police Commissioner William Evans of Boston, which had the widest gap in arrest rates between Blacks and whites.
However, Black activists also point out that there’s a long history of distrusting the police in African-American communities. “Black people have experienced police officers more as profilers and brutalizers, as opposed to investigators, and it takes investigators to solve very difficult homicide cases,” Kendi said.
The study did identify five cities where the police arrested suspects in Black killings at roughly the same rate, or higher, than arrests for white victims. They are Birmingham, Durham, Fort Worth Tampa and Wichita.
“Our neighborhoods still have enough trust in the police department to help us solve these cases,” Fort Worth police Capt. Devin Pitt said, adding that “we treat every homicide the same, regardless of where it occurs or who the victims are.”