A tale of two studies

A tale of two studies

There are three kinds of lies: Lies, Damned Lies, and Statistics. – Mark Twain

Statistics can be a powerful tool – just ask any sports bettor – but as Mr. Twain so wisely mused, those numbers can be easily twisted to the benefit of the twister. Here’s a perfect example.

One analyst might say that Mets’ first baseman Pete Alonzo failed to get a hit in 73 percent of his plate appearances, he struck out almost once in every four at bats, and he grounded into 17 inning killing double plays. When framed that way, you probably wouldn’t want Mr. Alonso on your fantasy team, would you?

Our intrepid statistician may have been telling the truth, but a more thorough analyst might correctly note that Alonso walked so much he owned a National League 10th best 35.2 percent on-base percentage, his 40 homeruns were good for second in the NL, and he was the kind of clutch hitter that drove in a Major League leading 131 runs.

Now, you might want to take Mr. Alonso with your first fantasy draft pick.

And this is exactly the kind of stilted statistical “interpretation” that’s befallen the Elgin Police Department. And it came in the form of a non-profit Center for Policing Equity study which concluded that 36 percent of all EPD use-of-force scenarios involved blacks, despite Elgin being just 5.5 percent black.

Of course, anyone with a third-grade education knew that wasn’t the case. The EPD may not be perfect, but they’re not that not perfect, either. If that 36 percent number were true, social media would be flooded with inflammatory body camera videos and the street clashes would make the George Floyd protests look tame by comparison

Since she similarly suspected something was amiss, EPD Chief Ana Lalley commissioned a second study by Northern Illinois University Consulting Services, who completely contradicted the first one. The NIU group found “there is no evidence that the races of people involved in use of force incidents are not equally distributed.”

So, why did the NIU iteration arrive at such a profoundly different conclusion? Because, as we regularly discuss here, nothing happens in a vacuum. Unlike the worthless CPE exercise, their study applied 19 separate variables to the statistical process including, time of day, day of the week, gender, race, age, gang affiliation, intoxication level, and the presence of a weapon.

EPD crime analyst Ron Drake, who shares my keen perception of the obvious, told the press that “The fact that someone’s intoxicated or armed will greatly influence an officer’s response to that particular situation.” Yes it would!

Aside from the apparent absurdity of the CPE numbers, why did Chief Lalley ask for a second study? Because the CPE promised to provide a “deep analysis,” but then they submitted nothing but a “broad overview.” And after the Chief asked them to explain their methodology, the CPE promptly proceeded to ghost her which is always a red flag.

The most egregious example of their bias is they counted each use of force within the same incident as a separate case. So, if officers were forced to use an arm restraint, proceed to a full body restraint, and finally apply the Taser during the same DUI stop, the CPE counted it as three independent uses-of-force, which any reasonable person will tell you is pure unadulterated horse manure.

Once they were caught with their pants down, CPE founder Phillip Goff blamed everyone else for his organization’s blatant agenda right down to accusing the EPD of racism. Then he took his football and went home, refusing to further cooperate with the city.

And people have the nerve to say that I have a middle school mentality.

I won’t lend those charges any credence to by repeating them here, but Chief Lalley denied the racism accusation, and I believe her, because no EPD commander would be stupid enough to say something like that out loud. With their “methodologies” fully exposed, the CPE has made it clear they’re just another overly “woke” non-profit that’s not afraid to promote their brand of progressivism in place of the truth. And they certainly seem to think that the best defense is a good offense, too.

Ah! But despite that stark reality, the Elgin city council’s “woke” Gang of Four did their best to justify the CPE’s results.

Councilman Corey Dixon said he “wasn’t sure which study should guide the city.” That would be a tough choice, Corey! Do you go with the one that artificially inflates the EPD’s use-of-force numbers, but aligns with your pandering propensities, or do you work with the study that tells the whole story but doesn’t help you get reelected?

Councilwoman Carol Rauschenberger added that “something could be learned by viewing all the data presented.” Really Carol? Please explain what you or anyone could possibly learn from an outright statistical lie from a company that abandoned the city the second their results were mildly questioned?

Though I’ve always admired her capacity for diplomacy, Chief Lalley was also incorrect when she told a WRMN audience that “both reports were right.” No, they weren’t! Elgin Mayor Dave Kaptain was far more accurate when he told the same listeners he’ll put a lot more stock in the NIU study.

Let’s also stipulate that, while NIU isn’t as bad as an Oberlin or Berkeley, it ain’t exactly a hotbed of Republican conservative thinking, either. And the fact that that potential bias didn’t rear its ugly head should inspire far more confidence in their results.

But Chief Lalley was dead on when she added that everyone, including the Elgin Police Department, is capable of improvement. Though, I would argue that kind of progress requires a basis in truth and fact and not some sort of politically partisan fiction.

The real problem is that a questionable study like the CPE’s only serves to erode confidence in that process, which works against any real improvement. So, as far as Mr. Goff and CPE pouting and running home, my philosophical sentiment would run along the lines of “Don’t let the screen door hitcha where the good Lord splitcha.”

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