Police homicides in the United States

Patrick Ball writes: Americans are afraid of many threats to their lives – serial killers, crazed gunmen, gang bangers, and above all terrorists – but these threats are surprisingly unlikely. Approximately three-quarters of all homicide victims in America are killed by someone they know. And the real threat from strangers is quite different from what most fear: one-third of all Americans killed by strangers are killed by police.

This is the story of the hidden numbers of police homicides in the United States. The killings of Michael Brown, Eric Garner and Walter Scott have increased the world’s attention to US police violence, yet most Americans underestimate the threat posed by the people charged with keeping them safe.

Let’s turn to the facts.

There is no national registry of civilians killed by police and corrections officers in the United States. Several states, including Texas, Connecticut and California, maintain complete records, but in most parts of the United States, local law enforcement chooses whether to report officer-involved homicides to the federal government. The lack of systematic data poses a challenge both for those who wish to hold police accountable for their actions and for those who want to propose reform measures to reduce police violence. How many killings are committed by police? [Continue reading…]

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