Harvard Professor needed armed protection after publishing research that challenged woke orthodoxies

Harvard professor Roland Fryer has revealed he faced threats from woke activists and had to get armed security after publishing a study showing no racial bias in police-involved shootings

Harvard professor Roland Fryer, who at age 30 became the youngest African American ever to be awarded tenure at the Ivy League school, has revealed he faced threats and had to get armed security after publishing a study showing no racial bias in police-involved shootings.

His peer-reviewed findings challenge the claim, long made by activist groups like Black Lives Matter, that police in America’s “structurally racist society” readily resort to lethal force when dealing with black suspects. But what should have been an opportunity for academic debate, scholarly disagreement and controversy within a wider, ongoing public conversation, quickly degenerated into a concerted campaign to commit violence against Prof Fryer and his family.

Prof Fryer, who has received numerous awards for his academic research, in 2016 published a research paper, which he describes as taking the “first steps into the treacherous terrain of understanding the nature and extent of racial differences in police use of force and the probability of police interaction”.

The paper analysed four separate datasets, which in total included well in excess of five million observations of police interactions with civilians.

On the question of non-lethal uses of force, the study found “sometimes quite large” racial differences in police use of force, even after accounting for “a large set of controls designed to account for important contextual and behavioural factors at the time of the police-civilian interaction”.

In stark contrast to non-lethal uses of force, however, the study observed that when it came to the most extreme use of force – officer-involved shootings – there were no racial differences “in either the raw data or when accounting for controls”. According to one case study of the Houston police department, black people were actually 23.5% less likely to be shot by police, relative to white people, in an interaction.

Reflecting on the data, Prof Fryer wrote: “Given the stream of video ‘evidence’, which many take to be indicative of structural racism in police departments across America, the ensuing and understandable outrage in black communities across America, and the results from our previous analysis of non-lethal uses of forces, the results [of the study] are startling.”

So startling, in fact, that when his initial analysis suggested there was no racial bias in police-involved shootings, he hired a new team of assistants and repeated the study, but the results were the same.

In his 2016 article, Prof Fryer argued that the facts are most consistent with a model of “taste-based discrimination” in which police officers face discreetly higher costs for officer-involved shootings relative to non-lethal uses of force”.

This led him to conclude that “as police departments across America consider models of community policing, or training designed to purge officers of implicit bias, our results point to another simple policy experiment: increase the expected price of excessive force on lower-level uses of force”.

An important scholarly intervention within a particular field of academic research, you might say. But Prof Fryer has now revealed that at the time the research was conducted, Harvard colleagues familiar with the results urged him not to publish his findings, telling him that he’d ruin his career.

Fryer was not to be dissuaded, however. “I let the data talk, and I don’t care what it says,” he said during a 2022 video conference discussing his work. “I’m willing to tell the truth. I don’t care about the personal cost.”

During a recent sit-down interview with The Free Press’s Bari Weiss, Prof Fryer revealed that when the paper was eventually published, people quickly “lost their minds”.

In fact, Fryer received the first of many complaints and threats four minutes after publication. “You’re full of s**t,” said one sender.

Following a relentless torrent of vexatious complaints, vitriolic abuse and threats of violence, Fyer said he had to have armed guards to protect him and his family. “I was going to the grocery store to get diapers with the armed guard. It was crazy. It was really, truly crazy,” Fryer told Weiss. 

Fryer was suspended for two years from Harvard in 2019 after he allegedly engaged in “unwelcome conduct of a sexual nature”. He continues to deny the allegations.

At the time, then-Harvard dean Claudine Gay claimed Fryer’s research and conduct with other employees “exhibited a pattern of behaviour” that failed to meet expectations within the community.

Gay resigned from her position as Harvard president in early January after widespread plagiarism allegations and criticism of her testimony to Congress, where she failed to fully clarify whether calling for the genocide of Jews violates Harvard’s policies against bullying and harassment.

Weiss, referencing Gay in her conversation with Fryer, asked him if he believes in karma.

“I hear it’s a motherf—er,” he replied.