In the course of another post I mentioned that for all the academic studies on police shootings, not a single one has shown a correlation between race and the likelihood of being shot by a cop.

What’s interesting (and by “interesting” I mean “disgusting”) is that rather than allowing the record to be corrected with these studies, the studies themselves are being withdrawn.  Not because the authors have conceded errors in their methods, but because political actors don’t like their findings.

For example, an August 2019 study out of Michigan State University, published in the National Academy of Sciences, concluded:

We find no evidence of anti-Black or anti-Hispanic disparities across shootings, and White officers are not more likely to shoot minority civilians than non-White officers. Instead, race-specific crime strongly predicts civilian race. This suggests that increasing diversity among officers by itself is unlikely to reduce racial disparity in police shootings.

This study was cited by Heather MacDonald in a Wall Street Journal opinion piece on June 3rd of this year, “The Myth of Systemic Police Racism.”  She cited the study’s findings verbatim.  Things got political very fast, as she recounts in a piece published about a month later, “I Cited Their Study So They Disavowed It” (emphasis mine):

My June 3 Journal op-ed quoted the PNAS article’s conclusion verbatim. It set off a firestorm at Michigan State. The university’s Graduate Employees Union pressured the MSU press office to apologize for the “harm it caused” by mentioning my article in a newsletter. The union targeted physicist Steve Hsu, who had approved funding for Mr. Cesario’s research. MSU sacked Mr. Hsu from his administrative position. PNAS editorialized that Messrs. Cesario and Johnson had “poorly framed” their article—the one that got through the journal’s three levels of editorial and peer review.

Mr. Cesario told this page that Mr. Hsu’s dismissal could narrow the “kinds of topics people can talk about, or what kinds of conclusions people can come to.” Now he and Mr. Johnson have themselves jeopardized the possibility of politically neutral scholarship. On Monday they retracted their paper. They say they stand behind its conclusion and statistical approach but complain about its “misuse,” specifically mentioning my op-eds.

The authors don’t say how I misused their work. Instead, they attribute to me a position I have never taken: that the “probability of being shot by police did not differ between Black and White Americans.” To the contrary, I have, like them, stressed that racial disparities in policing reflect differences in violent crime rates. The only thing wrong with their article, and my citation of it, is that its conclusion is unacceptable in our current political climate.

This is the state of American higher education and academia today: a paper is pulled and a professor yanked because an article by a perfectly respectable (but conservative) scholar who cited the rigorously reviewed paper in the Wall Street Journal was quoted in a campus newsletter.

So much for the spirit of free and open inquiry.