Black Harvard Professor Who Denied Racial Bias in Police Shootings Is Under Investigation for Sexual Misconduct

Roland Fryer
Roland Fryer (Courtesy of Harvard via DiversityInc)
Roland Fryer, whose research claims racism in police shootings is a myth, among other things, is under investigation for creating a “hostile” work environment and objectifying women, according to The Harvard Crimson.

Fryer, a professor of economics at the university, “has been barred by University officials from setting foot in the research lab he heads,” The Crimson reported. He reportedly committed “‘egregious’ acts of verbal sexual harassment.” The university as well as the Massachusetts Commission Against Discrimination (MCAD) are separately investigating.

In July 2016 Fryer posted a paper titled “An Empirical Analysis of Racial Differences in Police Use of Force.” In summary, the research found that “a fraction of [police officers] have a preference for discrimination.”

“… very little data exists to understand whether racial disparities in police use of force exist or might be explained by situational factors inherent in the complexity of police-civilian interactions,” Fryer wrote.

Criticism has surrounded Fryer’s research since the moment it was publicized. Perhaps the biggest error of all came from The New York Times, which wrote an article about the findings. The report was a working paper and was not peer-reviewed, but the Times called it a “Harvard study.”

Some of the paper’s other shortcomings also include:

  • It relies on police reports. Fryer’s research cites evidence written by police officers who were involved in the shootings in question. The Washington Post explained, “The argument here is not that there’s something uniquely untrustworthy about cops. The argument is that almost every police officer who has just shot and killed someone will defend his or her decision to kill.”
  • The data focuses on a very limited sample. The study used police report information from just 10 police departments in three states: California, Texas and Florida.
  • It does not address that Blacks are more likely to be stopped by police in the first place. If Blacks were not subjected to stops and unlawful searches and seizures more often than whites to begin with, many shootings that turned deadly could have been avoided altogether. “Mr. Fryer emphasizes that the work is not the definitive analysis of police shootings, and that more data would be needed to understand the country as a whole. This work focused only on what happens once the police have stopped civilians, not on the risk of being stopped at all. Other research has shown that blacks are more likely to be stopped by the police,” the Times explained.
  • It admits to using data that is not “ideal.” Fryer’s paper indicates its own drawbacks almost from the get-go: “We use four sources of data — none ideal — which together paint an empirical portrait of racial differences in police use of force conditional on an interaction. … NYC’s Stop and Frisk program and the Police-Public Contact Survey … event summaries of officer-involved shootings in ten locations across the US, and data on interactions between civilians and police in Houston, Texas.” Notably, the study cites New York data even though none of the police departments that gave reports are located in New York.

Boston-based attorneys Monica R. Shah and Naomi R. Shatz are representing the woman who filed the complaint against Fryer, who vehemently denied any accusations against him.

According to The Crimson, the lawyers stated that the unidentified victim complained about Fryer to the university about a year ago. Her complaint did not fall on deaf ears — in fact, the victim said she was retaliated against for her allegations.

“Our client found that when the object of her complaint was a star faculty member, [Harvard’s workplace discrimination and sexual harassment] policies were not enforced,” according to Shah and Shatz.

The fear of retaliation is real, and evidence supports this claim. The Equal Employment Opportunity Commission (EEOC) reported in 2016: “One 2003 study found that 75% of employees who spoke out against workplace mistreatment faced some form of retaliation.”

According to a statement from the victim’s lawyers, sent to The Crimson, “[Fryer] frequently discussed sex in the workplace, made sexually inappropriate comments to and about employees and others, and objectified and sexualized women, including his staff.”

The attorneys also cited the university’s “two-tiered system of justice: one for high profile faculty members and the other for the rank and file.”

Different treatment for people in positions of power when it comes to sexual harassment came to a head last year when disgraced Hollywood producer Harvey Weinstein was accused of heinous acts from sexual harassment to rape.

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