How a Harvard professor screwed up: Research found no racial bias in police shootings

by WorldTribune Staff, March 6, 2024

In 2016, Harvard Economics Professor Roland Fryer published a study which showed there were “no racial differences in officer involved-shootings.”

In a matter of days after the study was published, the professor said “All hell broke loose.”

Roland Fryer / Video Image

People were “losing their minds when they didn’t like the result,” Fryer said in an interview last month with Bari Weiss of The Free Press.

“I lived under police protection for about 30 to 40 days,” he said, adding, “I had a seven-day-old daughter at the time…I was going to the grocery store to get diapers with an armed guard.”

Fryer’s study found that police were more than two times more likely to use physical force, such as manhandling or beating, against black and Hispanic individuals compared to people from other races. On the other hand, the study also revealed that police were 23.8% less inclined to use firearms against black individuals and 8.5% less inclined to do so against Hispanic individuals, compared to whites.

Fryer is the author of more than 50 papers—on topics ranging from “the economic consequences of distinctively black names” to “racial differences in police shootings.” At 30, he became the youngest black tenured professor in Harvard’s history.

At 34, he won a MacArthur Genius Fellowship, followed by a John Bates Clark Medal, which is given to an economist in America under 40 who is judged to have made the most significant contribution to economic thought and knowledge.

Fryer told Weiss the shooting of Michael Brown in Ferguson, Missouri, in 2014 is how he initially became interested in the topic. He expected the study to find evidence of bias in police shootings.

The biggest conclusion from the study: “Yet, on the most extreme use of force – officer-involved shootings – we are unable to detect any racial differences in either the raw data or when accounting for controls.”

At the time, leftists had warned Fryer not to publish the study. Some said it would ruin his career.

In 2019, Claudine Gay, who was Harvard’s dean at the time, placed him on a two-year leave for alleged sexual harassment.

(See Weiss’s full interview with Fryer here.)

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