December 9th, 2014
08:01 PM ET

America's two systems of justice

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By Global Public Square staff

Michael Brown – killed by a police gun in Ferguson, Missouri. Eric Garner – killed at the hands of the police in Staten Island, New York.

These two cases of the deaths of black men by white law enforcement officers have stirred up segments of America, resulting in riots and protests clear across the nation and raising questions about the practices and procedures of the American criminal justice system.

Those angry Americans who took to the streets aren't the only ones concerned. The United Nations weighed in recently in the form of a new report from that world body's torture watchdog group. The U.N. High Commissioner for Human Rights, who oversaw the Committee, said essentially that it was too early to weigh-in on Ferguson specifically. But, the report does note its "deep concern at the frequent and recurrent police shootings or fatal pursuits of unarmed black individuals."

And deeper digging reveals cause for more than the U.N.'s diplomatic “deep concern.” According to a new investigation from the Wall Street Journal, police killings are significantly underreported in federal statistics. The Journal analyzed data from 105 of the nation's biggest police departments and found that between 2007 and 2012 more than 550 killings by police were missing from national records. In all, the paper turned up about 45 percent more police killings than the official FBI statistics.

Given that the vast majority of the nation's 18,000 law enforcement agencies hadn't reported any killings by cops, the Journal reporters acknowledge that it's impossible to actually get a full picture of the underreporting. But when there is transparency in the system, it's clear that minorities are disproportionately affected.

Young black men were 21 times more likely than white men to be shot dead by cops, between 2010 and 2012, according to a ProPublica analysis. With regard to drugs, many studies – including by the Justice Department itself – show that blacks are about three times as likely to be arrested than whites. That's true even though government data shows that they do not use drugs at anything like three times the rate as whites.

The non-profit Sentencing Project concludes starkly: "Racial minorities are more likely than white Americans to be arrested; once arrested, they are more likely to be convicted; and once convicted, they are more likely to face stiff sentences. African-American males are six times more likely to be incarcerated than white males and 2.5 times more likely than Hispanic males. If current trends continue, one of every three black American males born today can expect to go to prison in his lifetime, as can one of every six Latino males-compared to one of every seventeen white males."

The project does not throw around the charge of racism. In fact, it makes the point that the American system of justice is not racist by design. The real problem, it contends, is that America has two systems of justice, one for the rich and one for the poor. For a variety of reasons – race, class, economics – minorities mostly have access only to the second class system of justice.

These are tough words, but facts are facts. Perhaps the events in Ferguson and New York will make Americans ask some more questions about a criminal justice system that does not seem to work equally for all its citizens.

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soundoff (37 Responses)
  1. ma

    I hope from now on at least the media can show the same outrage when a white cop is killed by a black teen or man. In Buffalo NY a white female cop and her partner were shot by a black teen ( for trying to do their jobs). The woman cop suffered paralysis and died years later of the condition. The media needs to sensationalize this too if they are going to sensationalize when a white cop kills a criminal.

    December 9, 2014 at 8:24 pm |
    • Temperance

      Was that woman cop unarmed? If not, she was "shot in the line of duty."

      December 9, 2014 at 8:33 pm |
    • Ross the Boss

      Amazing! With the power of one anecdote you are able to dismiss mountains of evidence pointing to a gross disparity between whites and blacks on rates of arrests, incarceration, and killings by police.

      It's not as simple as you want it to be. Look harder.

      December 9, 2014 at 10:34 pm |
      • Mike S

        Amazingly, by ignoring the fact that blacks disproportionately commit violent crime you are able to make it seem it's all about race. In fact it is an issue of socioeconomics; poor, multi-generational welfare recipients, single parent homes, the deminished role of fathers, lack of education, a culture of violence, a culture of victimhood and blaming others.. by the way, in 2012 only 123 blacks were shot and killed by police in the US. hardly an epidemic now is it.

        Blaming whites for the current state of African American affairs is simply leftist "more of the same." If the self appointed racial grievance leadership ever had a moral bone in their bodies, they would address these issues instead of blaming people for the white people simply for color of *their* skin.

        December 14, 2014 at 3:53 pm |
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    December 10, 2014 at 1:34 am |
    • Judge Dread

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      December 10, 2014 at 6:38 am |
  3. Judge Dread

    The store clerk should have shot that big fat ugly thug. Next case.

    December 10, 2014 at 6:26 am |
  4. Judge Dread

    You armed citizens need to be shooting street thugs instead of beer cans.

    December 10, 2014 at 6:40 am |
  5. Judge Dread

    Police kill about 400 suspects each year, which is far fewer suspects than US troops receive much praise for killing. And only God and the FBI knows how many of US are killed by gang bangers.

    December 10, 2014 at 6:48 am |
  6. Joey Isotta-Fraschini Them

    All white folks are bad, especially those born in the USA.
    That simple fact has a causal relationship to the murders committed against unarmed black persons in the USA by white policemen, who prowl and lurk in search of so-called black victims to shoot dead.
    The solution is simple. An amendment must be passed by the federal government, stating clearly that no black person can legally be arrested or shot by policemen, and that no white person can serve on any police force.
    That will solve all problems related to racial injustice.

    December 10, 2014 at 7:12 am |
    • Joey Isotta-Fraschini Them

      The USA must also pay reparations to all black persons residing within its borders.
      What we did prior to 1865 was unforgivable, but we must pay reparations.
      I'm not sure how many slaves who lived in America before 1865 are still living here. Some may have moved to Europe.

      December 10, 2014 at 7:25 am |
      • Joey Isotta-Fraschini Them

        Any parent who allows his child to own or flaunt a replica of a firearm is the only person responsible for his child's death if the child is mistakenly shot dead by policemen.
        America has deteriorated pathetically, so toy guns are no longer safe for children.
        The 1950s are over.

        December 10, 2014 at 7:45 am |
    • Temperance

      The old white man fear you display is hilarious!! You should be EXTREMELY happy that the 50's are over! I read that you think taxes are "absurd." You'd be paying up to 90% in your halcyon days. Let's bring it back!

      December 10, 2014 at 10:17 am |
  7. Observer

    But heres the thing Joey, they KNEW before they responded that the gun was a toy gun.

    December 10, 2014 at 2:26 pm |
    • Joey Isotta-Fraschini ©

      You betcha life.

      December 10, 2014 at 2:58 pm |
      • banasy©

        That kid was shot within 1-2 seconds of the police car pulling up. That cop had his gun pointed at the ready and finger on the trigger as they were pulling up.

        The outcome was guaranteed; that cop made sure of it. He was unstable, and Cleveland didn't do it's due diligence when hiring this guy; he was known to be unstable.

        You betcha life.

        December 11, 2014 at 3:12 pm |
  8. Sickened

    What about Dillon Taylor an unarmed white guy shot by a black cop in Salt Lake City on August 11th why aren't we hearing about this on the national news? talk about a double standard. Plus whites don't scream race every time something like this happens. Then there's James Whitehead once again no national media coverage no riots, looting and burning of businesses. Wait I'm not done and again no media coverage or riots and protests.

    December 10, 2014 at 4:11 pm |
    • banasy©

      The rioting that resulted from Joe Paterno's firing comes to my mind...

      I think you might have to dig a little deeper for the white rioting; that's not happened in a few years, but to pretend it never happened at all is being disingenuous. Some of the very rights we enjoy today are the direct result of whites rioting. This isn't solely a black thing.

      December 11, 2014 at 5:04 pm |
      • Sickened

        I agree with you that whites do riot about a lot of things and not always for the right reasons but not for this particular reason or at least not in resent history. There are also stories out there (not in main stream media) about both white officers helping blacks and black officers helping whites. I think there's a whole lot more good out there than bad.

        December 12, 2014 at 5:24 pm |
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    America is still better than Israel where sons of the soil i.e palestinians are treated like dogs.

    December 13, 2014 at 7:10 pm |
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