Police Use of Deadly Force in America Part 1 – A Statistical Examination

With America's police forces once again coming under severe public scrutiny for their actions in Minneapolis, Americans are once again facing the facts about their police forces and their use of force against the taxpayers that pay their salaries.  In part one of this two part posting, I will look at some key statistics that provide us with a stark viewpoint of how many Americans are killed by police and how many police forces across the United States have policies in place that do not provide protection for America's civilians.  In part two, we'l look at some suggested options by Campaign Zero for reducing police violence.  

Let's start with an examination of police killings in America.  From Mapping Police Violence we find the following data:

1.) Here is a calendar for 2019 showing the days that people were killed by police in the United States and the 27 days (in grey) where police did not kill anyone:

2.) Armed and unarmed Black people are more likely to be killed by police than Whites or Hispanics:

While Blacks make up 13 percent of the population, they make up 24 percent of those killed by police.

3.) Levels of violent crime in the United States do not determine the rate of police killings:

4.) Out of the total number of police killings in the United States between 2013 and 2019, only 1 percent of officers were charged with a crime.

5.) Here is a graphic showing rates of police killings by state for all people (in blue) and black people (in red) between January 2013 and December 2019:

6.) Here is a graphic showing the rate of police killings per million residents by major city between January 2013 and December 2019:

Why are police overusing force in some situations?  The Use of Force Project outlines police use of force policies that lack basic civilian protections against police violence as follows:

1.) Failing to require officers to de-escalate situations, where possible, by communicating with subjects, maintaining distance, and otherwise eliminating the need to use force.

2.) Allowing officers to choke or strangle civilians, in many cases where less lethal force could be used instead, resulting in the unnecessary death or serious injury of civilians.

3.) Failing to require officers to intervene and stop excessive force used by other officers and report these incidents immediately to a supervisor. 

4.) Failing to restrict officers from shooting at moving vehicles, which is regarded as a particularly dangerous and ineffective tactic.

5.) Failing to develop a Force Continuum that limits the types of force and/or weapons that can be used to respond to specific types of resistance.

6.) Failing to require officers to exhaust all other reasonable means before resorting to deadly force.

7.) Failing to require officers to give a verbal warning, when possible, before shooting at a civilian.

8.) Failing to require officers to report each time they use force or threaten to use force against civilians.

Use of Force found the following when they examined the use of force policies in America's 100 largest cities (click here for the American cities that provided data for the study):

1.) 44 out of the 100 police departments require officers to de-escalate situations, when possible, before using force.

2.) 84 out of the 100 police departments have a Force Continuum or Matrix included in their use of force policy:

3.) 28 of the 100 police departments explicitly prohibit the use of chokeholds and strangle holds or limit these tactics to situations where deadly force is authorized

4.) 67 out of the 100 police departments require police officers to give a verbal warning, where possible, before using deadly force.

5.) 17 out of the 100 police departments prohibit officers from shooting at people in moving vehicles unless the person poses a deadly threat by means other than the vehicle (i.e. drive-by shooting).

6.) 42 out of the 100 police departments require officers to exhaust all other reasonable alternatives before resorting to the use of deadly force.

7.) 48 out of the 100 police departments require officers to intervene to stop another officer from using excessive force.

8.) 25 out of the 100 police departments require officers to report all uses of force including threatening a civilian with a firearm.

You can see from this information that a very significant percentage of America's largest police forces do not have policies in place that protect civilians from the use of deadly force by law enforcement officials.

I believe that is enough information to digest for one posting.  In part 2, we will examine potential solutions to this long-term problem of police violence and how they might be implemented.  

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