How bad are racial disparities in police use of force? Apparently they're bad enough that Batman needs to get involved: The first issue of Dark Knight III: The Master Race opens up with Batman saving a young black man from police officers.
Here's one page from the issue, posted by Abraham Riesman at Vulture:
Of course, the real America is not the seedy, corrupt Gotham City that houses Batman and his foes. But it's noteworthy that DC Comics was so willing to directly tackle this issue — a sign of just how mainstream it's become.
It's not hard to see why. When looking at the statistics, the racial disparity is huge.
Black people are much more likely to be killed by police than their white peers
An analysis of the available FBI data by Vox's Dara Lind shows that US police kill black people at disproportionate rates: They accounted for 31 percent of police shooting victims in 2012, even though they made up just 13 percent of the US population. Although the data is incomplete, since it's based on voluntary reports from police agencies around the country, it highlights the vast disparities in how police use force.
Black teens were 21 times as likely as white teens to be shot and killed by police between 2010 and 2012, according to a ProPublica analysis of the FBI data. ProPublica's Ryan Gabrielson, Ryann Grochowski Jones, and Eric Sagara reported: "One way of appreciating that stark disparity, ProPublica's analysis shows, is to calculate how many more whites over those three years would have had to have been killed for them to have been at equal risk. The number is jarring — 185, more than one per week."
The disparities appear to be even starker for unarmed suspects, according to an analysis of 2015 police killings by the Guardian. Racial minorities made up about 37.4 percent of the general population and 46.6 percent of armed and unarmed victims, but they made up 62.7 percent of unarmed people killed by police.
There have been several high-profile police killings since 2014 involving black suspects. In Baltimore, six police officers were indicted for the death of Freddie Gray while in police custody. In North Charleston, South Carolina, Michael Slager was charged with murder and fired from the police department after shooting Walter Scott, who was fleeing and unarmed at the time. In Ferguson, Darren Wilson killed unarmed 18-year-old Michael Brown. In New York City, NYPD officer Daniel Pantaleo killed Eric Garner by putting the unarmed 43-year-old black man in a chokehold. And, most recently, Jason Van Dyke's killing of Laquan McDonald in Chicago drew national attention when video footage of the shooting was released.
One possible explanation for the racial disparities: subconscious biases. Studies show that officers are quicker to shoot black suspects in video game simulations. Josh Correll, a University of Colorado Boulder psychology professor who conducted the research, said it's possible the bias could lead to even more skewed outcomes in the field. "In the very situation in which [officers] most need their training," he said, "we have some reason to believe that their training will be most likely to fail them."