CNN's Avlon Misleadingly Hints Most Police Shooting Victims Are Black

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Presenting another of his misleading "Reality Check" segments on New Day, CNN analyst John Avlon portrayed questionable police shootings as if they were a primarily racial issue, and deceptively gave the impression that most of the nearly 1,000 suspects who are killed by police actions each year are black even though the number is actually only a portion of that.

Earlier in the hour, the show had covered recent news involving violent police actions against black suspects -- including the Derick Chauvin trial in Minnesota, the shooting of Daunte Wright also in Minnesota, and the aggressive treatment of Caron Nazario in Virginia. Toward the end of the 7:00 a.m. hour, the topic of police violence was revisited.

Co-host John Berman set up the piece: "So the killing of Daunte Wright has reignited calls from some progressive members of Congress to defund or outright dismantle policing in America. Is that the right pathway to reform? John Avlon here with a 'Reality Check.'"

Avlon immediately played up the race angle as he began: "There's an overdue reckoning over the killings of young black men by police, and there's majority support for significant police reform." After admonishing far-left Democrats for talking up abolishing policing, noting that most black Americans want more policing, he recalled five cases of African Americans who were killed by cops under questionable circumstances, showing their images on screen.

He soon cited crime statistics from the FBI and other sources suggesting that blacks are stopped or arrested by cops over minor offenses at an unfairly high rate, making up about 30 percent of suspects.

Nearing the conclusion of the three-minute segment, Avlon cited the Washington Post's statistics on police shootings (which are tracked in a frequently updated database that can be accessed online), noting that there had been 991 deadly police shootings over the previous year. But he didn't bother to give any details on how many of the suspects involved were black, as he had done with arrests earlier in the segment.

He also tried to downplay recent surges in violent crime as he recalled:

Good people can disagree on the details, but we need to agree on the facts -- like the fact that 991 people have been shot and killed by the police over the past year, according to the Washington Post. We also need to recognize that despite some fear-fueled appeals, violent crime and property crime have plummeted since the 1990s.

In fact, only about 25 percent of police shooting victims are black, which is not disproportionately high when compared to crime patterns as reported by the Barack Obama administration.

Complete transcript follows:

CNN

New Day

April 15, 2021

7:56 a.m. Eastern

JOHN BERMAN: So the killing of Daunte Wright has reignited calls from some progressive members of Congress to defund or outright dismantle policing in America. Is that the right pathway to reform? John Avlon here with a "Reality Check."

JOHN AVLON: There's an overdue reckoning over the killings of young black men by police, and there's majority support for significant police reform. But there are also strident slogans from politicians that don't help at all -- like Congresswoman Rashida Tlaib's tweet earlier this week calling for no more policing. Let's be clear. This is a terrible idea as a matter of politics and practicality. It's an extension of the call to defund the police, which Donald Trump used as a cudgel to hit Democrats in the last election despite Joe Biden's disavowal. 

Many defenders essentially say that "defund the police" should be taken seriously but not literally. After the Trump presidency, I thought that we agreed that words matter. It doesn't even represent the community it seeks to serve. A Gallup poll from August of 2020 found that 80 percent of black Americans want to keep or even increase the amount of police in their neighborhoods. 

The real issue is what kind of policing they're receiving. Considering the alleged minor offenses that led to high-profile killings by police in recent years -- Daunte Wright pulled over for expired plates; George Floyd for a counterfeit $20 bill; Walter Scott pulled over for a broken taillight; Eric Garner for selling loose cigarettes; Alton Sterling for selling CDs. And these are just a few examples. According to FBI statistics, black Americans made up 30 percent of arrests for curfew violations or loitering -- 29 percent of gambling arrests in 2019 -- while local studies show they're far more likely to be arrested for jaywalking. So much for former AG Bill Barr's insistence that there isn't systemic racism in police departments.

This needs to change, but gutting or cutting police departments is not going to achieve some utopia. It will do the opposite. Instead, there needs to be significant retraining and reform. Cops need to focus on de-escalating situations and decriminalizing some victimless misdemeanors to reduce causes of conflict. It helps that some 27 states have decriminalized or even legalized recreational marijuana, considering that black Americans are arrested more than three times as much as whites for possession despite equal usage rates.

In 2020, Republican Senator Tim Scott proposed a bill to require reporting standards for use of force and no-knock warrants. Democrats said it didn't go far enough and proposed a ban on choke holds and racial profiling, a limit on military transfers of equipment to police, and eliminating qualified immunity, which protects officers from lawsuits when they violate a citizen's constitutional rights.

Good people can disagree on the details, but we need to agree on the facts -- like the fact that 991 people have been shot and killed by the police over the past year, according to the Washington Post. We also need to recognize that despite some fear-fueled appeals, violent crime and property crime have plummeted since the 1990s.

Finally, we should not fall into the trap of demonizing all police officers who do a necessary, difficult, dangerous, and often thankless job. We can support the vast majority of good cops while insisting on holding bad cops more accountable and invest in changing the culture that has led us to this crisis of confidence and the basic promise of equal justice under the law. And that's your "Reality Check."

MRC Merch

MRC Merch