It’s been clear from reading the Opinion section in the last couple weeks that data are easily manipulated to arrive at a conclusion that meets one’s needs ("Letter to the Editor: Be careful of what you read," June 21; "Letter to the Editor: Missing data paints different picture," June 21).
In these two letters, the writers criticized another letter ("Letter to the Editor: When debates fail, data succeed," June 16) for “incomplete use of data.” They were referencing 2015 data that the letter writer presented that indicated that more whites (47.3 percent) were killed by police than Blacks (25 percent), and the two recent writers took exception to the use of his data without including overall population demographics.
One of the authors claimed that the data "has no meaning unless you know the percentage of African Americans to whites.” Their conclusion was that since the percentage of Blacks killed by police (25 percent) is greater than their population makeup (13.4 percent), that Blacks are being disproportionately killed by police. This use of the data by these two writers is very misleading. The number of crimes being committed and who is committing those crimes must be considered before an accurate analysis can be conducted regarding whether a disproportionate number of any ethnicity are being killed by police.
According to the Office of Juvenile Justice and Delinquency Prevention, in 2018 (the last year of reported data) there were 7.1 million crimes (violent and nonviolent) committed by whites (including Hispanic people) and 2.8 million crimes committed by Blacks of all ages. As a result of these crimes, Statista reports 547 white and Hispanic individuals and 209 Black individuals died at the hands of the police. Therefore, 0.0077 percent of whites and Hispanics combined and 0.0074 percent of Blacks committing these crimes were killed by police. There is no significant difference in these death rates.
Also, there were 288,620 (58 percent of the total) violent crimes committed by whites (76 percent of the population) and 187,470 (38 percent of the total) violent crimes committed by Blacks (13.4 percent of the population). Reasons for this fact are debatable and not the subject of this column, only the misuse of data to arrive at a preconceived notion.
The logical conclusion to be drawn from the 2018 data is only that Blacks commit a disproportionately higher number of crimes based on population and that the death rate resulting from these crimes is similar to the white death rate (based on crimes committed, not population).
It is sad to watch what is going on in this country today. People are afraid to voice an opinion for fear of offending someone. And if someone’s opinion happens to be different than those voiced by liberals, that person is labeled a racist, a homophobe or other unflattering term. Criminals are being memorialized, and looting and burning of our neighbor’s businesses is accepted with little consequence. There is widespread disrespect for our flag and the Constitution, and disregard for our police. Next thing you know Mt. Rushmore will be coming down. God help us all.
Steve Heiter is a longtime Kern County resident and retired after 40 years in the oil and gas industry.