“Police Kill Unarmed Black Men Every 28 Hours” Comment Debunked As Pseudo Research

Ron Martinelli, Ph.D.

Forensic Criminologist/Police Practices Expert

Copyright © 09-14-15


While appearing as a guest expert on FOX NEWS’s “Black Lives Matter” special with host Megyn Kelley, two of the Black Lives Matter (BLM) activists who were discussing the issue of excessive force by police upon black suspects casually tossed out the comment that “Every 28 hours, unarmed black men are killed by police.” As one who directs a team of homicide investigators and forensic scientists who specialize in officer-involved death cases and conduct research on this subject, I was keenly aware that the comment was false. However, I was amazed that I was the only law enforcement professional present who had actually researched the subject to know this was so.

Having researched and recently written about both the Black Lives Matter movement and the actual statistics of black suspects dying during police encounters nationwide, I have been disappointed by the mainstream media’s and the public’s ignorance that the “Every 28 hours” comment is simply one of several false narratives consistently presented as a “fact” whenever members of the BLM movement, other anti-police activist groups, or their liberal mouthpieces appear at protest marches or on TV. To my knowledge, no one in the media has challenged this comment. This perpetuates this blatant falsehood. Here is the documented history of this comment.

Following the now infamous officer-involved shooting death of strong-arm robbery suspect and police assailant Michael Brown by Officer Wilson in Ferguson, MO; during an August 20, 2014 television debate on CNN between black conservative talk show host Larry Elder and liberal New York black professor Marc Lamont Hill, Professor Hill commented that, “Every 28 hours an unarmed black person is killed by police.” When challenged by a Fact Check reporter one week later, Professor Hill recanted his statement, conceding that it was “incorrect.” However, Hill’s erroneous factoid went viral over the Internet and unfortunately remains with us to this day. So where did Professor Hill and others pick up the “Every 28 hours” comment?

The false comment actually comes from a writer identified as Arlene Eisen who produced a report in April 2013 entitled, “Operation Ghetto Storm,” which was then published by the activist and militant Malcolm X Grassroots Movement. Ms. Eisen, who has no knowledge or skills as a scientific, forensic researcher conducted her own limited “research” into the deaths of 313 black men, women and children who were killed in 2012. To obtain the figure of a black person’s death “every 28 hours,” Ms. Eisen simply divided the number of hours in a year (8,760) by the her number of black deaths (313). Well, there you go. Ms. Eisen created an instant and provocative statistic that seems to resonate with black and liberal anti-police activists like members of the BLM movement. The only problem is that Ms. Eisen is a self-appointed pseudo researcher whose “research” and report were extremely biased and scientifically flawed.

Ms. Eisen authored her report and put it out on the Internet as “#Every28hours,” which has generated tremendous interest. However, it is important that people and the media who freely toss out this statistically false factoid know the following. Ms. Eisen’s report did not deal solely with police-involved deaths of black men. Her report admittedly included black men, women and teens being killed during encounters with off-duty police officers working private security jobs, non-sworn civilian private security guards, and private citizens. According to police reports and media accounts, all of these individuals claimed to have shot their assailants in circumstances of self-defense.

The inclusivity of off-duty police and non-sworn civilians most certainly skews the statistical reliability of a report that purports to address the officer-involved deaths of “unarmed black men.” To make matters worse, Ms. Eisen even included cases of accidental discharges of firearms when there was absolutely no intent of the armed person to fire their weapon at anyone. One such case was a woman who was shot by an accidental discharge when she had hugged an armed, off-duty police officer from behind during a party. Just what kind of “research” is this?

In an article Ms. Eisen wrote in September, 2013, she attempted to justify her research by stating that the intent of her report was,

“To prevent future extrajudicial killings of black people by those paid or sanctioned (security guards and private citizen “vigilantes”) by the national security state. It is important to know that these killings are a result of the perpetual war on black people.”

Does anyone besides me see a personal, inherent, emotional and political research bias here?

When Fact Checker reporter(s) challenged Ms. Eisen’s research methodology, she conceded that while including non-police related shootings did not necessarily fit her personal theory that there is a police “war against black people.” However, reporter Michelle Ye Hee Lee reports that Eisen continues to insist that her study “does point out that there is a systemic problem of law enforcement and “other extrajudicial killers” using excessive force that is justifiable by law.”

When interviewed by Fact Checker reporter(s), pseudo-researcher Arlene Eisen conceded that the figures and statistics in her report were not accurate. She concludes, “I don’t believe that the burden should be on me to prove that it’s (her statistics) an accurate list. I’m saying it’s not accurate. If you want a full count, you should demand it from the Department of Justice.”

In summary, it is truly both unfortunate and disappointing that the mainstream media and the general public allow themselves to be spoon fed by biased and self-serving report authors like Arlene Eisen. The tragedy here is that if Ms. Eisen had followed her own advice and conducted ethical, scientific research of the most accurate and publically available statistics on police-involved death cases from the U.S. Department of Justice, the National Institute of Justice and the FBI; her now infamous and blatantly false assertion that “Every 28 hours police kill unarmed black men” would never have become an anti-police rallying cry for the Black Lives Matter movement and other misinformed anti-police activists. Hopefully, this article appropriately puts an end to this false narrative; as well as Ms. Eisen’s career as a socio-criminal researcher.

It is my hope that the media, ethical professionals and private citizens wishing to move a more productive conversation forward on the subject of police – community relations will conduct their own due diligence on the readily available statistics I have mentioned. You can also read  my most recent article entitled, “Police Officers Disproportionally Killing Black Men – Another False Narrative,” that includes accurate statistics and links to those government research sites found at http://www.DrRonMartinelli.com.

About the Author

Ron Martinelli, Ph.D., CMI-V, BCFT, CFA, is a nationally recognized forensic criminologist and Certified Medical Investigator who directs the nation’s only civilian multidisciplinary Forensic Death Investigations & Independent Review Team. Dr. Martinelli specializes in officer-involved shootings and in-custody death investigations and has personally investigated over 200 such incidents nationwide. Visit his site at www.DrRonMartinelli to read more.

Article References




“An unarmed black person is shot ‘every 28 hours’ says Marc Lamont Hill,” Sanders, Katie,          © 08-26-14, After the Fact

“The viral claim that a black person is killed by police ‘every 28 hours’,” Ye Hee Lee, Michelle,   © 12-24-14, FactChecker.com

“1 Black Man is Killed Every 28 Hours by Police or Vigilantes: America is Perpetually at War with its Own People,” Hudson, Adam, © 05-28-13, Alternet.org