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Shots Fired: Part 1

Friday, March 17, 2017 - 03:00 AM

(Photo Credit: Bob B. Brown/Flickr)

A couple years ago, Ben Montgomery, reporter at the Tampa Bay Times, started emailing every police station in Florida.

He was asking for any documents created - from 2009 to 2014 - when an officer discharged his weapon in the line of duty. He ended up with a six foot tall stack of reports, pictures, and press clippings cataloging the death or injury of 828 people by Florida police. 

Jad and Robert talk to Ben about what he found, crunch some numbers, and then our reporter Matt Kielty takes a couple files off Ben's desk and brings us the stories inside them - from a network of grief to a Daytona police chief.

And next week, we bring you another, very different story of a police encounter gone wrong.

Produced and reported by Matt Kielty

For the full presentation of Ben Montgomery's reporting please visit the Tampa Bay Times' 'Why Do Cops Shoot?" We can't recommend it highly enough. 

Correction: An earlier version of this story incorrectly stated that in reporter Ben Montgomery's six years of Florida data there were, on average, 130 people shot and killed each year. Police offers did indeed shoot 130 people per year, on average, but only half of those shootings were fatal. The audio has been adjusted to reflect this fact.

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Krystal Brown, Mike Chitwood, Natasha Clemons and Ben Montgomery


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Comments [81]

Mark Horton from Bath, England

I love Radio Lab, but this is not the usual standard, for several reasons.
Gross misuse of statistics to distort the picture. Which was not required at all.

The numbers are horrific. You have no idea of how horrific they are, because it is amazing what people will get used to and accept, without being aware of it.

I am from England. The British police shot an innocent man in 2005 (thinking he was a suicide bomber), it took about 5 years for their reputation to recover from that, because we don't like armed police; especially stupid armed police, or the even more stupid commissioners that defend them, they don't last long.

I understand some US police have come to the UK to be trained in not using guns. It would be interesting to know how that is going.

Nov. 05 2017 10:27 AM
Yan from Chicago

I wish more scientific approach was used in this investigation instead of Cherry-picking cases which fit assumed theory. The actual tampabay db indicates that the number of Whites shot after domestic disturbance is 100% higher than of Black. The data shows no contradiction to well known studies on criminality. . The violent criminality is not uniformly distributed among B/W race. FBI 2015 data :"When the race of the offender was known, 53.3 percent were Black or African American, 44.0 percent were White"

Chicago 2011: Offenders by Race: 

"The data on offenders also tells a troubling story: Young, Black males are overwhelmingly committing most of the murders. Based on the data on the victims, that means young, Black males are primarily killing other young, Black males. What a terrible situation.
Crime rate is clustered by community. Studies find that violent crime rate is directly proportional to the populations of young black men. "

This is clearly true in urban communities like Chicago.
I wish search tool
would allow to see the raw data to determine violent crime rate in that area.
With all of that it is plausible Police fear is also unevenly distributed and overcoming it just by training without addressing root cause seems difficult especially when officers are under direct threat of association. Yes, knowing each offender by name would help, but how common or practical is it within crime clusters.

Sep. 09 2017 06:29 PM
William from Conecticut

Great episode and it is valid to use Police statistics to judge Police behavior.

Example in 2016 Police in the state of Oklahoma killed 32 people in the line of duty. New York Police during the same period only killed 25 people and that state has almost 5 times the people as Oklahoma!

There is defiantly something wrong with Police in States like Oklahoma.

Sep. 05 2017 12:33 PM
Joe from Chicago

Dear Radio Lab, I don't know why all the media does this but they totally mislead the public and try to insight anger between races. Let's look at some hard indisputable facts. You stated that 54 or so percent of police murders were white and almost 48 or so were black, but because the population of black people in Florida is only 17% they are 4 times as likely to be killed by police. This assumption is ridiculous from a logical perspective. Please note that we don't live in a homogeneous world. You cannot apply an average to a clustered population. For instance high crime areas which tend to have more poverty also tend to have much higher black populations. Police patrol these areas much more than other areas. They have increased their contact area dramatically. Police have limited tools to fight crime, one of them being arrest which involves some sort of altercation. They are much more likely to get this in high crime areas not to mention they fear the violent street gang banger hoodies. They are on edge constantly. When there is an altercation it will more than like be a black person at the other end because they dominate the area where there is high crime and poverty. So what you are implying is that if we import white people into these areas and kill them until the numbers match it isn't unfair anymore and it’s okay. Well it's not okay. Police need to understand they are not the judge, jury and executioner. They have no business shooting at anyone unless they are directly threatening them or someone else with harm. Even when they are, often times it's due to mental illness and a well-trained police officer can defuse the situation. So the majority of shootings are of white people. (In numbers) interesting that in the last year there has not been one article on these shootings of white people. Not one news story that I've seen. Why is this? Why is it that in the Trevor Martin case he was first reported as a white teen, then someone pointed out he was Hispanic, after which on the news he was reported as Caucasian. I wonder how many people noticed that. I wonder if black lives matter knows more white people are killed by police than black. So by framing this as a race issue the media has completely side stepped the real issue, police murdering citizens with no punishment for the crime. 25 years ago this didn't happen. Now it's epidemic. We really don't need any more racism fuel, we need to address the issue and unite black and white and all people of all backgrounds in this country for a common cause. You must realize dividing makes every group weak and there are many who use this. United we can't be beat. So I would like to see you properly divide the population into neighborhoods and crime rates then look at the percentage of shootings vs. the population distribution in those areas. What you will find is that people of color suffer from poverty more than other groups, which is why they live where they do. This is a different problem.

Aug. 18 2017 12:06 AM
Marsha camp

I am curious if you ever took up the mother's idea to get sprayed, and go drive as a black boy. The pause and the "gulf" you experienced had to tell something. You would not put your life in danger.

Aug. 16 2017 11:05 PM
Tina S from Oakland, CA

How can these reporters listen to the way the police interacted with people who are innocently driving their cars and NOT see the bullying on their own? People become cops with good intentions, just as they might become prison guards with good intentions. But the culture of their training and their jobs leads them to dehumanize the people they want to control and to demand total acquiescence to their authority. They become bullies with guns, billy clubs, and tasers.

I also think that the way that the Mothers of the Movement story reported was very odd -- of course support groups become political movements -- have you forgot the Margaret Mead quote about what changes the world? Why not look into the way that social media and other communication technology has drawn women together who share a common tragedy and helped them realize these are not individual stories of mistakes by cops, but in fact instances of approved state violence against those already in the minority?

I am glad you are dealing with this continuing Jim Crow, but the perspective from which this was told was just so naive, distant, and uninformed.

Aug. 16 2017 03:44 AM
John from Syracuse, NY

I listened to the recent episode about violence and deaths at police traffic stops. Because I was driving, and eventually drove out of the radio station's broadcast range, I may have missed some commentary from the show's hosts or guests that may mitigate my complaints about the fairness of this particular show. I did hear about the Sandra Bland case and listened to an audio recording of the traffic stop where the motorist's reaction to being pulled over could be fairly characterized as disproportionately hostile. Ms. Bland committed suicide while in jail, and the show attempted to cast doubt on this fact; there is no forensic or witness evidence to support this doubt. In fact, the basis for Ms. Bland's family receiving more than one million dollars in a settlement from the jailing (not arresting) authority is that Ms. Bland had mentioned a recent suicide attempt in her intake interview, and she should have been placed on a suicide watch. There is no evidence except a biased viewpoint that would lead anyone, particularly typically unbiased radio hosts to question the conclusion that this was a tragic suicide, and certainly not murder.

My next objection involves the manipulation of statistics regarding the Daytona Beach Police Department. Daytona Beach was accurately portrayed as a small city that played host to hundreds of thousands of visitors for spring break, a large motorcycle rally and the Daytona 500 NASCAR race. But, when this police department was hailed because the percentage of tickets issued and arrests made by its officers reflected the 60%/40% White/Black racial composition of the residents of this city, I found a big problem.

Since NASCAR fans, motorcycle rally attendees and the Daytona spring-breakers are much more likely to be white than this 60/40 ratio, and because all three of these tourist populations are rather more inclined to be ticketed or arrested for traffic offenses, public intoxication, and assaults, than participants in a bird-watchers' convention, or even permanent residents of Daytona, this mirroring of the city's racial makeup is a meaningless statistic. If the statistics were limited to residents of Daytona Beach or its surrounding county, they could have been more pertinent.

Finally, there was no mention (at least in the 40+ minutes I was able to listen to) of the role the motorists' behavior played in any violence. When I have been pulled over by law enforcement, I haven't enjoyed the process. However, I have found that polite and respectful behavior on my part tends to lead to a much better experience than opposition and defiance. A courtroom is the venue for argument, not the roadside. Another important omission from this report was that a traffic stop is statistically much more dangerous to the officer than to the motorist. And it is precisely this danger that leads to much of the violence.

Aug. 14 2017 02:41 PM
Michael from Chicago

A good show. This was the first time I ever heard over the radio the truth that is too big and scary to be told. Everyone is afraid to say it, but this woman that lost her son was not. POLICE ARE BULLIES. All of police.
I am Caucasian and have lived in the US for 43 of my 68 years. I have had at least five contacts with police and in each one of them police behaved like bullies. I would love to tell you about my experiences if you'd like to use them in a show I wish you had the courage to produce, a show showing that aggressive people full of pride and desire to intimidate others seek employment in police resulting in a culture of violence and dishonesty. I was shaken down for bribes, arrested when I refused, yelled at and intimidated for no reason. A friend of mine who was hard of hearing was beaten by police. The list goes on.
The only mistake in the show is the belief by bereft mothers that black people are the only ones bullied and brutalized. Sorry, we all are. In my life I have never met a policeman on duty that would not seek to subdue and intimidate. Could be a series of unfortunate coincidences, but I don't think so.
This truth is too scary to say in public because there is no way to correct the situation. But one has to talk about it.

Aug. 13 2017 05:43 PM
Duane Ahmad from West Sacramento

This was a very moving program... I remember learning about the Madres de la Plaza de Mayo in Argentina and COMADRES in El Salvador who were protested and mourned the disappearances of their children and loved ones and thinking how God awful those regimes must have been. It seemed so foreign, so long ago and distant from our country (even with all of our US govt support and facilitation of the dirty wars throughout the rest of the Americas. Still... learning about the network of women who've made Mothers of the Movement really reminded me of them. And then realizing how treacherous it is to actually know what happened to your loved one and to know their lives were just blatantly and publicly taken, legally. That the justice system and the people paid by theirs and our taxes to protect and serve can get away with it?! Huh-uh. It's a whole different level we are in here in the grand old country. It is just so chilling how entrenched white supremacist violence still is in our laws, societal practices, and the mentality of so many Americans who can justify this immoral behavior in their minds.
I'm grateful for the refreshing work the Daytona police chief has undertaken to reduce the trigger happiness and take on implicit bias in his staff. The implicit bias tests are good, Harvard hosts them and they can be taken at

Aug. 12 2017 06:04 AM
kevin from america

Americas Licensed Serial Killers,instead of jail time all they get is paid vacation!Just like a kid getting his ps4 after achieving his goal(Get all A's)he gets a reward.Sad thing is americans will fiercely support an officer who filmed himself EXECUTING innocent man.

For the whites,so called "white privilege" wont save you from the corrupt bunch,you are not safe!

Jul. 24 2017 07:46 PM
Paul from PDX

Perhaps radiolab could do an analysis of the comments on this episode, its a treasure trove of implicit bias.

While this episode may have felt more like "This American Life" than radiolab, it was still very good. The interviews with the Mother's of victims are incredibly powerful.

Many in the comments complain about 2 things, and I heard it too, 2 awkward moments:
1) "130 deaths is a steady number, that's surprising!" No, its not. Awareness of the problem is increasing, the problem has been there all along.
2) Asking a mother to be empathetic 2 hours after she heard more terrible news about her sons death. Just awkward all around.

Those 2 very awkward moments reveal that EVERYONE, even well meaning white radio podcasts hosts who really want to understand the issue and really genuinely care, EVERYONE has bias. I actually think those 2 moments reveal a helluva lot.

And remember: If you have a brain you have a bias.

And many of you put your bias on full display in this comments section.

Jul. 22 2017 02:05 AM
Juliana Nzongo from Santa Cruz

I'm gonna first state that I'm an African American Female.
I really loved this episode. They told their story from the side of the victims families which is very different from what you hear and see in mainstream media. Aside from the mothers stories my favorite part was the police chief explaining how he helped turn his department around. I also was ecstatic that mental health was mentioned because a disproportionate number of cases involve mentally ill individuals that cops aren't trained to interact with. Cops are also not trained to interact with people suffering from post traumatic stress due to violence in their communities.

What I really wanted to address was bias in data interpretation; specifically looking at the provided raw ARREST (not convictions, and these two things ARE different) data here: http :// cms/FSAC/Data-Statistics/UCR-Arrest-Data.aspx

Now as a scientist raw data carries more weight than statistical analysis because statistical analysis adds on bias to numbers that can already be slightly skewed. I'm also looking at 2016 data. I'm specifically looking at white//black and providing the numbers as stated; 311//355 murder, 15,663//11,518 aggravated assault, 51//30 manslaughter and 51,988//25,537 simple assault. So looking at the numbers this data says that white individuals committed a higher percentage of crimes than black individuals. Where it gets tricky is the percentage of the total population for white and black isn't the same. The population of black people in the US is nowhere near the population of white people; so what is actually happening here? A mixture of many things, you can't just enslave people, strip them of humanity, create a segregated system, introduce hard drug into neighborhoods, promote violence, minimize funding, promote hyper masculinity, create a school to prison pipeline and etc in a whole group of people for generations and expect for there to be no consequences. Like the police chief said, to train his officers he took them through American history and some intense training and he saw progress. I can only speculate that the community felt safer and the officers were more rational due to the training, that release of stress before an encounter even takes place is vital.

The police chiefs story, which I've heard about outside of this podcast, tells me that both communities need to trust each other and judge each other as a whole community and not a two whole separate communities. That's gonna take time, work and conversations.

Communities do have a responsibility in promoting change within themselves, black communities, white communities, police communities. But that change requires support and understanding because crime is NOT dependent on ethnicity and what I hear from white individuals is that black people are inherently dangerous when we are not. That's not just my opinion, that's history.

Jul. 14 2017 04:01 AM
Chad M from Clifton Park, NY

I am disappointed by the characterization of the data as "The biggest counterintuitive line in this, is that the numbers are flat." About 130 people shot by police in the state of Florida every year over the past 6 years. 40% of people shot by police are black. Thats much higher than the 17% of the Florida population that is black. The reaction of Ben, the journalist and Jad and Robert is actually perpetuating the problem. The message seems to come across as "things are not as bad as people claim that they are."

My guess is that a black person would not say that there has been an increase in police brutality targeting black members of the community. The thing that has changed in the last few years is that having video and audio recording devices in our pockets, combined with the prevalence of social media, has allowed people to now start shedding the light of day onto a problem that has been a problem for years, and probably decades.

I would recommend that you rephrase the interpretation of the data. The same number of people have been shot each year, for six years, yet people outside the black community are just now starting to learn about these issues. Social media has enabled the black community to document this brutality and racism, and now garner support of the non-black community. We should be appalled to learn about these statistics. We should be appalled to learn that there have been Ferguson, MO incidents occurring for years and probably decades and no one outside of the black community has ever known about it. This is, in part, because the police have lied, and covered up the stories, and controlled the situation without recourse.

Social media has changed how members of the black community can hold the police force accountable. We should all be holding our peace officers to a higher level of performance, and we should be pushing for the Daytona Beach model to be implemented across the country.

May. 23 2017 04:37 PM

What was this episode? This is the first episode I've heard in months and it's this? barely any analysis was done, a lot of propaganda, statistics shown to prove something when they barely do anything. Did you try to correlationate your stats? What about the stats showing that black people commit more crimes? Oh, I forgot you had to leave that out or your propaganda wouldn't work!

May. 20 2017 12:58 PM
ben from western ma

Just starting to get into podcasts with my new iphone. Was hoping this being a podcast it would be more informative and less yet another propaganda piece about bad police, bad whites, black victim hood, etc.
i've experienced police brutality 1st hand and have no illusions about it.
At the same time i am aware of the fact that if crime statistics are not broken down by race and other police interactions it is because the numbers cast such a negative light on the black population; blacks objected - for instance i believe the last figures on rapes of white women by black men came to 40,000 a year (circa 1985) and reverse maybe a dozen.
Anyhow perhaps those figures are incorrect - though i suspect they may be correct - what i am desperate for is honest reporting - sorry that apparently is not something i will find with this particular set of podcasts

May. 19 2017 10:03 AM
Alex from America

"Ben still thought it appropriate to suggest to Natasha that most cops have good intentions so shortly after she had received the upsetting news about the appeal. When she tells him that he sees things that way because he is white, it's like an adult explaining something to a child."

This segment of the podcast (quoting "Xtina" above from another comment) was absolutely stunning in the context of the rest of the episode, though perhaps not against a backdrop of white male arrogance. In a piece seeking to better understand the nature of police violence, and to build empathy through exposing the enduring pain of these mothers, I'd like to hear how Ben's half-baked, unsupported speculation to one of these mothers was in any way appropriate.

Imagine saying to the parent of someone who's child was killed by a drunk driver, "you know, 99% of those people probably didn't mean to hurt anyone". No reasonable person would do that, because it would be a both unsubstantiated and hurtful to a victim of tremendous suffering.

I have a lot of respect for the show, it's reporters and producers and the work they do, but this merits an apology. Hugely disappointing.

May. 16 2017 09:58 PM
E. Vazquez from Los Angeles

Hello Jad and Robert,
Huge fan and loyal listener for years.
I recently became a police officer in the Los Angeles area.
I was hoping we could get an in depth story on both sides of the issue of shootings.
Thank you for bringing up this topic.

May. 03 2017 03:10 AM
Xtina from Kent.England

Wow, that part at the end was one of the most uncomfortable things I've heard in a long time. That after experiencing everything he had in the research and recording of this interesting programme, Ben still thought it appropriate to suggest to Natasha that most cops have good intentions so shortly after she had received the upsetting news about the appeal. When she tells him that he sees things that way because he is white, it's like an adult explaining something to a child. I can only imagine how it must have hurt her. It's like he didn't listen to the police chief in Florida who told him how ingrained values need to be schooled out of the police force and the weight of history has a massive part to play in communication with people.

Apr. 27 2017 09:05 AM
Charlotte from Brooklyn, NY

This is a great example of white obliviousness to the history of violence against blacks in the United States: how can you actually be surprised that the numbers are "flat" instead of higher, and announce your perception that you would have thought there was more violence because the Michael Brown/Ferguson and following incidents got so much attention? That is an unfortunate acknowledgement of ignorance for some ostensibly well-informed people. Obvious to me (not black, btw, or anything other than a curious and concerned citizen of this country) is that police shootings of black men would occur less today, that there are glimmers of ethical progress regarding race in law enforcement, but with ubiquitous availability of cameras and some sort trickle-down moral conscience in the media, media attention has gone up. ???!!!

Apr. 23 2017 03:33 PM
littlefaith from Houston, TX

All of these people leaving messages about how little "analysis" was done -- hey... are you all MEN, by chance? Because you are used to owning Radiolab or truth or action, but the female perspective and female story-telling is offensive due to its non-relevance to all discussions... -- I'm so glad that Radiolab did a balanced report, some analysis, but a lot more work on empathy. What is more lacking right now and in the world at large... ANALYSIS or EMPATHY? How will more ANALYSIS fix the human problems unless we do the hard work of understanding how people are devastated by their loss and how women, MOTHERS, are supporting each other to take action?

I also agree with the mother that this is happening, because men in uniform are protected by their uniform to do things that would be criminal otherwise. Police people by TRAINING are BULLIES. Even in the example of the best training, they are still being taught to go ahead and use deadly force, with only a little less of an itchy trigger finger. If you don't do what I say, it's a bullet for you. But I don't have to respect your freedom or your life or your human and constitutional rights.

We have more respect for animals than we have for human beings. The great late Steve Irwin, Crocodile Hunter, never used a gun on an animal, unless it was a tranquilizer dart. He worked with man-eating creatures, venomous snakes armed with neurotoxins, deadly dangerous animals that you couldn't even talk to or relate to, but he would subdue them with his bare hands or a bag and a stick. Why? It was a choice he made to respect these animals as fellow living creatures whose lives had meaning and purpose in the world. So why do we not ask evolutionary biologists for better methods to handle wayward humans?

What is government? It is the monopoly of violence in a certain geographical area. That means, the government authorizes its agents to perform violence, while anyone using unauthorized violence then becomes illegal and criminal. The only way to bring down the level of violence then is to stop authorizing our government agents to perform violence on our own people.

We design our government, so we have to fix this. I want a government that protects and serves. I don't want any government that uses violence to solve problems. I want a government built like Baymax, the robot in the movie "Big Hero 6". That means we have to give the government tools of service and comfort and protection, instead of weapons. #nerfthegovernment

Apr. 23 2017 01:16 AM
IV Liberty from California

Here is one incident if you don't believe my previous comment.

Apr. 21 2017 03:13 AM
IV Liberth from California

Many of you are totally off base. You justify police violence (state sponsored violence) based on blacks having more contact with police? Huh?

There are stories you have yet to hear--like mine. I was detained over 20 times in a 2 year time span for no legal reason. I have contributed to the black crime and arrest rates even though I have never committed a crime. I have been detained while sitting at Target while my toddler was napping in the back seat; while leaving my car to go to the gym; while at the park sitting in my car reading a book; while leaving a job interview...I can go on.

I have been beaten, punched, hair pulled, thrown to the ground, etc. by police even though I did nothing wrong.

I have been arrested over 4 times for "resisting arrest" which is the police way of showing you who is boss if you dare to assert your 4th amendment rights. Such arrest are illegal and unconstitutional. But who cares? I have filed complaint after complaint only for all of them to fall on deaf ears.

Internal Affairs is a joke. They are only there to protect the officer. I have been to the Attorney General, Mayor, Congress, Senators, City Council, etc. to no avail. You really don't have a clue. I have lost everything fighting to restore my once pristine name.

Policing is a business. People are commodity. How many times have you been detained?

Apr. 21 2017 03:08 AM
Greg from San Jose, CA

Florida is not the 3rd largest state (fyi). It's number 22 by land mass, number 4 by population.

Apr. 20 2017 07:08 PM
Gregor Halenda from PDX

Thanks for covering this. I think you did a great job showing the senselessness of most police violence. Somehow we've come to an "us vs. them" situation. My feeling is that this stems from a breakdown of community. I grew up in a small town and know that a sense of community restrains you from doing things you would regret if you were to know that person. Sort of like the Florida cop and the taser incident in your story.

While police shootings are a huge problem I feel that civil forfeiture is a similar issue that dovetails with what is essentially a problem of police overreach and a disconnect from being a part of our society to what is a what we have now - a group that sees our larger society as the enemy.

We need to keep focusing on this because it is fundamental to our functioning society.

Apr. 20 2017 02:16 PM
Honest John from Juneburry Poland

Thank you Radiolab for having the boldness to put forward the fact that Black ppl are shot at a disparagingly rate compared to their white counterparts. These officers are racist and have no regard for Black people, Black communities or families. I would say that white officers in Black communities are the equivalency of the Gestapo in Nazi Germany. Unfortunately, because Black citizens are not valued to the extent of white citizens, one would be lambasted for making such a comparison. Nonetheless, as far as I am concerned, it remains a fact.

Apr. 15 2017 08:58 AM
Paul M from Cambridge, England

I stumbled on this just now.

Apr. 12 2017 05:40 AM
Dookert from Florida

The emotional priming off listeners to this show, about a show called "why do cops shoot" is outrageous. There is no pretense whatsoever at being objective and fair when approaching this controversial topic. You don't start a two part show on why cops shoot by emotionally priming the listener to presume the malice of intent on the part the officer, by subtle hinting and one sided victim stories. Pathetic.

Apr. 10 2017 01:18 PM

Had to stop listing to this episode, it is obvious none of you have ever studied any type of hard science or never taken a Statistics class in your life. The statistics you stated throughout your show ZERO relation to causality, ZERO data on neighborhood demographics, more importantly, economic demographics of where these are taken place. Where the majority of crimes are reported. What those neighborhoods look like? Utterly terrible statistical reporting. F-

Apr. 09 2017 03:13 PM

What happened to this once great show? It is just identity politics trash now.

Apr. 09 2017 01:32 PM
dc from nyc

I've listened to Radiolab for years and have never been moved to comment.

I thought this was one of the worst shows you've have done, if not the worst. The issue of police violence against blacks is serious and worthy of being studied.

But you didn't do this.

Bizarrely, you make a gigantic deal about the lack of hard data on police use of violence and how we therefore rely on anecdote and haphazard reporting. Then you make this huge drumroll for this person who spends a year gathering data from Florida.

So obviously I'm looking forward to a show about the data--perhaps we'll see something really unexpected; or we'll see our perceptions confirmed but in a unique way.

Instead, you guys spend perhaps a minute on the data - revealing your bubble-lives by saying how 'surprising' that the numbers had been flat for years; you had thought police violence had been rising with reporting. What? How could you not be aware of police violence? I'm white and I've been aware all my life.

Then, incredibly, rather than pursue *any* facet of the data, you threw up your hands and literally said the data was too complex - what? - and then you... drumroll... spent the rest of the show on the most hackneyed anecdotes. Sad mothers (yes, really). Breakfasts in which a white man who very obviously is rarely around black people admiringly asking a black woman to list all that food those salt-of-the-earth black folks are eating. Can you imagine going to a grieving wealthy white mother's breakfast and asking her to list the food she's eating? Why wasn't the reporter black?

This is the worst white upper class virtue-signaling, hackneyed, oblivious 'reporting.' Devoid of science. Devoid of self-awareness. Devoid of anything substantive, only earnestness.

Radiolab evidently wanted their story, that police violence against blacks is disproportionate and due to racism. Obviously this was not confirmed by the Florida data--or else Radiolab would have happily reported it. Instead, since it wasn't, Radiolab discarded the data and filled the show with *anecdotes.* The same anecdotes they were complaining about in the beginning of the show!

If I wanted to read blogs, I'd read blogs. I listen to Radiolab for truly rigorous, inventive, data-driven investigation. If the data takes you to unexpected places, go there. It is antithetical to science and an insult to Radiolab listeners to ignore data that doesn't fit your narrative. Please never do this again.

Apr. 08 2017 05:52 PM
Tim D from New York

I really wish that you all would've crossed searched the officer's personal cellphone calls over the timing of "police shootings". Most officers keep the numbers low by not actually "calling it in". Instead, using their personal cellphones to make calls to other officers. Ever wonder why officers are always on their phones??? Why...if they have walkies and city issued phones?

Apr. 01 2017 01:51 AM
Radley Cooledge from Sydney

This is straight up propaganda, the only thing this episode uncovers is that black mums get sad when their kids die, we don't know if that is the same for whites or asians because they didn't bother to speak to any. They use anecdotes of an accident and a suicide to show what exactly I don't know. They do zero analysis of the statistics, don't even mention the high violent crime rate within the black community and do not even come close to answering the question they posed at the beginning. Such a waste of time. If you have a small percentage of the population committing a high percentage of the violent crime of course that population is going to be involved in more armed confrontations with police than other populations. This whole episode amounts to nothing but emotional noise, not a fact to be found, just a gross display of obfuscation and virtue signalling, absolutely disgusting, shame on you radio lab.

Mar. 31 2017 07:03 PM
Jose from Monterey, CA

You shouldn't be saying that you your show involves science or analysis. You have DATA on 800 cases when the Florida police used deathly force against citizens. And you present us with one-sided personal ANECDOTES about a handful of these incidents, not an analysis.

The big picture is that about 1000 Floridians are MURDERED every year (5+ per 100,000). The rate of violent crime in Florida cities is about 500 per 100,000. If all Floridians lived in cities, that would be 100,000 victims per year. Nevertheless, your show focused on about 130 incidents per year where the police used deathly force - perhaps 0.2% of such incidents in the state. If Florida is like other states, the majority of these incidents involved citizens armed with guns or other weapons, who did pose a deadly threat to police. In other cases, the police may have perceived a threat that wasn't present. Every police officer who uses deadly force - rightly or wrongly - knows that the incident will change his life forever. The idea that a significant portion of these 130 incidences per year involve a police officer deliberately killing or attempting to kill a civilian is absurd - especially for racial reasons. That is the big picture you should be presenting - despite the fact that a few exceptions probably exist.

This doesn't mean that the police are doing a good job. On the average, they treat minorities more harshly than whites. Many police officers become increasingly racially prejudiced and/or traumatized from working in dangerous minority communities with high crime rates (where they aren't trusted or appreciated by the local citizens). Those police who aren't racially prejudiced themselves often tolerate unacceptable behavior by their fellow officers. And when every officer depends on his fellow officers for backup and protection, few are will criticize or testify against the peers. In short, they are typical flawed humans attempting to a very tough job under very difficult circumstances. Minority families living in high crime areas have frequent contacts with the police and undoubtably encounter some at least several prejudiced officers who treat them differently from whites. In addition to all of the other challenges they face, Black and Latino males in high crime cities are being raised in a atmosphere of racially-motivated police oppression. It is not surprising they believe the police are killing their peers. RadioLab, however, should know better.

RadioLab should move past one-sided anecdotes and provide their listeners with solid analysis that helps listeners understand the true nature of the problems we face. From what I've read, there is no evidence supporting a statistically significant increase in the use of deadly force by white police officers when confronting Blacks and Latinos. However, lesser forms of mistreatment are racially motivated.

Mar. 31 2017 04:17 AM
Mardou Fox from Montréal

Very Powerful and bittersweet episode.

Thank you!

Mar. 30 2017 07:52 PM

Geez radiolab.. . At one point I was still hoping in vain this episode would turn out to be about the science behind the ta
ser. Please find a new name for your show, it's changed so much it deserves one. Not a compliment.

Mar. 30 2017 12:44 PM
Roger Shaw from USA

My bad. Please delete my comment on this episode. I meant to comment on the Ponzi scheme. I had a brain freeze. Will comment on that episode.

Mar. 30 2017 10:21 AM
Roger Shaw from USA

This was a pathetic episode! Qualifies for tabloid podcast. The sound quality was really, really bad. Stick to science. That is your niche. And Robert, your juvenile assinine interjections are getting old. grow up!

Mar. 30 2017 10:18 AM
Robert Parsons

I thought this show was powerful......powerful Bull Shit.

Mar. 29 2017 08:20 PM
Nicole Rankins from Virginia

Thank you for this great episode. Whether people like it or not this is part of the narrative of police shootings and these stories deserve to be told. No one is saying that this is the norm. But this happens and it affects real people. RadioLab is NOT saying that this is everyone's story. Why are people so resistant to hearing it??

And for all those who bring up statistics that blacks disproportionately commit more crimes than whites, I disagree. Blacks are disproportionately convicted of committing more crimes than whites. Whites are less likely to be suspected of committing crimes, are more likely to get a pass particularly on minor offenses like traffic stops, and are more likely to have resources to get them off when they do commit crimes. When the playing field is level, then talk to me about crime rates classified by race.

Mar. 26 2017 12:16 PM

There was one part of this piece, at the beginning, that was upsetting:
"The biggest counter-intuitive line in this is that the numbers are flat: If you look at the numbers, what you see year after year, is that the numbers have stayed steady, about a 130 people shot by police each year [in Florida only], which seems odd because over the past few years, these videos that go viral, makes it seem like this is a new and intense problem, but the numbers show that that doesn't seem to be the case."

I was disappointed to hear these journalists entertain or legitimize the idea that police brutality is a new problem. Its an ahistorical reflection that's offensive to communities who have experienced state and police violence for generations, since the days when the police force's primary role was to catch, punish and return runaway slaves. Their conclusion also suggests that the decades of Black-led organizing/protesting against police brutality was not valid/real/necessary until now--now that white people can watch the videos and crunch the numbers themselves, and come to their own "counter-intuitive" conclusion that this problem isn't new. This type of language and framing ("counter-intuitive and surprising") disregards our despicable history of racial violence, most likely because acknowledging this history makes the average white American feel uncomfortable.

This piece helped remind me why it's so important to seek out journalism led by the people who are most directly impacted by these problems. While I understand podcasts like Radiolab play a crucial role in reaching white Americans and pulling them into the conversation, I hope that isn't used as a reason to perpetuate historical inaccuracy. I understand the urge to cater to white fragility in hopes of gaining new/more allies, but I think it ultimately does the cause [of justice] a disservice by placing the feelings of white people above the lived truth of oppressed communities.

Mar. 26 2017 12:11 PM
Paula from San Rafael CA

I am a long time RadioLab fan. What I've learned in the last 10 years is that your work makes me think, look at things differently and be willing to walk away with a new perspective.

As I read these comments, I'm surprised by the anger. I don't think this was anti-police, but rather a great discussion about the direction of policing in our country. The PERF program which promotes new tactics to slow down the interactions is fantastic. There ARE a lot of police who need retraining.

it is important to accept that this was the story about the mothers, about efforts to train officers to slow down and not a big indictment of all police departments. No need to overreact.

Mar. 25 2017 05:55 PM
Leon Connelly from Austin, Tx, formerly New Orleans

The police chief for Volusia, Mike Chitwood, sounds a lot like the (former?) police chief of Milwaukee, Edward Flynn.

I heard about Edward Flynn in the This American Life episode from 2015, Cops See It Differently.

Not only do these 2 men sound similar (from memory . . .), but they both speak intelligently about what seems the best way for police to conduct themselves on the job.

I wouldn't be surprised if both men were part of that Police Executive Research Forum (P.E.R.F.) . . .

Mar. 25 2017 03:34 PM
David from Northern Ireland

This might be the episode that makes me unsubscribe. We're all used to Police being vilified, but this bias should not filter into Radiolab reporting. You should be above that.

I sincerely hope this is rectified in part 2.

Mar. 24 2017 07:12 AM
Walter Sobchak

Of course Jad & Robert know that the crime demographics in Florida don't match the population demographics - but their narrative is not directed at those who have a basic understanding of statistics & are capable of making that distinction.

Mar. 23 2017 11:42 PM

I've been a Radiolab fan FOREVER. Fell in love with your Sperm episode. But this episode at 48:00 minutes was disgusting. This was bad and insensitive reporting. This woman, mother, just described how her son was killed and you wanna man-splain to her how most cops are good? That was horribly horribly insensitive. I hope you issue her an apology.

Mar. 23 2017 03:19 PM
DB from San Diego

Epic fail of an episode. One-dimensional and one-sided against police (of whom I am no particular fan). Assumes that every single police shooting was unjustified without any description of the surrounding circumstances, much less the cop's point of view. Of course there are unjustified shootings based on race; far too many. But that's no excuse to trumpet unjustified statistics. For example, African-Americans are NOT 40 times more likely in general to be shot by police than whites (I think that was the multiple quoted). Only African-Americans who find themselves in circumstances where shots are fired are. And that usually happens only when the person shot puts themselves at risk, for example, by committing a violent felony or behaving dangerously on drugs. Again, we are all aware of the exceptions where the victim has done little or nothing to provoke the police's response. But it's a fact of life that, for reasons of institutional racism (economics, lousy schools, etc.), a disproportionate number of crimes are committed by African-Americans compared to whites. The problem of racism is pervasive enough without Radiolab carelessly distorting the facts and smugly presenting only one side of the story while acting like it's being even-handed.

Mar. 23 2017 03:12 PM
Brittany from Columbus OH

I thought this episode was very powerful. Thank you for sharing this story.

Mar. 23 2017 01:40 PM
Steve Shannon from California

Agree with many epic fail by Robert and Jad. So let me get this straight...they set up/ballyhoo the creation of a historic data base of cop shootings, then quickly conclude that it is too hard and complicated to understand, and does not fit their narrative, then move on to cherry pick a few sad stories. These sad stories are indeed horrible and hard to defend, but they totally lose the plot of the average story of the 160+ shootings per year. And they miss the 9th grade statistics fact. While AA's are 17% of the population and 40% of the shootings, what % are they of criminals? The causes of this criminality are deep and complex, and we can each share in the blame, but to not acknowledge this is intellectual dishonesty of the highest order.And BTW...any thought of showcasing one caucasian victim of police shooting, since they represent 60% of shootings?

Mar. 23 2017 12:03 AM
Damian Cooper from Sydney

Hi guys,

As someone outside the US it is hard for fathom the underlying issues that lead to stories like these.

One thing I am not clear on. It seems like most of these police shootings are predicated on the idea that the cops are fearful for their safety and as a result 'shoot first'.

My question is this, how many cops are shot by young black men during traffic stops?

The heart of my question is how real is the risk to the cops?

In Australia is unimaginable that a cop would shoot anyone during a routine traffic stop.

Mar. 22 2017 06:21 PM
Jim from Omaha

Yeah I agree the old podcasts were great but radio lab has really gone down hill.

Mar. 22 2017 11:42 AM
Robert T from Omaha, NE

Its not a bad episode and it brings up some good points, but I'm a bit sad after listening. It seems to me that the science focused RadioLab that I grew to LOVE and donate money to has passed on. In the last 18 months the show has seemingly become just another public affairs podcast with very little to distinguish itself from 100's of other podcast on the net. I will listen to part 2, but after that I think I'll hit the 'unsubscribe' button on my Iphone and just occasionally check back and download any episodes hat involve science. I used to love RL, now I just kinda like it....sad really.

Mar. 22 2017 11:11 AM
Daryl t from Sydney

How did the best podcast available descend into a fact starved, immotive forum for social justice warriors?

Mar. 21 2017 09:59 PM
Dre from Monterey

I'm sorry radio lab, I didn't mean a new low. I have been amazed by the quality of all of your episodes. Except this one. Do a little research, you are talking about violent crimes and death against black people. How about you use Wikipedia and look up Sandra, I posted the Wikipedia above. You will see that she had 6 to 7 or whatever it says run-ins with the law owed six or $7000 , her bail was $500. Which her "Texas friend" ignore the bail bondsman, she was a known activist on police brutality, and from what I've read I believe she hung her self to be some kind of martyr. Then her mom gets a 1.9 million wrongful death settlement, so that's why she smiling making you breakfast. I can't even finish the episode. Disappointed.

Mar. 21 2017 08:45 PM
Dre from Monterey

Wow... 50.9 percent of the 40 percent black people shot were carrying a gun..... are you kidding radio lab.... this is Florida as well, Miami zombies Casey Anthony, Zimmerman.... so you saying black people in Florida... who by these numbers half are carrying a gun, or another 20 percent knives, so 70% of thes people running or brandishing a weapon at cops at one point.... this a new low for radiolab. Which is my favorite podcast. Please don't fall into this black lives matter bullshit. Because all lives matter. But don't act surprised... why not show some transparency... how many of the other people shot brandishing guns or knives.... I doubt 50%.... just wow

Mar. 21 2017 08:16 PM
mark from california

Doug from Albuquerque, NM you have no merit because you said this "you never noted the total # of violent crimes committed by black people. This is critical because it indicates the percentage of times the police interact with black residents where a pattern of violence and disdain for the law has already been established." the reason i say this because you assume that every one of those interaction with police was the black perosn was in the wrong giving the police the benefit of the and not the black person. because in your statement you used violence and disdain. topical racist excuse to justify killing blacks.

Mar. 21 2017 05:41 PM
Alison from NY

I was moved by the extreme vulnerability that so many of the family members shared with us in this episode. Ms. Clemons, I want to tell you, I wept with you and I was stunned by your bravery in letting us in to the rawness of your grief. I was shocked when Jad and Robert did not thank you by name at the end of the show. Thank you for being such a powerful witness to the devastation that our culture of police brutality and white ignorance has on real lives, real people.

Like others who've written, I'm a long time fan of RadioLab who was truly disappointed by the tone-deafness that Matt displayed in his interpretation of Ms. Clemons' grief. I actually could not believe I was hearing him say those words, when he asked if she ever put herself in the mind of the two police officers who killed her child. How could anyone think to ask a parent that so quickly after that parent has learned those officers have taken her child with impunity? And what possibly could she or we, your listeners, hope to gain from hearing Matt noodle on in apologia, essentially: "not all police"? That was an exploitative low point, quickly followed by ending the episode without thanking the family members who exposed themselves so bravely, by name.

I'm really hoping the surprise next episode is Matt, in a spray tan, interacting with the police. Not because I want him harmed, but because I don't understand why Radiolab chose to air that clumsy "interview" unless it was in preparation for Matt to put himself on the line in such a way. Otherwise why not at least acknowledge that gulf he pondered is due in large part to white guys having no idea what it means to walk so vulnerably in the world.

Mar. 21 2017 02:32 PM
Cotie Jones from Washington, DC

As an African American middle-aged man (rarer than you might think), a father of a black boy (and 2 girls) and native Floridian, thank you for this superlative, well-done story. I was especially captivated by the disagreement between the bereaved mother and the story author on whether bad intent played a role in her son's murder, and her belief that his perspective might change, if he were "Black Like Me." I would love to know if that question had an effect on his belief.

Mar. 21 2017 12:38 PM
Nathan from Georgia

A few of the comments below assert that the number of police shootings of African Americans can be justified on the grounds that African Americans commit a disproportionate share of violent crimes, and so they are more likely to encounter police in violent circumstances.

This perspective assumes that we actually know who commits violent crimes. Since the role of the criminal justice system is to ascertain this, we cannot take it for granted.

The hypothesis that African Americans commit more crimes, and are therefore more likely to be shot by police, is consistent with the data. It is not implied by the data. Another hypothesis is that they are more likely to be targeted for investigation and conviction, or for unnecessary arrest, due to *unconscious* bias on the part of witnesses, officers, attorneys, judges, and jurors. This hypothesis is also consistent with the data, and it is unfortunately also consistent with American history.

I suspect the real situation is more complex than either story fully conveys. Regardless, I hope that going forward we can repeal unjust laws and find more peaceful ways of enforcing just laws.

Mar. 21 2017 11:52 AM
Jim from Omaha

The real problem in this country is Overcriminalization. The U.S. is 5% of the worlds population but we are 20% of the worlds prison population. We have more of our population locked up than any other country on the face of the planet.

Mar. 21 2017 11:35 AM
TJ from CA

Thank you to all involved for this reporting & program. Thank you, thank you, thank you. Let's hope more people hear it & learn... Not judge... Not second guess the "whys" of an action... Just learn.

Mar. 21 2017 01:24 AM

Ms. Sandra, why in the world did you just not put OUT your cigarette and get OUT of the car? I don't understand!

Mar. 20 2017 03:16 PM
Cicero from Miami

and another yesterday:

Mar. 20 2017 08:52 AM
Eric from American living in the UK

Listening to your show the number of killings sounded so unbelievable I decided to try putting them in perspective. Using the Washington Post police shootings database and Wikipedia numbers for fire-arm related deaths this is what I found:

Police in America kill more people per capita than all gun related deaths (homicide, suicide, and accidental) in the United Kingdom, India, Poland, Singapore, Qatar, Romania, South Korea, Japan, and Hong Kong.

If you look at just homicides the list expands to include 29 countries including most of Europe.

That's pretty shocking. US police are more deadly than all criminals, mentally unstable, gangsters, or however else people like to explain away shootings, in many parts of the world. But when you consider nearly all police killings are ruled to be legal and justified you have to wonder if police shootings are just a symptom of a much bigger issue in the way we've built our society.

Mar. 20 2017 06:57 AM
c3p from Germany

I know you love your guns and all that, but as a european: Police probably would be a lot more relaxed if not everybody could get out a hidden handgun at every Moment.
...just sayin

Mar. 19 2017 04:40 PM
Cameron Brooks

I really appreciate this story, but cannot shake a looming unanswered question that arises at the very beginning of the show: Exactly WHY are there no national database or records on shooting (but there are on other incidents)? I've heard reporting and allegations to the effect that laws passed by congress restrict and prohibit agencies such as FBI, CDC and other from compiling this information. This seems both deeply relevant to the story and a perfect thing for RadioLab to bring some clarity and illumination.

Mar. 19 2017 01:34 PM
LD from On the Road

Yet another mansplaining about how women "have fun" expressing their grief. Really Radiolab?! You can do better. Get some women covering these types of stories if you can't get it right.

Mar. 19 2017 12:32 PM
Allyson from Ontario, Canada

I am very disappointed with this episode. I felt that Matt Kielty, Robert and Jad displayed a real lack of compassion and imagination in the portrayal of and reaction to people who lost their loved ones to police shootings. Is it really so hard to believe that these mothers have connected with each other and become close friends? That they became the 'mothers of the movement'? That people who are bullied by police see police as bullies? These are all important facts, but I found the big pauses and *wow* (insert swelling music here) moments insensitive and offensive. It smacks of privilege and condescension. Come on, guys--you can do better than this.

Mar. 19 2017 07:49 AM
Truss from Philadelphia

Guys. This is Radiolab. The beauty of Radiolab is that when you're halfway through the story - and we are, which is why this is called "Shots Fired: Part 1" - you're pretty sure you already knew all this stuff. And maybe you want to argue about how it's being presented or just think you already have all necessary facts and the show is redundant. And then at some point during the second half they take it further or change direction or just totally surprise you. And then you think, "Well played, RK & JA. You clever beasts. Never saw that twist coming!"

Anyway if you don't want to take my word for it, here's the brief description of Part 2 from the podcast page:

"And next week, we bring you another, *very different* story of a police encounter gone wrong."

Stars(*) added for emphasis.

Mar. 19 2017 07:33 AM

I'm sorry, but looking at the 17% of African American population in Florida and extrapolating that 40% of people shot are African American is wrong.

Here's a scenario, you have a restaurant and are trying to determine how many dishes are broken by the dish washing team separated by race.
If you want to know which racial group in the team brakes the most dishes you can't poll from the entire population of restaurant workers because it will tell you nothing about the team, you must divide the dish washers by race and then calculate the percentages.
Just like in this case you have to look poll of people who commit crimes divide that by race and then start extrapolating (and even there you can subdivide further to violent crimes etc.).

The worst part is that this is such an obvious mistake that it is hard to put to simple error.

Radiolab please stop lying to your listeners.

Mar. 19 2017 01:57 AM
Rico from midwest

As a police officer I am glad you are talking about this issue. I have chosen to work in internal affairs. I judge actual uses of force every day. I could feel you trying to be as fair as possible, but the slant of the story still was anti-police. It is hard to balance out grieving mothers so I expected that. My biggest concern was with your ending note that police are bullies who don't care about consequences and purposefully kill the innocent. That could not be further from the truth. Police officers today are afraid of losing their jobs at every incident. The last thing 99% of officers want to do is use their guns. Only in the last few years did I have to start citing officers for NOT using force (sometimes causing other officers to be hurt because of their inaction). Police officers are growing more afraid to act and intervene. You will see the results more and more of police inaction.

Being in internal affairs, I see the problems with officers, such as being reluctant to criticize each other. But widespread racism and homicidal behavior is simply not there. White officers are relieved when they use force on a white subject because the scrutiny is far less. I'm also amazed how everyone who thinks white police are racist forget about all the minority police officers that have to make these same difficult decisions in split second situations. There are no statistics showing white officers kill more black people than minority officers do.

Police kill around 1,000 people are year. Roughly 800 of those are completely fine. Around 200 are good shoots, but better tactics could have had a CHANCE to change the outcome. Then there are a dozen or so left that are bad shoots. That is MINUSCULE compared the number of contacts citizens have with police every year. This is not a widespread problem and trying to blow it way out of proportion (causing hysteria, riots, police hatred) does not make society safer or more peaceful.

Mar. 18 2017 09:08 PM
Garrett from Brooklyn

This episode blew me away. I was moved, intrigued, shocked, educated.... keep up the amazing work.

Mar. 18 2017 06:43 PM
CC from Endicott, NY

Just listened to this episode. I was very interested because I am an activist whose main cause is ending the drug war. As you can imagine when studying this issue I cringe at how unfairly our criminal justice system is meted out toward black and poor communities. I recently read something about the first thing the cop that killed Michael Brown said to MB and his friend as he rolled up on them
...his first interaction with those young men that day was to tell them to "get the f on the sidewalk".....?! To me, that is why MB is dead. The cop could have handled that situation with humor and/or respect for who he was talking to, but instead he chose to humiliate and shame young men who are at age that testosterone flows at the highest human levels through their veins. I then thought about an upper middle class suburb not too far from where I live. People walk and jog in that area quite often and I tried to imagine a cop driving through that area telling people to "get the f on the sidewalk" and realize something like that would only happen in my imagination, because a cop would probably be fired if he did that more than once. The deeper I dig into the prison industrial complex, the more I see slavery never ended in this country. I often tell my friend if I were a black man, I'd be very scared to leave the house. I do think poor communities in general are targeted by the police state, and upper and middle classes are pretty much ignored (even though statistics say drug use is exactly even regardless of race or social class). A couple other things I'd like to share is 1. A great documentary related to the prison industrial complex (13th) 2. A database of people killed by cops, and unlike what you reported early in this podcast, I'm seeing a definite increase in these events:
Unfortunately, I don't have much optimism for America right now. I do believe most of the population outside of the elite are enslaved by the state; if not in body, in mind. People seem only to fight about which party is violently controlling them, instead of focusing on the fact that they are being violently controlled. Thanks for the great podcast.

Mar. 18 2017 12:13 PM
Cicero from Miami

Mar. 18 2017 09:35 AM

Very interesting show as always Radiolab... However I am hoping that part 2 looks at this from the other side of police shootings.

Please strike out and tell the story rarely told. The story about the families of police officers. From personal experience I can tell you it's a whole other world of emotions. Specifically the death threats aimed at officers involved in shootings that were or weren't justified.

Mar. 17 2017 05:55 PM
Adonté from Atlanta

This episode has completely misrepresented to circumstances of the police arrest of Sandra Bland. Very deceptive and selective editing on the audio from the day of the arrest was used in this episode. Radio Lab is not being honest.
In the full Sandra Bland audio she was the aggressor being very Rude, foul mouthed and extremely disrespectful to the officer. She caused her own arrest like so many others do.
Her death days later is a tragedy and should have never happened.
In the full audio the officer tried to talk reason with her just offering a written warningfor majority of their encounter.
I have link the full audio and video below. See and listen for yourself.

Mar. 17 2017 04:01 PM

This episode has completely misrepresented to circumstances of police shooting. Selective editing on the Sandra Bland audio from the day of the arrest was used in this episode. Radio Lab is not or being honest. In the full Sandra Bland audio she was most definitely the aggressor.
Search for full audio and hear for yourself.

Mar. 17 2017 03:47 PM
Melinda from NY

I really appreciate this episode and the reminder, amidst the political tumult that is currently consuming so much of our public discourse, that there is so much important work yet to be done on the issue of implicit bias in policing.

However, I felt compelled to comment due to Ben's discussion with Natasha at the end of the program about seeing the other side of the issue, cops having good intentions but making bad decisions, not wanting to "bully" people. While I agree with the general premise Ben posits, setting aside the notion of the proportion of "good" vs. "bad" cops within the police force, I think ignoring the presence of police officers with bad intentions is a mistake, and a hurtful one. I found it particularly striking in light of the story we heard just prior concerning Natasha's son, which dripped of abuse of power to my ears. Pulling the young man over on a bogus seat belt charge? Calling him "boy," which is demeaning to any man and also racially-charged in this context? And the audio of the Sandra Bland arrest is similarly disturbing for the power trip that that officer seems to be operating under.

I am a white woman, just to be clear, so I have not been subjected personally to such treatment, but I don't understand why Ben seems to be blind to the clear subtext of at least some of these incidents. Given that subtext, it felt like an obtuse and cruel question to ask of this grieving mother, to stand in the shoes of a "good" cop. I hope she knows that there are white people who understand that some police officers really are bullies, regardless of whether we personally experienced that bullying. Eradicating the system of such officers is an important problem to tackle, no matter how widespread.

Mar. 17 2017 01:49 PM
Charles Peden from Omaha NE

Totally in love with the Daytona police force now. Really brilliant and true heroes!

Mar. 17 2017 11:53 AM
Doug from Albuquerque, NM

I appreciated the effort put into this reporting but thought that some critical information was ignored.

While the total police shootings of black men as a percentage of the total was noted (~40% of shootings were of black people whereas their % of the population was much less), you never noted the total # of violent crimes committed by black people. This is critical because it indicates the percentage of times the police interact with black residents where a pattern of violence and disdain for the law has already been established.

The state of Florida publishes crime statistics by race available right now from 1998-2015. From this one can see that the total number of police shootings is on part with what one would expect, perhaps even a little low, given the percentage of violent crimes which involve black people. In the second link, I have added a tab to an excel table which totals the crime stats across all years.
http :// cms/FSAC/Data-Statistics/UCR-Arrest-Data.aspx
https :// goo dot gl / 870auQ
(remove spaces, replace dot with a period)

Murder 53%
Forcible Sex Offenses 35%
Robbery 58%
Aggravated Assault 42%
Burglary 36%
Larceny/Theft 33%
Motor Vehicle Theft 46%


Regarding the officers' statement about people with gun permits being good people, I would never assume that if I was a cop. I'm a gun owner and the vast majority of my friends are as well. I have taught my kids what my friends all practice when carrying. When pulled over one needs to place one's hands on the steering wheel, inform the cop of that one has a concealed weapon's permit and gun nearby, and ask him/her how to proceed. This tells the officer not only that one has a gun but that one wants to co-operate in a non-threatening manner, and it's just common sense. Telling an officer that you have a gun and then reaching for your back pocket when he is screaming at you to put your hands on the wheel is a very threatening action. The right to bear arms (especially in a concealed manner) comes with extreme responsibilities due to the inherent danger and purpose of weapons. Making sure police know that you don't pose a danger to them is one of those responsibilities.

Mar. 17 2017 11:48 AM
Riley P from West Tennessee

Brian, I came here to see what others might be saying about this episode and I am so glad to see an individual who really tries to understand rather than blindly jump to one side or the other. I whole heartily agree with you. There is context of these cases that is either breezed by or simply not addressed, and I think that can be a big mistake. I am not saying this to say what happened to these victims was right or they "deserved' it, but reporting should tell both sides equally. I believe 100% there is corruption in law enforcement but more on the side of what you said with not pushing the officer to the level that anyone else would. I believe the process of becoming a police officer should also be looked into and made a little more difficult. That being said I think this is important to discuss but this episode felt a little one sided.

Mar. 17 2017 11:10 AM
Brian from boise, id

I honestly had a very hard time with this episode. Before I start: I am a firm believer in aggregating data on police shootings and I am certain that body cams are necessary in improving policing. Added to that, I very liberal on most fronts, certainly a far cry from any Trump supporter. There are inevitably going to be police abuse and violence. Cases like Philando Castile are prime examples of how police officers can be firmly in the wrong.

That said, I wholeheartedly agree with the anecdotal nature of these cases. When I see the Mothers of the Movement gain prominence I see this as creating a potentially toxic narrative.
1. You mentioned Sandra Bland. I believe this case can be an good example of how not to treat inmate check-ins and handle traffic stops. Casting doubt on the suicide however is venturing into the area of outright conspiracy. There is absolutely not evidence of this being anything other than suicide. In fact, Sandra wrote in her Booking Form that she had a recent suicide attempt. The family won a lawsuit against the County for this very reason. Please, please, please do not encourage conspiratorial behavior, this will only breed further distrust and divide. Sandra's inclusion in this discussion is even less toxic than that of Trayvon Martin, however, because Martin (who certainly was an emotional and tragic death) did not at all die at the hands of law enforcement and yet is constantly thrown into this discussion.
2. I have an issue with your portrayal of the Rodney Mitchell shooting. You described this scenario "Rodney, who was twenty three years old, was back from college and was driving his car". I will not assume ill intent in your reporting but I really want to take issue with the exclusion of Rodney's DUI conviction. Days earlier he had been told he cannot keep driving on a suspended license under threat of escalated consequences. I reference this, not to impune his name, but to give the case context. With this context in mind, his alleged failure to comply doesn't seem illogical (similar motivation as Marlin Brown). This does not negate the polices actions but it is very important to understanding their claims. Further, you really should bring up the third party forensic analysis that corroborated the deputy's claims. I realize this is a lot more detail than you might want for a story like this but in the search of truth we really need to move past narratives and misrepresentation.
3. Finally, I love you guys. I honestly wish the next installment gets into something we don't often see in reporting of these shootings. You need really need a legal perspective. Part of the narrative is that cops are corruptly being let off the hook (something I am sure happens) but especially in these high profile cases this is simply not the case. There are clear guidelines for justified force. If there are laws that are allowing these instances, target them. A withdrawn and unemotional look doesn't make good radio but it is needed too.

Mar. 17 2017 09:36 AM

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