Name The Human Decision-Making Process Which Claims a Low 0.25% Error Rate

Give up?  It's Chicago Police shooting people.  Despite the fact that the decisions must be made by folks who likely have no past experience or practice in making such decisions, Chicago claims its police officers have one of the lowest error rates of any known human decision-making process

Chicago's Independent Police Review Authority (IPRA) has conducted investigations of close to 400 police shootings of citizens and has found just one to have been unjustified.

Of course, it could be that the process is far more error-prone, but that the people tasked with declaring any shooting in error are the exact same people who have an interest in never admitting an error.  Also, it could be because anyone who does label a shooting as an error gets fired:

That little factoid comes from Chicago public radio station WBEZ as some background context for the news that Lorenzo Davis, a supervising investigator for IPRA, had been fired earlier in July.

Davis isn't going out quietly. WBEZ interviewedthe man, a former Chicago police officer himself who retired in 2004. Davis is saying that the reason why he was fired is because he insisted that several recent police shootings were unjustified and would not comply with orders to change his findings. Performance evaluations indicated everybody thought Davis' work was just great until recently.


  1. SamWah:

    As Gomer Pyle used to say, "Surprahz, surprahz."

  2. Dan Wendlick:

    Two possibilities could drive that error rate so low: either an expansive definition of "justified" that would allow virtually any conduct to go unpunished, or else a high Type II error rate, where the police officer had justification but did not shoot. I suspect it's actually a combination of both of these factors at play.

  3. Matthew Slyfield:

    Go read this, , then come back an tell me you still think "a high Type II error rate, where the police officer had justification but did not shoot" is a significant factor.

    Chicago's IPRA just fired one of their top investigators for refusing to change reports that found shootings unjustified to say that the shootings were justified.

  4. xtmar:

    Should I stay away from the bear? Y/N

  5. morganovich:

    bigger failure rate than one might expect.

    "bear selfies" have apparently become a thing.

  6. mesaeconoguy:

    On the flip side, the only human decision processes with 100% error rates are (Krugman) stimulus spending increases, and education spending.

  7. Craig Loehle:

    People do NOT like to admit they were wrong. This causes loss of face. The higher the stakes the less likely they are to back down. In wars this leads to catastrophic defeats instead of retreat (think Hitler and Stalingrad). I have seen people refuse to admit something they said is absolutely absurd and impossible. Examples abound in the school system like the "pointing a finger and saying bang" expulsion cases.
    Evidently it is now illegal to run from police or to talk back or to be drunk or carry cash or have a medical emergency or be deaf or be unable to walk well--all can get you beat up or killed. But never ever admit you were wrong.

  8. earthtone55:

    Occam's razor. Those in charge of deciding which shootings are or aren't justified or not have an extremely strong incentive to claim every shooting is "justified". So they do.

    If they don't, suddenly THEY personally get in trouble (as this article points out), the cops responsible for the shootings get in trouble, their respective departments get in trouble, the city gets in trouble.

    Yes, that's bad, but as we've seen from (for example) from Ferguson, even one "bad" shooting can cause SERIOUS problems not just for the individual cop pulling the trigger, but for the entire city. . . and that's despite the fact that the shooting in question almost certainly *WAS* justified. So its not entirely out of personal or even police self-interest that "bad" shootings are almost always "sanitized".

  9. ubik:

    Hmm, cooked stats by the government.
    The Wire showed it better than anything else I have seen. The law of unintended consequences and getting the numbers right.