Tuesday, January 12, 2021

Just the (fake) facts, ma'am: Police unions promote alternative reality on new anti-reform site

Several police unions have joined together to create a new website called Texas Police Facts aiming to convince the Texas Legislature there's no need for police reform in 2021. Regular readers won't be surprised to learn the site elides core issues and misrepresents key facts.

Take, for example, the "FACT" they cite to say "claims that minorities are substantially more likely to be contacted by the police are inaccurate." As evidence, they point to this research brief from the DOJ's Bureau of Justice Statistics, but even a cursory examination shows it doesn't back up their contention.

Check out Tbls 3 and 4 of the report: Turns out, black folks are overrepresented in police-initiated contacts; whites are over-represented in crime reporting. Further, "Blacks were more likely to be pulled over in traffic stops than whites and Hispanics." So the linked source directly contradicts their claim.

Another "FACT": "In Texas, law enforcement officers proven to be unfit for the job cannot jump from agency to agency," they declare, claiming TCOLE's F-5 report ensures agencies are "aware of previous misconduct."

In reality, according to the TX Sunset Commission, "the F-5 process has only resulted in nine license revocations in the last five fiscal years, despite TCOLE receiving notice of over 2,800 dishonorable discharges during the same time." The other 2,791+ officers could all get law enforcement jobs elsewhere in the state, and many did. A recent study of Florida police found 3% of officers previously had been fired from other law-enforcement jobs.

Here's another one: "FACT: In Texas, law enforcement agencies CAN get rid of bad cops." Somebody tell that to the San Antonio Police Department, where 70% of cops fired get reinstated through arbitration, including a guy who fed a sandwich made of feces to a homeless man as a "joke."

Another "FACT" presented was that "Police use force or threat of force in less than 2% of all interactions with civilians." But given that police have MILLIONS of interactions with the public per year, that's a lot of force being used!

On their "Resources" page, they point to a study claiming police exhibit no bias in shootings which was later retracted for inadequate methodology and overstated conclusions.

They include links to several data sources with which Grits readers will be familiar, but cherrypick information from them, including the Texas Justice Initiative on deaths in custody and racial profiling data from the Texas Commission on Law Enforcement.

In particular, racial profiling reports have documented much more widespread use of arrests for Class C misdemeanors than police have admitted in the past. Unions for years claimed such arrests were extremely rare and only used on dangerous people. But we now know police arrested 64,100 people for Class Cs at traffic stops in 2019, meaning more folks are arrested for fine-only offenses in Texas than for marijuana possession!

Indeed, according to said racial profiling data, Houston police officers use force at traffic stops far more than other, comparable agencies - e.g., 18x more than their counterparts at the San Antonio PD.

Grits could keep going, but you get the point.

On Twitter, your correspondent opined, "This website and the police unions who sponsored it are using cherry-picked evidence as drunks use lamp posts ... for support rather than illumination. I hope our friends at the #txlege see through it."

13 comments:

  1. In fairness, most organizations and individuals cherry pick facts, omissions, spin content, etc. to support their cause, mission, priority or opinion. For example, you cite https://texaspolicefacts.com/ and then use the word “union” when TMPA is an association. While not fatally incorrect, it was spun to fit a narrative. I accept that a union and an association are substantially similar. However, if they call themselves an “association”, then that is what is most accurate.

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  2. They don't call themselves a union to fit a narrative, not the other way around...

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  3. TMPA basically provides the same services a police union does in that they provide legal representation when a member gets in trouble either internally through the departments rules or regulations or against a citizen complaint.

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  4. @Sam, we've been through this before. "Police association" is a euphemism for "union." Here's the founder of CLEAT explaining the historical reasons for that distinction, going back to the AFL (pre-CIO) not backing the Boston police strike in 1919. He and all other police association officials use the terms interchangeably. Hence, I do, too.

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  5. Kevin Lawrence1/13/2021 01:25:00 PM

    Scott,

    We are happy to discuss the facts with you any time.

    Kevin Lawrence
    Executive Director, TMPA
    1-800-848-2088

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  6. Here's fine, Kevin. Discuss away! Feel free to start by explaining the discrepancies cited in this post.

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  7. And, we're more than 24 hours later, and apparently Kevin hasn't responded to Scott's call-out. I'm SHOCKED!

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  8. TMPA essentially offers similar types of assistance a police association does in that they give lawful portrayal when a part stumbles into difficulty either inside through the offices rules or guidelines or against a resident grumbling...
    angrygran

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  9. Gadfly - the counter-offer to TMPA by Grits is similar to going on the Montel Williams Show (i.e. blog) verses a one-on-one conversation proposed by TMPA. I don’t blame TMPA...reaching out with an apparent olive branch and getting hit with a honey locust branch.

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  11. The initial claim remains; all types of organizations, institutions, agencies, governments, and people, "cherry-pick" facts to support thier own version of a story...uh...I mean...narrative.

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  12. And,to be clear, when I used the term "cherry-pick facts, I did Not mean misrepresentation of the facts, or using false-facts. What I did mean is choosing what facts to articulate and emphasize out of all the facts available, choosing to use only certain, particular facts, in order to support the particular version of "truth" one desires to promote.

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