Police in the United States are on a killing spree. According to a new study from the American Public Health Association (APHA) officers in U.S. police departments kill more than 1,000 men per year, or almost three men per day.
According to APHA estimates, police are responsible for about one out of every twelve (8 percent) of all adult male homicide deaths in the U.S. each year. Their study used unofficial data collected through a group called “Fatal Encounters” which did a systematic review of media and public records.
What is most shocking is that the APHA report and analysis shows that the numbers of police-involved killings is twice as high as that reported by official data sources. They found many problems with official data. Even though deaths are reported in the news, the victims names do not appear in official databases of police-involved deaths collected by the Bureau of Justice Statistics or the National Vital Statistics System.
This anomaly results from the fact that police departments are not required to submit information about killings to the federal government, so the names are not put in the official databases.
In addition, they found out that coroners do not accurately classify deaths caused by police. And because police departments can choose whether to report the data, they often fail to report killings caused by their own officers.
Concerns over police killings have grown in recent years due to such factors as the rise of Black Lives Matter as well as the wide availability of cell phone videos that record police encounters.
Fatal Encounters leverages public records and media coverage and tries to document every person killed in an interaction with police. Their results have made it now possible to speak more knowledgeably about police-involved deaths in the country.
For the first time they can reliably measure how often individuals die in interactions with the police, and they are also now able to quantify the racial and regional differences in police killings.
Individuals in large metropolitan areas are at the highest risk of being killed by police but two-thirds of all police-involved killings happen in suburbs, smaller cities and rural counties. In rural areas, police are responsible for more than 10 percent of all homicides with adult male victims.
The analysis also shows the following:
- About 0.7 white men per 100,000 are killed by police annually.
- For Latinos one death per 100,000 men is by police and
- For blacks, 2.2 deaths per 100,000 men are by police.
This means that black men are, on average, three times more likely to be killed by police than are white men.
This is not a shocking conclusion because we already know that people in black communities are much more likely to be victims of police violence. It is good, however, to have these new statistics available so that the truth about police killings can now be fully documented and discussed.