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How paid experts help exonerate police after deaths in custody [NYT]

Social epidemiologist Justin Feldman ’11 brings his acumen to a New York Times article about police violence.

There is a self-reinforcing ecosystem of the people who advise, train, and defend officers. Many, including Feldman, accuse them of slanting science and perpetuating aggressive tactics. 

Justin Feldman, ScD ’07Justin Feldman, ScD ’07Often-cited studies claim that police restraint techniques are safe. However, they have been challenged by some scholars and physicians because they are based on controlled conditions that are unlike real life, said Justin Feldman, a social epidemiologist at Harvard University who studies patterns of deaths in law enforcement custody.

“There’s a fundamental problem in terms of study design,” he said. “They’re not using people with more severe mental and physical disabilities. They’re not doing it with people who have taken drugs. When they’re testing Tasers, they aren’t using them as many times as you might see in some deaths.”

When their studies appeared in peer-reviewed publications, the network of experts acknowledged that their work had limitations. But when discussing the research in court, or during trainings and elsewhere, some of them used more expansive language, did not mention conflicting work, or said they had fully refuted scholars who disagreed.

Read more…