Wednesday, June 03, 2020


We've seen a lot of out-of-control cops in recent days, and now Daniel DiSalvo, a senior fellow at the right-wing Manhattan Institute, is taking to the op-ed page of The Washington Post to argue that we need to crack down on police unions. He's right about the fact that police unions seek to protect members' jobs "by pushing for safeguards against investigation, discipline and dismissal," a point many progressives have also made -- but be wary, because the Manhattan Institute despises unions of all kinds, and DiSalvo is usually seen railing against public-employee pensions and rooting for public-sector unions to lose at the Supreme Court.

The Institute is hoping to take advantage of skepticism about police unions on the part of people who are normally pro-union. This is pure opportunism and hypocrisy. In the 1990s, the Institute had a significant influence on the agenda of New York's cop-loving mayor, Rudy Giuliani, and its City Journal still publishes pieces such as "The Toxic Narrative About Police Is Wrong" by Institute fellow Rafael A. Mangual. I was amused by Mangual's piece, which appeared this week, because of its clever use of math:
The data on police use of force predominantly reveal professionalism and restraint. Yet, as with so many aspects of America’s criminal-justice reform debate, context and nuance are regularly cast aside in favor of obfuscation and mischaracterization. Consider, for example, an op-ed in Monday’s Washington Post by columnist Catherine Rampell, in which she lamented that, “In the United States last year, police shot and killed more than 1,000 people; by comparison, across England and Wales, fewer than 100 died in police shootings over the past two decades.” While factually accurate, this observation ignores important and obvious differences between these nations. America is home to nearly 330 million people, for instance, while England and Wales have a combined population of about 59 million.
You could do the calculations yourself, or ask a fifth grader to do them for you, but I'll save you the trouble:

If American cops shot and killed more than 1,000 people last year, that suggests a rate of 20,000 police killings over a two-decade period, as compared to fewer than 100 over the previous two decades in England and Wales.

That's a ratio of more than 200 to 1.

The U.S. population is 330 million people, while the poulation of England and Wales is 59 million.

That's a ratio of 5.6 to 1.

So, rounding up, we have 6 times as many people uin this country and approximately 200 times as many police killings.

And remember: The folks at the Manhattan Institute are regarded as among the intellectuals of the right.

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