By Duncan Smith
Two researchers who concluded there is no racial correlation between unarmed black victims shot by police now want the paper retracted.
But not because their data or conclusions are wrong.
Because of ‘misuse’ by (conservative) media.
The Daily Wire notes:
In their initial retraction statement, crime researchers David Johnson, of the University of Maryland and Joe Cesario of Michigan State University referred to Heather Mac Donald, the author of The New York Times bestseller The War on Cops (2016), which the Manhattan Institute said had warned that 'raced-based attacks on the criminal-justice system, from the White House on down, are eroding the authority of law and putting lives at risk.'
Mac Donald wrote about the paper in the City Journal and the Wall Street Journal, asserting, 'The more frequently officers encounter violent suspects from any given racial group, the greater the chance that a member of that group will be fatally shot by a police officer.'
Robert Verbruggen noted in National Review:
The authors of an often-cited study about racial bias in police shootings have asked for it to be retracted, while standing behind the data and statistical analysis. They're retracting the paper only because they don't like the way it's being discussed in the media. As I explained last year, the study has been controversial because of the roundabout way it approached the issue: It checked to see if, when police kill civilians, there is a correlation between the officers' races and the suspects'. The idea is that if white cops are killing blacks out of bias, white cops should disproportionately be involved in killings of blacks.
He added, in regard to Mac Donald’s statement, “I'd imagine they'd prefer something like 'when someone has been shot by the police, that person is more likely to be black if homicide victims in the surrounding county are heavily black, but not if the officer involved is white,' then added, 'I'm all for using precise language and correcting retraction, the record when you fail to, but retracting the entire study is a bad decision. The lack of a correlation between officer and suspect race is noteworthy and deserves to be a part of the discussion.
However, Johnson and Cesario issued an amended retraction statement in which they omitted Mac Donald's name.
They told Retraction Watch, 'The [first statement] was an earlier version and we slightly amended it because people were incorrectly concluding that we retracted due to either political pressure or the political views of those citing the paper. Neither is correct and so this version makes the reason more clear.'
The authors added three additional paragraphs:
We were careless when describing the inferences that could be made from our data. This led to the misuse of our article to support the position that the probability of being shot by police did not differ between Black and White Americans. To be clear, our work does not speak to this issue and should not be used to support such statements. We accordingly issued a correction to rectify this statement (Johnson & Cesario, 2020).
Although our data and statistical approach were valid to estimate the question we actually tested (the race of civilians fatally shot by police), given continued misuse of the article we felt the right decision was to retract the article rather than publish further corrections. We take full responsibility for not being careful enough with the inferences made in our original article, as this directly led to the misunderstanding of our research.
This was the sole reason for our decision to retract the article; this decision had nothing to do with political considerations, 'mob' pressure, threats to the authors, or distaste for the political views of people citing the work approvingly.
That led Verbruggan to respond: “It still says they're retracting it not because it's wrong but because of how it's being discussed in the media, but they removed references to Heather Mac Donald and say the politics of people doing the citing aren't the issue. My take does not change.”
It still says they're retracting it not because it's wrong but because of how it's being discussed in the media, but they removed references to Heather Mac Donald and say the politics of people doing the citing aren't the issue. pic.twitter.com/YyKop5No0s
— Robert VerBruggen (@RAVerBruggen) July 9, 2020
'We retracted the paper because conservatives were citing it, but then conservatives started citing the retraction, so obviously we had to retract that too.'
— Josiah Neeley ? (@jneeley78) July 9, 2020
So, at this point, the best we can deduce is that 1) the authors stand by their conclusions; 2) they must not appear to be standing by their conclusions because…well, you know why, dear reader.
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