‘Absolutely,” President Biden said last year when a reporter asked him if he believes there’s “systemic racism in law enforcement.” That’s hard to square with a presidential memorandum Mr. Biden recently issued, stating: “It is the policy of my Administration to make evidence-based decisions guided by the best available science and data.” The claim of “systemic racism in law enforcement” defies the best available science and data.
In a report released days before Mr. Biden’s inauguration, the Justice Department’s Bureau of Justice Statistics examined whether people of different races were arrested to a degree that was disproportionate to their involvement in crime. The report concluded that there was no statistically significant difference by race between how likely people were to commit serious violent crimes and how likely they were to be arrested. In other words, the data suggested that police officers and sheriff’s deputies focus on criminals’ actions, not their race.
The BJS report did not take cops’ word for who commits crimes. Rather, it relied on victims’ own accounts of who committed crimes against them, as reported through BJS’s National Crime Victimization Survey.
The NCVS, which dates to the Nixon administration, is the nation’s largest crime survey. Its results are based on about 250,000 interviews annually with U.S. residents, who are asked whether they were victims of crime within the past six months. In addition, the NCVS gathers data on who actually commits crimes—according to the victims—thereby providing an independent source of data not reliant upon police records.
The new BJS report took victims’ responses on the 2018 NCVS and compared them with arrest rates by police, supplied by the FBI’s Uniform Crime Reporting Program. It found that for nonfatal violent crimes that victims said were reported to police, whites accounted for 48% of offenders and 46% of arrestees. Blacks accounted for 35% of offenders and 33% of arrestees. Asians accounted for 2% of offenders and 1% of arrestees. None of these differences between the percentage of offenders and the percentage of arrestees of a given race were statistically significant. (The data is limited to nonfatal crimes because murder victims cannot identify their assailants.)