Bad apples. That’s the explanation provided by those in power for police brutality. The problem, we are told, is that there are just a few of these bad apples, only a few bad cops. After all, what group doesn’t have bad apples? The idea that this may be a systemic, widespread problem is judged as implausible by many within the police, and raises the hackles of wide swaths of the public.
But I’m here to tell you that the evidence for bias isn’t just convincing, it’s overwhelming. It’s important to emphasize that declaring the system as fundamentally biased is not to impugn all those who participate in the system as intentionally guilty of prejudice. It is to say that the current systems and institutions produce disparate outcomes, regardless of the intentions of those working in the system.
The disparities finally being laid bare thanks to viral social media videos relate to the blatant misandry that permeates police departments across the nation.
If you take issue with that statement, please explain:
- Why studies show that police disproportionately stop male drivers for speeding? One database showed that male drivers get twice as many speeding tickets as female drivers in every age category.
- Why a comprehensive database of all fatal police shootings since 2015 shows 5,184 men were killed, and only 238 women. Even though men are only 49% of the total population, they make up 95% of all shooting victims
- Why men have higher arrest rates than women for virtually all crime categories (except prostitution). The global nature of this problem is evident because this is true in all countries for which data are available, and is consistent across all racial and ethnic groups. That this disparity is true for every period in history that data exists speaks to the deeply embedded historical legacy of misandry. Even though women make up slightly more than half of the population, they constitute less than 20 percent of arrests for the vast majority of crime categories.
Proving systemic bias is complex, and there is some evidence to suggest that the gender disparities in the criminal justice system are a function of more crime being committed by men. But entertaining these theories requires a dangerous flirtation with the idea that the male gender as a group is somehow culturally or biologically prone to being criminals. This is the same repugnant wrong-think used by misogynists who point to the wide disparity in male and female winners of the Nobel prize as evidence of the superior intelligence of men.
The answers, of course, lie deeper – it suggests that the brutality meted out towards men is a matter of entrenched and extreme inequality that goes beyond the criminal justice system to lingering historical gender inequities in broader society. Vastly more men have died in the history of wars than women. When the Titanic sunk, 75% of female adult passengers survived compared to only 16% of men. In 2018, 38,000 men killed themselves. That was almost four times the number of women that killed themselves the same year. Year after year, the most dangerous occupations are vastly over-represented by men.
All of this suggests this isn’t just a bad apple problem. The evidence of systemic misandry by the police is simply the most easily visible tip of a repugnant problem that goes very deep and permeates throughout society. It is well worth our immediate attention.
Anish Koka is a blogger and a fan of Juvenalian satire. He can be easily triggered on twitter @anish_koka