The George Floyd protests, rather than pushing law enforcement agencies to do some much-needed soul-searching and address the atmosphere of police brutality that permeates so many American cities, have instead largely responded with a shocking wave of violence against peaceful protestors.
— jordan (@JordanUhl) June 2, 2020
It has never before been more apparent how desperately this country needs to reform its policing systems and specifically the way cops interact with people of color. One particularly disturbing 2016 study found that police are 3 times more likely to kill Black people during legal interactions than they are white people.
Even with such clarity, the American people face an uphill battle because many police departments refuse to even admit that there are problems.
The Hill reports that Major Travis Yates, one of the top police officers within the Tulsa Police Department, said this past week that systemic racism “doesn’t exist.” Astonishingly, he also implied according to research that police are “shooting African-Americans about 24 percent less than we probably ought to be, based on the crimes being committed.” Less astonishingly, Yates is white.
The incredibly calloused comments came up during a conversation with podcaster Pat Campbell.
“You get this meme of, ‘Blacks are shot two times, two and a half times more,’ and everybody just goes, ‘Oh, yeah.’ They’re not making sense here. You have to come into contact with law enforcement for that to occur,” said Yates.
The officer then went on to use crime statistics to argue that it makes sense that there are higher rates of police shootings targeting Blacks than whites. The reality, despite Yates’s implication, is not that African Americans are more prone to crime, but rather that the government disproportionately targets people of color for prosecution while ignoring a litany of crimes committed by white people.
Additionally, Black communities are statistically more impoverished than white communities because of generations of complex and interconnected racist government and financial policies. Poverty, in turn, contributes to higher crime rates.
America is failing its Black communities by first systematically denying them the same access to opportunity it affords white people, and then over-policing and incarcerating them. Yates, eager to push his bigoted narrative, displayed no interest in these facts.
“If a certain group is committing more crimes, more violent crimes, and law enforcement’s having to come into more contact with them, that number is going to be higher. Who in the world in their right mind would think that our shootings should be right along the U.S. census lines? That’s insanity,” said Yates.
After backlash erupted against his comments, Yates tried to defend himself by claiming his words were misrepresented by Public Radio Tulsa and said he intends to file a lawsuit.
“…the article states that ‘TPD Maj. Travis Yates also suggested that, according to his interpretation of crime data, police should actually be shooting black Americans more frequently.’ I never said actually. This is plainly false and factually inaccurate. And to think that beyond a discussion of comparative statistics that I would suggest that the ‘police should actually be shooting’ anyone is simply outrageous,” said Yates to KTUL.
“Clearly the published article does not reflect my hypothetical discussion of statistics based on the research of others. It makes no mention of the sources I cited. And it absolutely does not factually reflect my words,” Yates added.
Unfortunately for Yates, his original comments are still available. No appeal to statistics now is going to wash away the obvious racism baked into everything he said. If nothing else, this man offers a prime example of the kind of people who shouldn’t become cops and reinforces the dire need for reform.
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