Category Archives: Cesario

SPPS needs to retract Cesario’s False Claims about Racial Bias in Police Shootings

Academia is very slow in correcting itself. This is typically not a problem in psychological science because many articles do not have immediate real world consequences. However, when they do, it is important to correct mistakes as quickly as possible. The question whether (If there is any doubt about it) or how much racial bias in policing contributes to the racial disparity in victims of lethal use of force is one of them. While millions of Americans are demonstrating in the streets to support the Black Lives Matter movement, academics are slow to act and to show support for racial equality.

In 2019, the journal Social Psychological and Personality Science (SPPS) published an article by Cesario et al. with the controversial claim that there is no evidence that racial bias contributes to racial disparities in lethal use of force. The article even came to the opposite conclusion that police offers have a bias to shoot more White people than Black people. The article was edited and approved for publication by Lee Jussim, who is know for tirades against liberal-bias in academia. I cannot speak for him and he has repeatedly denied an opportunity to explain his decision. So, I have no evidence to disprove the hypothesis that he accepted the article because the conclusion fitted his conservative anti-anti-racism world-view. This would explain why he overlooked glaring mistakes in the article.

The main problem with this article is that it is unscientific. It is actually one of the worst articles I have ever seen and trust me, I have read and critiqued a lot of bad science. Don’t take my word for it. Aside from myself, SPPS received two other independent criticism of the article. My critique was rejected with the argument that one of the other criticisms was superior. After reading it, I agreed. It is a meticulous, scientific take-down of the garbage that Lee Jussim accepted for publication. I was happy that others agreed with me and made the point more clearly than I could. I was waiting patiently for it to be published. Then George Floyd was murdered on camera and the issue of racial bias in policing led to massive protests and swift actions.

During this time everybody was looking for the science on racial bias in policing. I know because my blog-posts about Cesarios’s fake science received a lot of views. The problem was that Cesario’s crappy science was published in prestigious, peer-reviewed journals, which made him the White expert on racial bias in policing. He happily responded to interview requests and presented his work as telling the true scientific story. The take down of his SPPS article that undercut his racist narrative was still not published.

On May 29, I emailed the current editor of SPPS to ask when the critique would be published.

“Dear. Dr. Monteith,    given recent events, I am wondering where we are with the response to the SPPS article that makes false claims about lethal use of force against Black Americans. Is there a preprint of the response or anything that can be shared in public? “

Margo Monteith emailed me that there is no problem with sharing the article.

“I don’t see a problem with Cody putting his article online; SAGE has agreed that it will be an open access article (and they will feature on the SPPS website). I am only posting the main points to honor the request not to publish the entire article. “

I was waiting for it to be published by SPPS, but it is still not published, so I [edited on 6/19/20] shared it on June 17. It actually was published today on June 19th (pdf). ] Everybody needs to know that there is no scientific credibility to Ceario’s claims.

However, publishing a correction is not enough. Cesario and racists ideologists like Heather MacDonald will continue to use the published articles to make false claims in public. We cannot allow this. The critic of Cesario’s article is strong enough to show that the conclusions rest entirely on racists assumptions. In short, Cesario et al simply assume that police only kill violent criminals to end up with their conclusion that given crime rates, police are too soft on violent Black criminals. The problem with this racist conclusion is clear. The assumption that police only use lethal force against known violent criminals is plain wrong and we have many videos of innocent Black victims killed by police to prove it. If you draw conclusions from a false premise, your conclusions are false. It is as simple as that. The assumption is nothing but a racist stereotype about Black people. This racist assumption should never have been published in a scientific journal. The only way to rectify the mistake is to retract the article so that Cesario can no longer use the mantel of science to spread racist stereotypes about African Americans.

Please read the rebuttal (sorry, it is a bit statistics heavy, but you can get the main points without the formulas). If you agree that the original article is flawed, I ask you to show your support with BLM and your commitment to racial equality and let SPPS know that you think the original article needs to be retracted.

Young Unarmed Non-Suicidal Male Victims of Fatal Use of Force are Thirteen Times more Likely to be Black than White

Rickard Carlsson and I think that Johnson, Tress, Burke, and Cesario misinterpreted the results of their regression models, when they concluded that there is no evidence of racial bias against Black civilians when police use fatal force. We show with their own data that there is a dramatic racial disparity for young unarmed males. We are pleased that PNAS made us revise our original comment (posted here) and accepted our revised comment (posted below) for publication. The 500 world limit made it impossible to say everything we wanted to say, but we think we got the main point across. The original PNAS article makes claims that are not supported by the data.

PNAS Letter (Accepted for publication, Dec/5/2019)

Ulrich Schimmack
University of Toronto Mississauga

Rickard Carlsson
Linnaeus University

A recent PNAS article reported “no evidence of anti-Black or anti-Hispanic disparities across [fatal] shootings” by police officers. [1]. This claim is based on the results of a regression model that suggested “a person fatally shot by police was 6.67 times less [italics added] likely (OR = 0.15 [0.09, 0.27]) to be Black than White” (1).  The article also claims the results “do not depend on which predictors are used” (p. 15881). These claims are misleading because the reported results apply only to a subset of victims and do not control for the fact that we would expect a higher number of White victims simply because the majority of US citizens are White.

The published odds-ratio of 0.15 is based on a regression model that made the intercept correspond to a county with 4 times more White (50%) than Black (12%) citizens.  In addition, the intercept of the model corresponds to a country where White homicides rates equal (a) Black homicide rates and (b) Hispanic homicide rates, and where victims are (c) average age (36.71y), and White and Black victims are equally likely to (d) have mental health problems, (e) be suicidal, (f) armed, and (g) attacking an officer.  We found that including suicidal as a predictor had the strongest effect on the intercept, which doubled the odds of the victim being White (OR = .24 vs. .49). In contrast, adjusting only for differences in Black and White homicide rates, left the intercept unchanged (OR = .48 vs. 49).  Thus, the main contribution of the regression analysis is to show that that the odds of a victim being White doubles when the percentage of suicidal victims increase from 11% in the actual population to a 50% in a hypothetical population. The fact that older suicidal victims are disproportionally more likely to be White shows that not all victims of lethal use of force are violent criminals.

Although use of force with citizens who suffer mental health problem is important, another group of interest are young, unarmed, mentally healthy (non-suicidal) men.  To examine racial disparities in this group, we specified an alternative model that focused on young (age 20), unarmed male victims that showed no signs of mental health problems and were not suicidal in a county with equal proportions of Black and White citizens. The intercept of this model suggested that victims with these characteristics are 13.67 times more likely to be Black than White, 95%CI = 6.65, 28.13 (https://osf.io/hm6f2/).The stark contrast between the published finding and our finding contradicts the authors claims that their results hold across subgroups of victims. Contrary to this claim, their data are entirely consistent with the public perception that young male victims of fatal use of force are disproportionally Black. Importantly, neither the original, nor our finding address the causes of racial disparities among victims of deadly use of force. Our results merely confirm other recent findings that racial disparities exist and that they are particularly large for young males (2)

References

1. Johnson, D. J., Trevor T., Nicole, B., Carley, T., & Cesario, J. (2019). Officer characteristics and racial disparities in fatal officer-involved shootings. Proceedings of the National Academy of Sciences, 116(32), 15877–15882.

2. Edwards, F., Lee, H., Esposito, M. (2019). Risk of being killed by police use of force in the United States by age, race-ethnicity, and sex. Proceedings of the National Academy of Sciences, 116(34), 16793-16798. doi: 10.1073/pnas.1821204116