A quote popularized by Mark Twain best sums up a recent motion graphic that’s been circulating on social media.
“There are three kinds of lies: lies, damn lies, and statistics.”
The video attempts to make a comparison of how likely the chances were for you to get murdered or raped, and then endeavors to compare this to police brutality per contact.
It makes the claim that excessive force by the police is exceedingly rare and attempts to use statistics to provide a claim of legitimacy. The problem is that this is not a legitimate comparison, as they did not compare the murder and rape stats to per human contact; therefore, this makes the comparison of police brutality to other crimes invalid.
The reality is that numbers don’t convey any information without units or some other frames of reference. The blurring of the line between the number and the quantity has left us vulnerable to the ways in which statistics can deceive us, and police propagandists are taking every opportunity to do exactly that.
The motion graphic makes a failing attempt to appeal to authority by throwing numbers at the viewer in a bid to lull them into mental complacency. The reality is, the statistics used were inaccurate and any critical thinker has simply to analyze the numbers to see that the narrative forwarded in this piece was blatant propaganda.
One of the points stressed in the video was that someone is statistically more likely to be murdered by a civilian. But those same numbers also show that a cop is more likely than a civilian to be a murderer.
In a much more accurate portrayal of the numbers, someone created a response to police brutality piece using the same units to give a more precise representation of the problem.
The key is to never take a bunch of numbers being shoved down your throat at face value. A careful analysis must be undertaken to fully understand the nuance within the numbers being presented.
Another major component of the video is the contention that when looking at all complaints against officers for excessive force very few are actually “sustained, having any form of merit or evidence.” The problem with this narrative is that simply trying to file a complaint is often a futile endeavor and can actually lead to arrest.
Watch how citizens that respectfully request to file a complaint with police are often treated, as clearly shown in the video below.
When critically analyzing the police brutality motion graphic, it reveals itself to hold very little informative value while attempting to use statistics to obscure reality.
The creation of this piece was not to assist people in becoming more aware of what is or isn’t happening their communities. Rather, it is an attempt to mislead people to help allow police to continue to escape from accountability.
Jay Syrmopoulos is an investigative journalist, freethinker, researcher, and ardent opponent of authoritarianism. He is currently a graduate student at University of Denver pursuing a masters in Global Affairs. Jay’s work has previously been published on BenSwann.com and WeAreChange.org. You can follow him on Twitter @sirmetropolis, on Facebook at Sir Metropolis and now on tsu.