Roland Fryer is a professor of economics at Harvard University. Fryer's research combines economic theory, empirical evidence, and randomized experiments to help design more effective government policies. His work on education, inequality, and race has been widely cited in media outlets and congressional testimony. Rafael Mangual is a fellow at the Manhattan Institute and head of research for its Policing and Public Safety Initiative. He is also the author of a new book, Criminal (In)Justice: What the Push for Decarceration and Depolicing Gets Wrong and Who It Hurts Most. Together, Mangual and Fryer take a close look at what is and is not working in policing and law enforcement, in some cases citing statistics and research they have personally conducted. They also make the case that most people, regardless of race or economic status, want safe neighborhoods and cities and explain why the defund movement is not popular among them.
Recorded on May 13, 2022, in Dallas, Texas.
To view the full transcript of this episode, read below:
Peter Robinson: From the website of Black Lives Matter, "Enough is enough. We call for a national defunding of police." Close quote, over the past couple of years, crime has been rising in city after city, but the time has come to spend less on cops? Two experts are about to sort that out. Roland Fryer of Harvard and Rafael Mangual of the Manhattan Institute, "Uncommon Knowledge" now. Welcome to "Uncommon Knowledge". I'm Peter Robinson. We're shooting today at the old Parkland Conference Center in Dallas. Roland Fryer grew up in Louisville, Texas, not that far from where we are right now. After his father went to prison, Fryer became a troubled teenager. Then he discovered academics and turned around. He studied at the University of Texas and Penn State, and at the age of 30 became a tenured professor at Harvard. In 2015, Roland Fryer received the John Bates Clark Medal, the award given each year to one American economist under 40. And I have friends in the profession who tell me that really within the profession. That's the one that counts, the Nobel Prize, hmm. So congratulations, Roland. A fellow at the Manhattan Institute, Rafael Mangual holds a bachelor's degree from the City University of New York and a law degree from DePaul, his first book, which will appear in July, but that is available for pre-order on Amazon right now, "Criminal Justice. What the Push for Decarceration and Depolicing Gets Wrong and Who it Hurts Most." Rafael has observed policing from a very early age. His father was an officer with the NYPD. Roland, Rafael, thank you for joining us.
Rafael Mangual: Thank you.
Peter Robinson: Okay. Two years ago in 2020, George Floyd is arrested in Minneapolis. He dies after being handcuffed and placed face down on the street. As a police officer puts his knee on Floyd's neck for more than eight minutes, the county medical examiner rules, the death a homicide resulting from a combination of Floyd's underlying health conditions, the presence of fentanyl and methamphetamine in his system. And the use of force by arresting officers. Protests in more than 150 cities with the National Guard activated in at least 20 states. And now here's a video clip, St. Louis chief of police, John Hayden on a George Floyd demonstration in his city that turned violent.
[Video Clip, John Hayden Speaking]: We had to protect our headquarters building. They were throwing fireworks on officers. Fireworks were exploding on officers. They had officers that had gas poured on them and we're trying to figure out what is going on. How could this be? Mr. Floyd was injured down and was killed somewhere else, and they're tearing up cities all across the country.
Peter Robinson: All right. There's a lot to talk about, but just in brief, what is going on, how do you explain to that chief of police, what happened in his city, Roland?
Roland Fryer: Frustrations have boiled over the issue of race and police is not new. In fact, it's part of the speech that Martin Luther King made on Washington, that none of us remember, we always remember the dream, but we don't remember that part where he talked about the issues of police brutality. These issues have been percolated in black communities for a long time decades, and what you're seeing and what you saw there is it boiling over. And I hope we get a chance to talk about what exactly those issues are, but it's frustration, deep frustration in communities.
Peter Robinson: Rafael?
Rafael Mangual: I think it's certainly deep frustration in communities, but I think it was also the result of a year's long effort to build the narrative about the institution of policing as a whole, such that when something goes wrong in Minneapolis, Minnesota, it's not seen as distinct from what's going on in your city, in Los Angeles or St. Louis or wherever you are in the country. And police critics have done a really, really good job, not just of identifying real problems, but of also convincing people that the institution is rotten to its core. And that makes it a legitimate object for attack in all sorts of otherwise unthinkable ways when you subscribe to that notion.
Peter Robinson: So I opened by quoting something from Black Lives Matter. Could we, I have the feeling you're both going to want to criticize, or at least adjust the claims on Black Lives Matter, but could I ask you to be counsel's for Black Lives Matter right now, in other words, construct the best argument you can for their positions in a couple of regards, again, from the website, the police were born out of slave patrols. We cannot reform an institution built upon white supremacy. We are calling for city, state, and federal governments to abolish policing, as we currently understand it, close quote. So the best case you can make a psychological case for that frustration dating back decades. Is there an intellectual case to be made a policy case to be made for this?
Roland Fryer: Well, I don't quite understand the policy, frankly. Like I don't exactly understand what's being-
Peter Robinson: Abolishing policing as we currently understand it.
Roland Fryer: Yeah, I think that's just folks who don't understand the importance of policing, keeping communities safe. And so I don't, I'm sorry. I don't know how to justify that.
Rafael Mangual: Yeah. I think there are certain, there are certain illnesses you can't come back from. There are certain patients you can't save that argument is one that's irredeemable.
Peter Robinson: All right. Different, but related, the so-called progressive prosecutor movement, which is what I get that phrase from "The New York Times". Apparently that's becoming the phrase, the standard phrase. Now district attorney in Los Angeles, George Gascon, the DA in San Francisco, Chesa Boudin, the DA in Philadelphia, Larry Krasner, and the new DA in your town of New York, Alvin Bragg, "The New York Times" last month, the new district attorney Alvin Bragg told prosecutors in his office that they should ask for prison time only for the most serious offenses, the crimes he instructed prosecutors to avoid seeking jail time for include certain robberies and assaults, as well as gun possession. He also directed that they no longer request prison sentences of more than 20 years absent quote, exceptional circumstances, close quote. So this, I'm a layman. I haven't lived in New York for a long, long time, but I thought broken windows and the Bratton approach of flooding the zone when there's even a small crime in the neighborhood, this is almost the opposite of that.
Roland Fryer: That's right.
Peter Robinson: Can you make a case for this? Or even explain the underlying psychology of this? What's going on? It's a big movement.
Roland Fryer: I don't wanna make a case for it, but I think this is at least more easily explainable. I think that people are looking at statistics using terms like mass incarceration, but the point is there's large racial differences in the fraction of folks who are locked up. And so black people make up whatever, 13 or 14% of the population, much more of the population in federal and state prisons. People wanna change that and who doesn't want to change that?
Peter Robinson: Right, right.
Roland Fryer: So one idea would be maybe we are prosecuting too much on crimes that aren't really harmful for society. They aren't violent crimes. This is someone coming in and, and stealing a gallon of milk, things like that. And maybe if we're soft on those crimes, that we can change those differences in who is actually in the representation in prison. You can least understand that, what they're missing is what, sorry to be talking jargon, what economists call equilibrium in the sense of how that actually influences the next stage of decision making by people who might be engaging in crime. And I come very much from the Gary Becker school of economics, where crime is a choice variable. It's like any other occupational choice. And so that's what I think that argument is missing. That when you change incentives to commit certain crimes, then the rational response from folks who are on the margin of doing that will change dramatically. They're missing that. But I do do understand that the want to do more, to have impact to lower those ratios,
Peter Robinson: That's reasonable and even commendable.
Roland Fryer: I think it's commendable. This wouldn't be my tactic, frankly, but I get the idea.
Peter Robinson: Okay, Rafael.
Roland Fryer: I agree with all of that. And I think I would add to the case that informs this kind of policy direction. There's an idea that informs this movement, this progressive prosecutor movement, that mass incarceration, that our high level of incarceration as compared to other Western European democracies is not necessarily a function of us punishing behavior that ought not be punished. You know, the John Faffs of the world have kind of acknowledged this in their work, pushing back on the new Jim Crow framework that it's the drug war non-violent offenses that are driving our incarceration rate. The vast majority of people incarcerated are involved in violent crime. And so we have to rethink now how we're going to approach even more serious offenses in order to make a difference. And the main decision makers, the focal point are prosecutors because they control who gets charged with what, on top of that, I think these progressive prosecutors genuinely believe that there is a body of research that supports this idea. They look at certain studies that identify individuals who have been treated with incarceration, who have been exposed to incarceration. And they say, well, their outcomes after incarceration are bad. Not only are they bad, but they're worse than they would have been if we didn't incarcerate.
Peter Robinson: This is the old idea that prison is college for criminals.
Rafael Mangual: That prison is criminogenic on net, in a way that outweighs the benefits that are associated with the incapacitation of offenders and with the deterrence effects. Now that is true. There is a growing body of literature that has found, for example, when you take two offenders who are on the margins of incarceration, you treat one to incarceration. You divert one from incarceration. The one who gets incarcerated does perform worse. The problem what they miss on that front is that the decision to incarcerate is almost never random. So if you want to test the effect of incarceration, you have to find a group of offenders for whom that decision is random. And they rely on these designs called random judge assignment studies. Now I'm getting into your kind of area, but basically they look for people who are engaged in sorts of offenses and have the sorts of criminal histories for whom the decision to incarcerate is going to depend, the outcome of that decision is going to depend on the leniency or severity of the judge, that judge's tendencies. And because those draws of who you get presiding over your case are random. Then we can sort of get a sense of what the effect of incarceration, right? But they're over-reading that body of literature and they're grafting it onto a broader population of offenders that are not represented by the people examined in that study. If you're looking at people on the margins of incarceration, that's not the average person that's in prisons today. That's not the average person that's in jail today. And so the risk that they pose isn't necessarily the same. And when you start over-reading that literature and applying it into a broader population, you absorb the risks that I think are obvious to us in terms of what the progressive prosecutor movement poses. And that is the risk of more crime as a result, not just of changing the decision making framework of people who see this and now make different choices to commit more offenses because they see the cost as being lower, but also crimes that are the result of our failure to incapacitate dangerous people who are going to offend if they're not incarcerated.
Peter Robinson: Okay, Roland, we'll come to your academic work in just a moment. First, what happened in New York City? I mentioned that I haven't lived in New York for a long, long time, but I did live there in 1990. And in 1990, every friend I had said, get out, don't buy here, get out, strike after strike, garbage piling up. You felt completely unsafe. Honestly, in Central Park, white people didn't go north of the reservoir. It was that kind of the subway cars were covered in graffiti. It just felt like a city that was going south. And that was dangerous as it was going south, from an article in National Review last year that you wrote with former NYPD commissioner William Bratton, quote, the declined in homicides and other violent crimes between 1990 and 2000 constitutes one of the greatest achievements in the history of urban America, close quote. You know the story in New York. How did that happen?
Rafael Mangual: In a lot of ways-
Peter Robinson: By by 2000 New York is the safest big city in America.
Rafael Mangual: Yeah. I mean, it was wild to witness. I mean, I was four years old in 1990.
Peter Robinson: Oh, thanks.
Rafael Mangual: I remember riding the train and seeing it covered in graffiti. I remember being told you don't go past this lamp post on our block. You don't do X, Y, and Z. And my parents made the decision to move us out to the suburbs that they just couldn't afford to do it for another few years. So, yeah, I mean, it was an incredible transformation now there are people on the other side of this issue who are gonna tell you that.
Peter Robinson: What I wanna know is how did that get trans? So you get Giuliani gets elected. He brings in Bratton.
Rafael Mangual: And I think even before that it starts, So Bratton comes into New York in 1990, late 1990 to take over as chief of the New York City transit police.
Peter Robinson: Got it.
Rafael Mangual: And he is tasked with cleaning up the subways, addressing the homelessness problem. There were encampments in the tunnels.
Peter Robinson: Which by the way, by then everybody had concluded. Again, I lived there. I know what people talked about. Everybody had concluded these problems were insolvable.
Rafael Mangual: That's you couldn't do anything about it.
Peter Robinson: You could not do anything about them. You could just live with it.
Rafael Mangual: That's right. It just was part of urban life.
Peter Robinson: And so how does he, does he spend more money? He applies new policing theories. He brings technology to bear. What does he do? How do they?
Rafael Mangual: All of the above, he brought more resources into the transit police and he reorganized their mission around addressing disorder in a way that communicated the value, the crime fighting value of fighting things like fare evasion, right? I think a lot of transit police officers.
Peter Robinson: So they went after the little stuff.
Rafael Mangual: A lot of transit police officers saw things like fare evasion enforcement as just a way of sort of protecting the city's revenue source. And that wasn't really real crime fighting. That wasn't being a real cop. What he showed was that when you go after the fare evaders, every once in a while, you're gonna come across somebody with a gun and that's gonna be a felony arrest. And every once in a while, you're gonna discover someone has an open warrant and that's gonna be a felony arrest. And you can actually discover really serious crime by addressing some of the small stuff. Because the reality is, is that criminals don't specialize. There's an overlap between who commits non-violent low level crime and who commits really serious crime. On top of that too, what Bratton recognized was the sort of value of the broken windows theory.
Peter Robinson: Which you better explain?
Rafael Mangual: Sure. So this is the basic idea of broken windows is when people are confronted with disorder and antisocial behavior, even low level stuff, things like littering, public urination, public drinking. When people see that in public spaces, the way that they process that psychologically is to conclude that nobody's in charge. And if nobody's in charge, then anything can happen. And if anything can happen, anything can happen to me, which means I'm not safe. What the follow on from that is, people start to avoid those public spaces in greater numbers and for more amounts of time, and those public spaces, as a result become increasingly more vulnerable to the types of criminal activity that then render them sort of destructive to the point where people say, there's nothing you can do. They throw up their hands. There's a lot of research on for example, the effect of the built environment on crime, right? Things like population density, foot traffic. That is a deterrent to criminal activity. When the environment is sending a signal that no one's in charge here, that not only pushes pro-social people out of those spaces, but it also attracts anti-social people into those spaces. So what Bratton understood was that there was actually a way to put that theory into practice and inform what police were doing in terms of how they deployed their resources and where they concentrated their enforcement efforts. And the payoff was so much bigger than what they expected.
Peter Robinson: So we get New York is turned around by 2000. And then during the Bloomberg administration, I don't know the names of the police commissioners. I only know the names of mayors. That's probably wrong. It's probably the commissioners who.
Rafael Mangual: Ray Kelly was-
Peter Robinson: Ray Kelly. Okay, so here's the question. The question is, at a level that approaches something like academic rigor, did we learn how to do policing in those years? Was there the emergence of a body of expertise, which brings in broken windows, how you send units out, how you use technology to monitor, especially difficult neighborhoods, how you send cops in quick, all of that, I'm a layman. You guys have studied this, but is it fair to say that there was a learning that took place, that there was a body of knowledge.
Rafael Mangual: It's a revolution.
Roland Fryer: New, you don't buy it at all.
Peter Robinson: Did we learn something? Yes. You said approaching academic rigor.
Roland Fryer: No.
Peter Robinson: No.
Roland Fryer: How can you possibly approach academic rigor? You mentioned seven things. There's probably 70 things. We've got one statistic, the crime rate. How could we possibly have anything approach an academic rigor with all of those things going on.
Peter Robinson: If I withdraw that phrase, will you work with me?
Roland Fryer: I'll be fine then.
Peter Robinson: Okay. So you have identified, you've named the problem. I'm trying to figure out, did we learn anything really sub, could somebody write a book about it that would be persuasive and that this went better in some cities than others, do we know why it went well in New York and didn't go as well in Chicago? What did we learn things over this last couple of decades that are replicable? That's the way to put it. I withdraw. Silly me to talk about academic rigor to a winner of that medal. I withdraw that, but did we learn enough to be useful that's replicable?
Roland Fryer: I think we've learned some best practices. I'll give you best practices. I don't know about replicable, and my colleague here is the expert on this. I think that, from my perspective, though, enough cities have tried enough things over time that we have a sense of best practices that are helpful when it comes to reducing crime. It's very complicated because as I said before, there's so many things going on, but I will defer to my colleague in terms of what those best practices actually are.
Rafael Mangual: So one, I mean, I really do think policing was revolutionized over the course in the 1990s. I don't think that's an understatement. I mean, you went from an approach that was almost completely reactive to crime. We're just gonna field 911 calls and respond to reports to, hey, we can actually do things that will prevent crime. And so one of the things that was done starting in the transit police under Bratton, and then that was taken from the transit police and brought into the NYPD when Bratton became the commissioner in 1994 was the use of data to inform police deployment strategies, right? The whole CompStat idea where police officers were actually asking, where is crime happening and down to the slightest detail at what time, on what corner? And at what point in the block, is there a business in front of which we're starting to see a cluster of these kinds of offenses, who's getting arrested for X, Y, and Z. How can we identify patterns and then inform how we're gonna deploy the very limited resources that we have in a way that they can have the biggest impact? Because the truth is that crime is both geographically and demographically concentrated in very, very predictable ways. And that's been the case for several decades.
Roland Fryer: Can I ask?
Rafael Mangual: Sure, of course.
Roland Fryer: I mean, I actually agree with all of that. The question I've always had about that is it is quite predictable, so it's not like the crime is in likely to be in Lower Manhattan on Monday and in Harlem on Tuesday. And so it feels like to me that my uncle was a veteran of the NYPD way before we had computers that were crunching numbers, he had a sense of where the crimes were. So I really want to understand what CompStat actually gave police that they didn't have already by being out in the streets and understanding crime.
Rafael Mangual: Yeah. I think, so it wasn't just a general sense of where is crime kind of clustering, but you could get a sense of at what time of day is this sort of business vulnerable to a robbery, is there a pattern that we can identify so that we can figure out that there's a crew running a certain type of crime and take them down and then make a huge impact on that. It was also really interesting way to test what local police commanders were doing to respond to crime. So before you had, yes, okay. East Harlem is generally more dangerous than Lower Manhattan, right. We knew that in 1960.
Roland Fryer: Exactly.
Rafael Mangual: But what you could do in 1995 was say, okay, you're the commander of the 23rd precinct in East Harlem. What are you doing about the robberies around this train station? You know, let's say one 116th or something like that. Police commanders say, well, I've deployed details to this place. I've increased patrols around this time, whatever, okay, well, in two weeks we're gonna get new data and we're gonna see has there been a change? And if not, then this didn't work, change your strategy. And so that was a really tangible way to hold police commanders accountable and start to sort of narrow your focus and figure out what this is.
Peter Robinson: This is kind of a big data story. And what's striking to me, is that at least in New York, I mean, it seems to me typical that government will lag the corporate sector. But in New York, they were using big data on policing. At the same time that corporate America was figuring out how to use big data. They were right there with the cutting trends in technology as best I can tell. All right, your work. Beginning in 2015, you've written, you set out to quantify racial differences in police use of force. You've written big papers on this. We have to be very brief. This is we're reducing an ox to the size of a bullion cube here, but can you just briefly for the layman, for me, and especially slow layman, Roland, can you explain the data sets and the techniques? How do you tease out the information, the findings that we're about to get to from this patchwork of records that are kept in America on crime and police work.
Roland Fryer: Well, for layman, the first thing you have to do is get off your couch and stop thinking about the police and go do ride alongs with the police so that you can understand the complexity of the job. That's a number one. And when you do that, you'll start to realize that there are data sets out here in plain view that can be used to understand really, really interesting and complex questions. So I wanted to understand the racial differences in police use of force, but not just starting at shootings. That's where the country was. I wanted to understand all the way down to being pulled over and having a police put their hands on you. And those are harder datasets to collect because if it's just in the spirit of an arrest and I put my hands on you, I put you up against the car and then put you in the back seat. Well, that's just a Monday, right?
Peter Robinson: To the police that's not-
Roland Fryer: But we were able to find a few data sets. One is what we were talking about earlier to stop and frisk dataset in New York City, where they, lot of police, civilian interactions, and they captured, uses of force that went all the way down to putting your hands on someone. There's another data set. I didn't even know about this data set until we got into this and started talking to police officers, it's called the police public contact survey, turns out every couple years, the Department of Justice calls a random set of civilians and says, did you actually interact with the police in the last 12 months? Some people say, yes, got my cat out of a tree. Isn't that the proverbial thing. Or dog out, whatever it is. And some people say, well, yeah, the police pulled me over and yelled at me. So even something as light, I don't wanna put judgment on it, but as kind of entry level, as entry level police yelled at me versus hitting me with a baton are all capturing these data sets. And so it's a series of, I kind of thought of it as sleuthing around for years. And so we captured literally millions of data points on the lower level uses of force. And then we did the hard work of going out and just talking to police officers and departments and trying to capture data on lethal uses of force. And so that we, our first data set came from here in Dallas, 300 officer involved shootings. We had data from Austin, Houston, a bunch of counties in Florida. And our big data set was from Houston where we were not only able to capture the officer involved shootings, but to able to capture shootings that could have happened but didn't. And that is the holy grail of the data.
Peter Robinson: And now we're in the realm of "Matrix" here, "Minority Report". How do you capture, I mean do take a moment to get that one through my head. How can you possibly capture something that didn't happen?
Roland Fryer: Because the shooting didn't happen, but the interaction with the police happened. And so you've gotta comb through thousands and thousands of arrest reports, right? If something is so elevated such that the police could have used lethal force, that person was arrested for something else. And so you've gotta comb through, and we did thousands and thousands of police reports to find those. And so you end up with a data set where wow, we have different racial groups and many of those shootings didn't happen. And we have some that happened. And that gives us an actual valid comparison. And I know this is not a nerd show, but I'm about to turn it into one because that is the thing that "The Washington Post" and none of these other people have, what they have is, well, we know the people who are unarmed on Thursdays and that's great, but that doesn't tell you about the thing that you need to know, which is if that person had been of a different race, what would've happened, that counterfactual is hard.
Peter Robinson: Okay, all right. So let's go through your main, I've got three big findings. And if you wanna add a fourth or adjust, it's your work, but here's the way I've compressed it. Quote, this is I'm quoting from a piece you published in "The Wall Street Journal" a couple years ago. There are large racial differences in police use of non lethal force, close quote, go ahead and explain that.
Roland Fryer: On all of those things from putting your hands on people, to hitting them with the baton and all things between there are large racial differences. So if I just look with the raw data, not capturing any context, blacks are 50% more likely when they're pulled over by the police to have some use of force put on them. Now when you're controlled for context and things like that number reduces, but it's always significant and important. The most important, I think statistic that came outta that paper on nonlethal uses of force is that even among citizens where the police themselves say this person was fully compliant, there was no contraband. There was no arrest. Blacks are still 25% more likely in those interactions to have force used in that interaction.
Peter Robinson: So if you're an African American, you just are more likely to get roughed up by the cops.
Roland Fryer: Yes.
Peter Robinson: You just are.
Roland Fryer: You just are. Even if the cop realizes you've done nothing wrong, essentially that if the interaction is in some way, a mistake or unnecessary, even if the cop realizes that, you're more likely to get roughed up.
Peter Robinson: Realizes and admits.
Roland Fryer: Folks have come, many people have criticized this work to say, oh my gosh, you used data that came from the police, what a fool you are. And I'm saying, okay, but just keep your, keep your powder dry here. If we find differences that are important and statistically significant, even when the police report them, then that should make you believe it more.
Peter Robinson: And so here we have the frustrations that you spoke about in very first segment. The very first question.
Roland Fryer: And these things matter by the way, because thousands and tens of thousands of stops are happening, right. And they are a lot more frequent than the shootings we hear. And I'm not trying to put a value judgment or rank the two, I'm just saying that these lower level uses of force are really, really important. I think they erode trust. And I think they are.
Peter Robinson: So here here's a white person sitting across from you.
Roland Fryer: Really?
Peter Robinson: And you know what, yeah, exactly. I don't know if you've noticed that, Roland. I don't wanna throw you off, but you know what? I can remember every time I got pulled over and I got pulled over for speeding and for turning on a red light and for what, there was one other, in other words, I can remember all three times I got pulled over and guess what? I got very polite treatment. And even at that, the cop was disappearing in my rear view mirror, getting back into his car. I think once I got a ticket written and twice I was able to talk my way out of it, even at that, I'm conscious that it takes a while for my heart rate to return to normal. And if we have thousands of African Americans getting roughed up, this is and you make the argument with academic rigor. Here's the other big finding. We did not find racial differences in officer involved shootings. We did not find racial differences in shootings, no matter how we analyzed the data, we found no racial differences in shootings overall in any city in particular, or in any subset of the data, close quote, these two findings do not seem to go together. Explain.
Roland Fryer: Well you've summarized those findings correctly on the lethal force. And the only way I can square them in my head is there are real disincentives for engaging in lethal uses of force. Every police officer I've ever talked to, if you start talking about lethal uses a force, they will get.
Peter Robinson: That's a line in their minds.
Roland Fryer: Almost somber. Yeah, it's a line. And they say to me, whoa, whoa, whoa, discharging your weapon is a life changing event. Even if you're fully justified, it's a life changing event, I've never met a police officer that has communicated to me that roughing up a black teenager is a life changing event. And so I think it's just that simple, the incentives, I'm an economist. So of course that's where I'm gonna go.
Peter Robinson: So we have, one of your findings is very reassuring and one of your findings is really disturbing.
Roland Fryer: Or as "The New York Times" says, one of them we knew and the other's wrong. Sorry.
Peter Robinson: I leave it to you to fight your corner, Roland. So we have a body of learning that takes place in New York and other cities. We have your findings, we know stuff. And now we come to the past few years and the increase in crime. Again, I'm quoting the article in national review that you wrote Rafael with with William Bratton in 2015, some American cities, such as Chicago, Baltimore and Philadelphia saw violence start to tick upward, others including Los Angeles, San Francisco and Portland saw public spaces fall into terrible states of disorder. Then on the heels of last year's nationwide protests sparked by the murder of George Floyd in Minneapolis, homicides and shootings exploded across the country. Okay, we come back to George Floyd in a moment, but the trouble started earlier.
Rafael Mangual: It did.
Peter Robinson: In 20, how come, what goes wrong in 2015?
Rafael Mangual: I don't think it's necessarily something that went wrong in 2015. I think 2015 is when we started to see the effects of a larger movement in a particular direction that dates back to the mid-2000s. I think as we got crime under control, by the end of the 1990s, people took a breath, took a step back and looked at the criminal justice system and started to worry that they had over-corrected in the punitive direction. And the appetite for maintaining a system of harsh treatment with respect to incarceration of aggressive policing, started to go down as crime went down because people didn't feel like it was necessary. And so the system became harder to defend. I think it was easier to say, well, hey, we had 2000 murders last year. We gotta get tough. We can worry about the other stuff later. And so from kind of 2000 onward, I think the criminal justice-
Peter Robinson: You just implied something very important there, I think, which is that policing is hard,
Rafael Mangual: Very difficult.
Peter Robinson: It's difficult to do if you're a cop and it's difficult to sustain the political will to do it if you're a politician or even a voter that's sort of a finding in itself, isn't it? And so if it begins to appear that maybe we can let up a little bit, then the political system and even the policing system does try to let up.
Rafael Mangual: That's right.
Peter Robinson: This is psychologically difficult. Alright, sorry. Go ahead. That just struck me.
Rafael Mangual: Yeah, no, I think that's exactly right. And so in the early to mid 2000s, what you started to see was the criminal justice reform movement start to gain real momentum. And some of the ideas aimed at decarceration and depolicing became more mainstream and it started to inform policy over time, 2010, 12, 13, we started to see cities, states enacting broader sentencing reform initiatives. You know, we started to see the federal government get involved in police oversight, particularly in New York with respect to stop and frisk, you started to see national litigation campaigns to push back on police practices on incarceration practices. And you started to see lawmakers in cities and states around the country refuse to support the old criminal justice system. You saw votes to oppose the building of new prisons. You saw votes not to increase funding to police departments. And so as all of that happened, we also experienced a revolution in social media that gave everybody a camera. And so all of the stories that we would hear about on the news when someone like Al Sharpton would come down on the NYPD for a controversial shooting, we now got to see in person, we now got to see in two dimensions at least. And so I think that the impact, the visceral reaction to seeing someone like Philando Castile take his final breaths, it really accelerated the sort of movement to the left, if you will, on criminal justice issues. And I think it really diminished people's tolerance for operating a system that in their minds was associated with that, with those kinds of outcomes.
Peter Robinson: Now, George Floyd, we've discussed this already, but the statistics here are important. I think I get this from "Time" magazine. There are 700, roughly 7,750 protests. Somebody counted all of these, 93% of them remain peaceful, but that leaves 500 protests that turn violent. Two statistics, and I'm quoting Heather McDonald, your colleague at the Manhattan Institute. So here's statistic one, Heather, through November 30th, 2021, 67 police officers have been feloniously murdered by criminals. A 56% increase over 2020 in the first six months of 2021 ambush assaults on officers were up 91%. It's getting to be more dangerous or it's gotten to be more dangerous to be a cop. Statistic two, in 2021, 797 homicides took place in Chicago, the highest number in a quarter of a century, almost 80% of the victims were black. So at the same time that it becomes more dangerous to become a cop. It becomes more dangerous to be an African American. And we have a catastrophe. This is two decades of knowledge, of learning how to do this suddenly undermined. So what do we do?
Roland Fryer: Well, I wanna back up a second. I think we have two decades of learnings. I agree with that, but we paid attention to the wrong thing.
Peter Robinson: Really?
Roland Fryer: Since the first viral video that I know about, which is the Rodney King video, anytime-
Peter Robinson: That was a long time, '91.
Roland Fryer: Anytime you have a situation where you go in thumping your chest, deciding you're gonna reform police in a hot moment that has gone viral. All of those situations in the last 20 years have resulted in higher crime rates, most of which are black lives. So that was true in California. It has been true in the Chicago case, Laquan McDonald or Freddie Gray in Baltimore, or Michael Brown in St. Louis. And what's happened, is that the way we investigate police departments, where we go in and we try to figure out what's going on and who's to blame for the unconstitutional policing they call it, when that happens in a hot moment where there's these viral videos, police pull back. So if you look at the amount of police civilian contact in the month before the announcement of Laquan McDonald, the investigation into Laquan McDonald and the month after 89% difference in police, civilian contact.
Peter Robinson: So you don't get better policing, you get less.
Roland Fryer: You get less. And it just happened the day of, now Laquan McDonald is interesting because that actually happened a year earlier, right? It's just, we didn't see the video until afterwards. And then they announce the investigation and police pull back and crime goes up. And if we just take outta this context, even when you go, there was a study outta Princeton on final offer arbitration. If you don't give police the wages they want in arbitration crime goes up. So we know that any time you try to do reform to police, instead of with police, we have spikes to crime. And I think that's what's actually going on. And we've known that for more than 20 years.
Peter Robinson: So what do we do now? What do we do now? What is to be done right now and who is to do it?
Roland Fryer: There's a lot of, I don't have the full answer, but the thing I would do immediately is try to lessen the issues when it comes to lower level uses of force. That is where trust is built in communities. And if you have racial-
Peter Robinson: When did your first, when did you publish your first paper?
Roland Fryer: It came out in 2018.
Peter Robinson: 2018. So it's been three and a half years. How many departments have said Dr. Far? Could we hire you as a consultant? Or how many depart police departments have responded to that and said, how do we design a program? Has there been a response to that? That's a simple question.
Roland Fryer: It's 18,000 Police departments, one, they didn't hire me either. I don't take any money from police, but one Arlington, Texas said, we gotta get better at this. We want to collect data and we want to figure out what's going on, one.
Peter Robinson: Okay. Wow, wow. To you, what do we need to do?
Rafael Mangual: I think we need to do a lot. I think we've eroded not just the incentives for police to be proactive and do the things that we know are associated with crime control and crime declines. And I think Roland's exactly right to point out that in cities like Chicago and Baltimore and Milwaukee and Philadelphia, we've seen a significant pullback on the part of police, but even if we can. And I wrote this piece in "The New York Post", even if we refund police and get them back up to the level of activity that we think is ideal for crime control in the last several years, if not more than a decade, we have also begun to erode the criminal justice system around police. And so those efforts are no longer backed up in the same way.
Peter Robinson: So the progressive prosecutor progressive DA movement is part of this.
Rafael Mangual: I think so. I think so, not just the progressive DA movement, but also the reform movement more broadly in so far as it seeks to increase the rate at which parole is granted at earlier times at, in so far as it seeks to lower the number of multi-year sentences handed down for certain offenses. And so we're also experiencing a huge failure to incapacitate dangerous people. So when you read the news and you hear, or and you see the story about a heinous homicide, almost invariably, it turns out that the perpetrator, if there's an arrest made, had 12 prior arrests, 15 prior arrests, multiple prior convictions, had an active criminal justice status, was out on parole, was out on probation or out pending with a pending case. I think bail reforms also been, a part of this and it's not something that's unique to New York or any one city in America. This has been a national movement. And so I think we have to open our minds to the possibility that it's not just policing, but it's criminal justice more broadly.
Peter Robinson: So I'm trying, by the way, Roland, I don't know why I'm so slow that I didn't ask this pretty obvious question. Is there a difference in that lower level, the non contact before somebody pulls a gun? Is there a difference if the police, if it's black on black, if the cop is black?
Roland Fryer: No, zero.
Peter Robinson: Zero difference.
Roland Fryer: No difference. No difference. There's no difference in there.
Peter Robinson: This, I just, how do we explain that? So that's not racism exactly. It's cops versus what is in the cop's head? Why do they?
Roland Fryer: I don't, I don't know what it is. I wouldn't rule out different types of discrimination, could be statistical. It's a stereotype, they're worried, et cetera.
Peter Robinson: I mean, the counter argument would be, we know that young black men, in particular, in inner cities, young black men are disproportionately criminal, or I don't quite know the right way to put it. And so being more, being readier to manhandle those guys is rational, or at least it's responding to patterns. Is there anything, you must have tested for that.
Roland Fryer: No, and that's why I emphasize the result about compliance because if the person is doing all of what you've asked them to do, then we should be treating people the same. And we're not. I want go back to one thing.
Peter Robinson: Please.
Roland Fryer: Which is that I'm gonna put a number on it, for the investigations into the three lives lost of Freddie Gray, Laquan McDonald and Michael Brown, and that's tragic. But the investigations into that, we estimate led to a thousand excess murders in those cities. Most of those are black lives. And so this is, I'm just super passion about-
Peter Robinson: St. Louis or Baltimore?
Roland Fryer: St. Louis, or Ferguson, St. Louis, Baltimore and Chicago.
Peter Robinson: Chicago.
Roland Fryer: This is for me, there's nothing more important I'm working on in this, because just as he said, I think it's the entire criminal justice system, but this particular piece we can do something about, and you can't, I don't think you can approach officers about the shootings or communities until we fix this lower level use of force, because that will, that's a starting point right now. If you go to a police officer and say, well, I want you to hold your fire a little bit more for these people, what are you talking about? I wanna get home to my family. But when it comes to the lower level uses of force where people are compliant, isn't that a place we could start? And then we start to build trust. And then when there's shootings that are more complicated, then at least we can have a conversation because we're starting from a base where we trust each other more.
Peter Robinson: And how do you do that? If one department out of 18,000 got in touch with you and said, pretty interesting findings, we'd like to do something about it.
Roland Fryer: That is my biggest frustration. You know, after my paper was published, seven days later, I got an urgent message. I had to go to the White House and I met with Obama for five hours and we got nothing done. So I don't know the answer. I'm very frustrated.
Peter Robinson: Listen, we'll come back in just a moment to sort of summary questions here, but I also want to ask about the role of journalism. And here's a piece, there's a journalist called Zach Kreidman who wrote a piece on Barry Weiss's Substack Common sense, this appeared the day before yesterday, I noticed it. And here's the headline. I Zach Kreidman, I criticized BLM, then I was fired. He writes that Reuters, typical story at Reuters referred to, and he's quoting a Reuters story, a wave of killings of African Americans by police using unjustified lethal force, close quote, despite any statistical evidence that such a wave ever took place. And by the way, this guy is in the data end of journalism. He's analyzing statistics and data. Now this will take a moment to read, but I think it's worth it, again, this is someone called Zach Kreidman, all this left me deeply unsettled. I started writing a post about the disconnect between what we, Reuters, thought was true, and what was actually happening. I pointed out that there had been zero properly designed studies, refuting Roland Fryer's findings. And I noted that a growing number of criminologists now believed that the false rhetoric around police bias had played a key role in the recent spike in violent crime. This suggested that the BLM lie, his terms lie, had led to the murder of thousands of black people. I included in his note, the post that he's writing this striking statistic, on an average year 18 unarmed black people and 26 unarmed white people are shot by police. By contrast, roughly 10,000 black people are murdered annually by criminals in their own neighborhoods, close quote. He then writes that he received abuse emails from his colleagues within Reuters. Quote, so I sent an email to colleagues and company leadership. Three days later, I was fired, close quote. I don't even know what to do with that. If your work, if the truth, if just the simple journalistic impulse to check the story is subsumed under this urge to declare a narrative. Even when that narrative is costing lives. I'm just toss that to you. You publish all the time. You published an academic journals. This man is in "The New York Post" and "The Wall Street Journal" all the time. How did this happen to American journalism?
Rafael Mangual: I think it's probably more complicated than the answer I'm gonna offer. But I think journalism schools, like a lot of educational institutions have lurched leftward over the last several decades. And so incoming young journalists are sort of brought up in a world in which you have to subscribe to certain ideas because there's peer pressure to do that. This is what your professors believe. And so it's not crazy to me, that people working at organizations like Reuters or "The New York Times" see themselves as journalists second, and allies and activists first. And so it's not only that there hasn't been a paper of equal rigor, refuting Roland's work. There's also just a miscommunication about the basic statistics about things like police use of force, right? I mean I estimated in a law review article in 2020 that police fired their weapons purposefully a little over 3000 times in 2018. It's like eight times a day, which sounds like an enormous amount. But whenever numbers like that are reported, they're never reported with the proper context. Like for example, that there were 680 something thousand police officers in the United States that year, they made 10.3 million arrests. They had contact with more than 61 million people, many of the multiple times, meaning we're talking over 70 million contacts. So even if you assume that every one of those 3000 some odd shootings was committed by a separate officer in 2018, in the context of a separate arrest, you're still talking about police using their weapons in 0.03% of all arrests, that always gets left out. Even when non-lethal force is discussed, you're still talking about less than 1% of arrests. And so there is a major, major failure in some of America's most important institutions. And that is to tell the truth without an eye toward influencing the public debate in a particular direction.
Peter Robinson: All right, summary questions here. This is TV. So I have to be, you unnerve me because I used that academic rigor and you threw it right back in my face. So this is not academic rigor. This is TV. I'll admit that right now, two questions, and they both have to do with how confident are you, how optimistic are you, question one that we know between your work and what we've learned, what we learned during the good days when things are going well in New York and other big cities, do we know what needs to be done by the way, so presumably the kinds of training that you'd need to institute to correct the problem of lower level use of force, that's like setting up any other kind of training program. There are fits and starts. There are experiments. Some, this is a wonderful thing when it works well without having 18,000 departments, some departments will figure it out pretty quickly and be able, right? So are you confident that we know what needs to be done, and we even know where to start. Question one, and then question two is, but what about your confidence that we'll do it, that there's the political will to get it done? Rafael?
Rafael Mangual: I'm confident. I'm confident that there is a general direction that we've identified in which we need to move. I'm not particularly confident that we know how to generate the results that we want reliably. And at scale, with respect to performing police in the criminal justice system more broadly, I am confident that we have a better idea of a particular set of policies that we need to enact and put into practice in order to control crime. I am not confident, however that we have the political will to do the latter. At least not for another few years, unfortunately.
Peter Robinson: The new mayor of New York, Eric Adams, former cop, you're not confident?
Rafael Mangual: I think that Mayor Adams is saying a lot of the right things and wants to do a lot of the right things. And I think he is learning that he is running up against a broader system. And the people in charge of that system are not inclined to change it any time soon. And so if you look back at the history of New York, he had 2,262 murders in 1990, in 1993 Giuliani won running on an anti-crime platform by the skin of his teeth.
Peter Robinson: Roland?
Roland Fryer: I am confident that we have enough to get started, right? There's enough common sense things that we can do in terms of working with police to ensure that our streets are safe and not or, that we can reduce racial differences in the lower level uses of force. I feel optimistic even that there are enough of us out here, this story of the Reuters reporter, just it breaks my heart because, but my response is we have to keep fighting. This is a war against those who don't want the truth. And there's enough people here with us in Dallas and in other places that are including myself that are willing to die on that hill, because what else are we doing? And I have zero confidence that there is the political will to do real change. And so that I'd love to be wrong about that. But I think that until we have enough truth tellers, until we decide that that Black Lives Matter is not just a slogan, but that we actually wanna save lives in the inner city. We're not gonna get much done.
Peter Robinson: Rafael Mangual of the Manhattan Institute, Roland Fryer of Harvard, thank you very much. By the way, Rafael Mangual, author of the forthcoming book, "Criminal Injustice".
Rafael Mangual: Thank you.
Peter Robinson: For "Uncommon Knowledge", the Hoover Institution and Fox Nation shooting today from the old Parkland Center in Dallas. I'm Peter Robinson.