Fatal police shootings in 2015 approaching 400 nationwide
May 31, 2015 7:29 AM   Subscribe

The Washington Post is compiling a database of every fatal shooting by police in 2015, as well as of every officer killed by gunfire in the line of duty.
Overall, blacks were killed at three times the rate of whites or other minorities when adjusting by the population of the census tracts where the shootings occurred.
posted by Little Dawn (74 comments total) 27 users marked this as a favorite
 
Well since McCleskey v. Kemp is around the racist shitbags that infest the system don't actually have to answer to anything.
posted by Talez at 7:37 AM on May 31, 2015 [2 favorites]


"The Post looked exclusively at shootings, not killings by other means, such as stun guns and deaths in police custody."

Dear Washington Post,
Include all thefucked up shit.

Best,
The dead people
posted by Brandon Blatcher at 7:39 AM on May 31, 2015 [71 favorites]


A recent NY Times article about police killings in Brazil mentioned, without providing sources, a range of estimates from 460 to 1100 police killings in the US. That's a surprisingly large range, though perhaps it is just the difference of whether or not you "Include all thefucked up shit."

Regardless, even the lower number is far too high. Treating it as a national problem, rather than each case as an isolated incident, is going to be the only way to change police practices.
posted by Dip Flash at 7:52 AM on May 31, 2015 [3 favorites]


Disarm the police.
posted by roomthreeseventeen at 7:53 AM on May 31, 2015 [4 favorites]


Disarm the police.

Easy to say, impossible to do. There's something like 88 firearms in circulation per 100 citizens of this country, unarmed police, well, they might as well be loss prevention at Wal*Mart for all the good they would be.
posted by MikeMc at 7:57 AM on May 31, 2015 [9 favorites]


Although race was a dividing line, those who died by police gunfire often had much in common. Most were poor and had a history of run-ins with law enforcement over mostly small-time crimes, sometimes because they were emotionally troubled.

Nationalized health care where mentally ill people are treated as a matter of public policy instead of forced into situations where the police are the front line in deciding whether or not a person is a threat to themselves and those around them and I bet the number of shootings drops by half. This is a national health issue as much as it is an issue with cops shooting people.
posted by photoslob at 7:59 AM on May 31, 2015 [50 favorites]




As a start, criminologists say the federal government should systematically analyze police shootings. Currently, the FBI struggles to gather the most basic data. Reporting is voluntary, and since 2011, less than 3 percent of the nation’s 18,000 state and local police agencies have reported fatal shootings by their officers to the FBI. As a result, FBI records over the past decade show only about 400 police shootings a year — an average of 1.1 deaths per day.

According to The Post’s analysis, the daily death toll so far for 2015 is close to 2.6. At that pace, police will have shot and killed nearly 1,000 people by the end of the year.


Too hard for the FBI, but apparently not too hard for a newspaper special reports team. I have a feeling that it was less a problem of difficulty and more a problem of will.
posted by codacorolla at 8:02 AM on May 31, 2015 [19 favorites]


You'd think "Help, police, my vehicle is trapped by high water" would not lead to fatal violence. You'd be wrong.
posted by Mr.Encyclopedia at 8:17 AM on May 31, 2015 [18 favorites]


"But the demographics shifted sharply among the unarmed victims, two-thirds of whom were black or Hispanic."

All of the data indicate the racism inherent in the system, but this is the statistic that's absolutely key, I think. It's so miserably simple. When there is clearly no justification for the use of deadly force, non-whites are more likely to die. I cannot think of any possible way that confounding factors might mean that this is anything other than the racist slaughter it appears to be.
posted by howfar at 8:18 AM on May 31, 2015 [31 favorites]


Easy to say, impossible to do. There's something like 88 firearms in circulation per 100 citizens of this country, unarmed police, well, they might as well be loss prevention at Wal*Mart for all the good they would be.

So what you're saying is that the 2nd Amendment is directly responsible for the tyranny of a violent and oppressive state? Colour me not amazed in any respect.
posted by howfar at 8:21 AM on May 31, 2015 [40 favorites]


You'd think "Help, police, my vehicle is trapped by high water" would not lead to fatal violence. You'd be wrong.

What the ever living fuck. This gives me a bitter rage.
posted by johnnydummkopf at 8:25 AM on May 31, 2015 [2 favorites]


ProPublica analyzed federal data in October 2014 and found "the 1,217 deadly police shootings from 2010 to 2012 captured in the federal data show that blacks, age 15 to 19, were killed at a rate of 31.17 per million, while just 1.47 per million white males in that age range died at the hands of police."
posted by Theiform at 8:31 AM on May 31, 2015 [3 favorites]


Actual consequences for shootings, and possibly more importantly the cover ups that follow them would help.

Not getting to be a cop anymore consequences, not getting a fat payout consequences and, possibly this is dreamland here, going to jail consequences. Not the taxpayer pays out some money and you have a good laugh about it with your buddies from the police union consequences.
posted by Artw at 8:32 AM on May 31, 2015 [21 favorites]


On those figures, every three to four years the American police are killing around as many people by shooting alone as were killed in 9/11. However, as only ten percent of 9/11 victims were black...

It would be instructive to take some of the more intemperate anti-terrorist rhetoric exhaled by the state and do a search-and-replace.
posted by Devonian at 8:40 AM on May 31, 2015 [3 favorites]




Not the taxpayer pays out some money and you have a good laugh about it with your buddies from the police union consequences.

I feel like I say it every thread. Strip qualified immunity from these thugs. Make them carry brutality insurance like a doctor carries malpractice. Cops don't give a damn if the city pays out the ass because cops don't live in the areas. Oakland, the world champions of paying out the ass for police brutality, less than 15% of their cops live in the city. Why the fuck would I care if the city pays out a few million for shooting a black kid? It's not like they can remove cops. My job is safe.
posted by Talez at 8:41 AM on May 31, 2015 [20 favorites]


The police pension find should be the first port of call for all damages. No money left after that to pay pensions? Too bad, you fucked up. Get a racist indiegogo campaign or something.
posted by Artw at 8:44 AM on May 31, 2015 [5 favorites]


You'd think "Help, police, my vehicle is trapped by high water" would not lead to fatal violence. You'd be wrong.

You'd think, "Help, police, I think my boyfriend is about to commit suicide" would not lead to fatal violence. You'd be wrong.
posted by T.D. Strange at 8:47 AM on May 31, 2015 [10 favorites]


Most were poor and had a history of run-ins with law enforcement over mostly small-time crimes

Fabulous. It really makes me feel safe that all the people committing the small-time crimes are being dealt with so severely. Who needs to confront rapists and murderers when you can go after people like this instead?

If anyone tells me we live in an enlightened era, I will kick them in the shins.
posted by Alexandra Kitty at 8:53 AM on May 31, 2015 [2 favorites]


Why isn't anyone doing an automated text analysis of news reports to compile this data? Seems like it wouldn't be too difficult.
posted by MisantropicPainforest at 8:57 AM on May 31, 2015 [1 favorite]


I cannot think of any possible way that confounding factors might mean that this is anything other than the racist slaughter it appears to be.

It's not that I disagree so much that I worry that ignoring the socio-economic status as a factor mis-represents the scope of the problem and without correcting for it, I think it's too easy to dismiss those figures by pointing out that being poor is a bigger problem. That makes it seem like the problem is that the police shoot poor people too often but aren't racist and that people are poor because of racism. And that is a little bit different problem than just the police being racist. Some of the solutions will look the same but some of them will be different.

For instance, people are a lot more likely to be poor if their parents are poor so even if we could snap our fingers and magically eliminate racism today, past racism that oppressed minorities and caused all that poverty will mean that minorities will be over-represented among the poor for a long time even though racism is gone. You still have to deal with cops shooting poor people for being poor but but not for shooting black people for being black.

I mean, the stats convince me that the police are racist as an institution but I know that those stats make the problem look larger than it really is but, without looking at the correlation or correcting for socio-economic status I can't say if it's just a little bit larger or a lot larger. That isn't really a problem when you're preaching to the choir but it would help to have a more accurate picture of the situation to convince the people who disagree or at least don't realize how big the problem is.
posted by VTX at 9:10 AM on May 31, 2015 [2 favorites]


David Waldman has been compiling gun accidents and children under 15 killed by guns for a couple of years now. This are small effort without institutional support, it's almost as if people didn't want to know.

Then again, as Upton Sinclair once wrote, "It is difficult to get a man to understand something, when his salary depends on his not understanding it." The CDC isn't allowed to study gun violence because it's "propaganda." One can only imagine the outcry if a similar study of police killings was suggested.
posted by fifteen schnitzengruben is my limit at 9:30 AM on May 31, 2015 [19 favorites]


It's not that I disagree so much that I worry that ignoring the socio-economic status as a factor mis-represents the scope of the problem and without correcting for it, I think it's too easy to dismiss those figures by pointing out that being poor is a bigger problem. That makes it seem like the problem is that the police shoot poor people too often but aren't racist and that people are poor because of racism. And that is a little bit different problem than just the police being racist. Some of the solutions will look the same but some of them will be different.

The next step is to study the whether poor non-white people are more likely to be shot than poor white people. (Or, if the numbers are too small for fatal shootings, whether more likely to experience other forms of police brutality or attention).

On a purely anecdotal level, I suspect that even if you controlled for socioeconomic status, non-white people would continue to be more likely to be victimised.

In Toronto, we're having our own problem with black men being targeted for "carding", invasive surveillance and harassment by the police. This is regardless of socioeconomic status.
posted by jb at 9:38 AM on May 31, 2015 [1 favorite]


I mean, the stats convince me that the police are racist as an institution but I know that those stats make the problem look larger than it really is

Why is socioeconomic status necessarily a significant confounding factor in a comparison of all people shot and killed by the police and unarmed people shot and killed by the police? It seems to me perfectly plausible that, by the time you've got to that distinction, the confounding factors may already be balanced out, and the only statistically significant factor left is hatred and fear of non-white people. Not definitely, but plausibly.

For the purposes of rational debate, we should absolutely continue to clarify and refine our understanding. But rational debate is a minor part of political change. Simple, easy to understand and indicative is better than nuanced, complex and precise.
posted by howfar at 9:44 AM on May 31, 2015



Why is socioeconomic status necessarily a significant confounding factor in a comparison of all people shot and killed by the police and unarmed people shot and killed by the police?


I don't understand. SES is a confounding factor of what? race?
posted by MisantropicPainforest at 9:48 AM on May 31, 2015


Nationalized health care where mentally ill people are treated as a matter of public policy instead of forced into situations where the police are the front line in deciding whether or not a person is a threat to themselves and those around them and I bet the number of shootings drops by half. This is a national health issue as much as it is an issue with cops shooting people.

The fact that police shoot hundreds (possibly thousands -- we don't know!) of citizens every year is, itself, inherently a national health problem.
posted by clockzero at 9:57 AM on May 31, 2015 [10 favorites]


“They think they can outrun the officers. They don’t realize how dangerous it is,” said Samuel Lee Reid, executive director of the Atlanta Citizen Review Board, which investigates police shootings and recently launched a “Don’t Run” campaign. “The panic sets in,” and “all they can think is that they don’t want to get caught and go back to jail.”
A "Don't Run" campaign? Seriously? How about a "Don't shoot people who are running away" campaign? Running away from the police, while not ideal, should not be a capital offense.
posted by jaguar at 10:10 AM on May 31, 2015 [59 favorites]


It's not that I disagree so much that I worry that ignoring the socio-economic status as a factor mis-represents the scope of the problem and without correcting for it, I think it's too easy to dismiss those figures by pointing out that being poor is a bigger problem.

Even if you look at these data just as raw counts, though, the numbers are staggering. We don't need to do any statistical work to see that Blacks are killed vastly disproportionately to their share of the total population, and that US police kill citizens at a rate that's almost incomparably higher than any other developed, industrialized nation. It's painfully obvious that there's a huge problem here, any way you slice it.

I mean, the stats convince me that the police are racist as an institution but I know that those stats make the problem look larger than it really is

How so, exactly?
posted by clockzero at 10:14 AM on May 31, 2015


The good news is that the people of Atlanta thought the "Don't run!" campaign was really stupid and evil, and it was quickly suspended.
posted by hydropsyche at 10:16 AM on May 31, 2015 [9 favorites]


A "Don't Run" campaign? Seriously? How about a "Don't shoot people who are running away" campaign? Running away from the police, while not ideal, should not be a capital offense.

Yeah, this is just crazy. When the suggestion is to interact with human police officers in much the same way we're taught to interact with vicious wild animals like bears, something has gone really fucking wrong.
posted by clockzero at 10:16 AM on May 31, 2015 [28 favorites]


"don't run, don't have an attitude, actually just don't have any type of emotional response to what is possibly a very serious thing like i don't know having your rights violated or feeling like someone might be beating you to death, oh yeah! don't exercise your rights either because sometimes that sets police grizzlies right the fuck off... i'm sure there's more rules give me a sec. don't film police grizzlies if you're a witness. haha, actually just don't be a witness that's much safer, duh can't believe i almost left that one off"
posted by twist my arm at 10:24 AM on May 31, 2015 [26 favorites]


I think it's too easy to dismiss those figures by pointing out that being poor is a bigger problem.

People who want to dismiss those figures will do so regardless of the level of difficulty involved. People who are kind of on the fence about it won't be more or less convinced by discussions of confounding factors.
posted by Etrigan at 10:25 AM on May 31, 2015 [2 favorites]


Institutional racism still being racism cuts like 99% of the Gordian knots here.
posted by Artw at 10:26 AM on May 31, 2015 [6 favorites]


Unfortunately, much like vicious wild animals, I think it does make sense in the way that "we can't control them, but we can control our own behavior", in the very short term. Qualified immunity being what it is, systemic racism being what it is? On a community level, if you're trying to stop someone from being killed in the next six months, a year, five years... it does seem smarter to educate them that the police are vicious and out of control and need to be interacted with as though they are an imminent threat under every possible circumstance. That doesn't mean there shouldn't also be stuff happening to make that not true of the police, because it's absolutely insane that it is.

However, the campaign in question seemed tone-wise to be trying to issue the "act like they're unreasonably dangerous" warning without actually offending anybody by saying the cops are unreasonably dangerous, and unsurprisingly comes off as victim-blaming.
posted by Sequence at 10:27 AM on May 31, 2015 [1 favorite]


They can kill you before you even know they are there, they're more like landmines.
posted by Artw at 10:30 AM on May 31, 2015 [4 favorites]


Killedbypolice.net has been tracking since 1 May 2013.
Corporate news reports of people killed by nonmilitary law enforcement officers, whether in the line of duty or not, and regardless of reason or method.
Inclusion implies neither wrongdoing nor justification on the part of the person killed or the officer involved. The post merely documents the occurrence of a death.
https://twitter.com/pigstatenews

https://www.facebook.com/KilledByPolice?fref=ts
posted by standardasparagus at 10:48 AM on May 31, 2015 [1 favorite]


Outlaw police unions.
Double police salaries.
Triple penalties for all crimes committed by police officers, including crimes committed when off-duty.
Quadruple the taxes on smokeless powder and reloading supplies.
posted by Cool Papa Bell at 11:04 AM on May 31, 2015 [5 favorites]


Can we add reinterpreting covering for a brother officer as Obstruction of Justice and Conspiracy as it would be in any other circumstance?
posted by umberto at 11:08 AM on May 31, 2015 [12 favorites]


Accessory after the fact, perjury...
posted by Holy Zarquon's Singing Fish at 11:10 AM on May 31, 2015 [4 favorites]


Disarm the police.

Easy to say, impossible to do. There's something like 88 firearms in circulation per 100 citizens of this country, unarmed police, well, they might as well be loss prevention at Wal*Mart for all the good they would be.


For too many people, the police are worse than useless now.
posted by bile and syntax at 11:13 AM on May 31, 2015 [5 favorites]


“They think they can outrun the officers. They don’t realize how dangerous it is”

Yeah, but it doesn't have to be that way. Leaving aside the practice of shooting into moving vehicles for non-violent and unarmed offenders, police car chases kill at least 300 people a year. 42% of those injured are killed are bystanders. (I myself was almost hit head-on by a car fleeing police in Texas -- it instead hit the unfortunate woman in the other lane.) 90% of these pursuits are for non-violent crimes.

The common response is to blame the person being pursued for fleeing, but that doesn't help all the people killed, which includes a number of LE officers.

Sure there are many cases where the subject is dangerous (and a car is a lethal weapon) and you can't just give people who enter a car a free escape from police. But I can't help but think this practice is a holdover from the time when you could flee across state lines and disappear. We've got a thousand other ways to punish people for not paying their $170 parking tickets besides physical restraint, and a thousand ways to find you later if you get away.

We've got perverse incentives at work. Deescalation can save lives, but performance metrics demand arrests. My extended family's Facebook updates tell me that many people still demand the latter.
posted by RobotVoodooPower at 11:19 AM on May 31, 2015 [3 favorites]


We've got perverse incentives at work. Deescalation can save lives, but performance metrics demand arrests.

I wonder who developed those metrics.
posted by clockzero at 11:23 AM on May 31, 2015 [1 favorite]


I decided after that guy was shot in Walmart for buying a toy rifle that if I ever see a non-white person walking around with a gun I'm not saying anything to the police unless they're actively firing it and people are being hurt. I am not familiar enough with guns to tell the difference between real and fake, and I can't trust the cops to know either--or care.
posted by schroedinger at 11:23 AM on May 31, 2015 [14 favorites]


White guys with guns, on the other hand, are totally legit.
posted by Artw at 11:28 AM on May 31, 2015 [3 favorites]


A few years ago I was hassled by a cop while hiking along a country road, since apparently sitting on a guardrail drinking some water is suspicious enough for someone to call the cops. Looking back on it now I'm fairly lucky that the encounter was merely a waste of time. I can imagine if I were black or Hispanic I may very well have ended up in handcuffs while they figured out what to charge me with, or worse.
posted by Mr.Encyclopedia at 11:32 AM on May 31, 2015




When the suggestion is to interact with human police officers in much the same way we're taught to interact with vicious wild animals like bears, something has gone really fucking wrong.

Seems to me it went really fucking wrong from the start, because that's always been the sensible way to interact with human police officers. They cannot be overpowered or reasoned with, so the only safe strategy is to learn their habits, avoid them as much as possible, and get out of the area whenever you see one hunting.
posted by Mars Saxman at 12:04 PM on May 31, 2015 [5 favorites]


This is sadly something I have some first hand knowledge of, even though I live in Canada. I do have a slightly different opinion of the matter. Normally I would not comment in this but I do feel I have some interesting insight to share.

I have dated men of my own race, white men, and mixed race (my own general background mixed with white) and as working class everyday folk, of course run ins with the law were things that happened. I witnessed many of these interactions when a police officer stopped my date / boyfriend / close friend of the opposite sex for something they were perceived to have done. What is fascinating to me is how differently the guys were treated based on race and regardless of what offense they had supposedly committed.

My male friends/dates of colour or of mixed race had the law fully applied to them. The officers were not violent or out of line but they certainly were very intimidating. My male friends/dates that were white did not get away scott free but the police were a little more lenient and friendlier with them. As a woman I thought the police were on "better" behaviour with the non-white guys. Let me explain... With the non white guys, they would shine the bright flashlight in my face and ask for my ID but they would also ask me if I was ok, ask questions about my school, if I would prefer to come home with an escort etc... When I was with the white boyfriends I notice the police did not apply the law as strictly but it was still applied. I also noticed no one ever looked or spoke to me - I was never asked questions or asked for my ID. One (white) boyfriend I was with pointed at me and said I was pregnant and he was just celebrating the ocassion to the officer and started crying (this pregnancy was not true and I felt horrified at the time that a stranger thought I was that out of shape) and the officer never even bothered to ask me a question!

My point is twofold. Firstly, I feel the sort of laws we have today are too harsh about the wrong things, and officers know this to some extent. However they must abide by the law and due to outdated profiling information they have been given from mentors off the record, end up only making the effort to punish based on these outdated ideas by targeting the less likely to complain black and brown offenders. Also, some officers are just racists who get into law enforcement purely to be jerks, but I think this is not as common (I have met some obnoxious officers but luckily no one who did anything illegal or out of line). My second point is that police officers don't seem well trained in assessing the dangerous situations women might be in. They do notice it when the woman is with a black or brown person but the danger does not seem as urgent if the woman (regardless of race) is with a white person.

I have personally witnessed police interactions with someone I was with which was triggered by "petty" crime... Traffic violations, being in possession of stolen goods, various car issues (problems with lights, illegal mods, expired tags etc), drug possession or dealing, or just being in a sketchy deserted area at a weird hour. I have not personally witnessed any situations with someone involved in a violent crime. I never saw the officers behave in an inappropriate way but I definitely witnessed the contrast in treatment.

Yes, I know things are extremely different in other parts of the world and I absolutely would not travel to certain parts of the US because I know that is just asking for trouble. But I wanted to share my personal experiences and how maybe it is the law that needs to change. Most officers I met even when they were being intimidating jerks were being very aware of staying within the letter of the law. But sadly the letter of the law is too outdated when it comes to certain "crimes" associated with people of colour that are in truth engaged in by all races.
posted by partly squamous and partly rugose at 12:17 PM on May 31, 2015 [2 favorites]


Seems to me it went really fucking wrong from the start, because that's always been the sensible way to interact with human police officers.

But not everywhere. I have plenty of problems with the British police, but I'm incredibly rarely scared of them, like I am of police in some other countries I've spent time in, including the US. It genuinely is possible (although far from simple) for police forces to be a net positive in society. The police do not have to be the enemy of the populace.
posted by howfar at 12:18 PM on May 31, 2015 [7 favorites]


The racial breakout is interesting. 26% of victims are black, which is only about double the percentage of blacks in the population. Still significantly disproportionate but not nearly as disproportionate as the press coverage of the problem would indicate. Even if you look at whites alone, U.S. police shootings have got to also be off the charts by the standards of any other developed country.

(The article mentions a three times disproportion but that is doing some very weird adjustment by only the racial mix in the local region where the shooting happens; I don't know why you wouldn't look at the overall U.S. racial mix as it should also be news if police shootings are happening in white census tracts).
posted by zipadee at 1:14 PM on May 31, 2015


howfar: "The police do not have to be the enemy of the populace."

They aren't the enemy of "the populace," only part of it. This is law enforcement policy nationwide.
posted by rhizome at 1:25 PM on May 31, 2015


If they're an enemy of any part of the populace, they're an enemy of all of it.
posted by VTX at 1:28 PM on May 31, 2015 [5 favorites]


As a woman I thought the police were on "better" behaviour with the non-white guys.... They do notice it when the woman is with a black or brown person but the danger does not seem as urgent if the woman (regardless of race) is with a white person.

Maybe I'm not quite following, but it seems like what you described is the police automatically assuming that men of color are engaging in criminal activity, not that they were on "better" behavior with men of color.
posted by jaguar at 1:30 PM on May 31, 2015


Why is socioeconomic status necessarily a significant confounding factor in a comparison of all people shot and killed by the police and unarmed people shot and killed by the police?

Because minorities are also disproportionately represented by the poor and "police shoot poor people" is a different problem, in some people's minds, than "police shoot minorities".

If there is a lot of crime in a certain neighbor hood and the population of that neighborhood is 98% black, it shouldn't come as a surprise if 98% of the arrests are of black people. Out of context, saying that, "98% of people arrested in this neighborhood are black" seems really racists but in this case, the numbers can't really show that.

Likewise, if most poor people are minorities and most crimes are committed by poor people, you're going to end up with more minorities being arrested. So now your only problem is that police are shooting people, not that they're shooting people of color.

People who want to dismiss those figures will do so regardless of the level of difficulty involved. People who are kind of on the fence about it won't be more or less convinced by discussions of confounding factors.

Maybe, maybe not, but if we can keep potential critics a little quieter by having a more accurate picture of the situation, we should. As far as anyone on the fence, I'm more worried about the person who would say, "This isn't a big enough problem that we need to do anything about it, if they had corrected for the relationship between poverty and race, it would show that this is a much smaller problem." Lastly, I'm most assuredly not on the fence and I'd like it if they used more accurate numbers to make their point. If we start making progress, I'd like to know whether it's because the police are less racist or because race is becoming less correlated to poverty.
posted by VTX at 1:45 PM on May 31, 2015 [1 favorite]


If they're an enemy of any part of the populace, they're an enemy of all of it.

Historically the US has always had a lot of disagreement on that point.
posted by Artw at 2:10 PM on May 31, 2015


Yeah I know but I feel that way and I think everyone else should too.
posted by VTX at 2:12 PM on May 31, 2015


Consider your degree of privilege (class, race, gender, age, geographic location, neurotypical status, social skills) if you think that when you have need of the police, you can just call 911 and that the police, when they show up, will help you or at least not shoot you by accident.
posted by bad grammar at 2:17 PM on May 31, 2015 [1 favorite]


One thing that sticks out to me is that while black men were shot by police at a rate significantly higher than their composition of the population, Hispanic men were shot by police at a lower rate. I don't know why that is and I didn't see any theories in the link.

Secondly, WaPo does do some normalization based on population of the census tracts but while they talk a little about many of the shootings happening in poor areas I do not see any analysis of it. That seems like a glaring oversight. Do the skewed effects disappear when you normalize for economic factors or not? Such an obvious thing they should have included. You can't solve a problem when you don't bother to precisely identify it.
posted by Justinian at 2:26 PM on May 31, 2015


Jaguar... I think that's why she put "better" in quotes.
posted by sio42 at 2:48 PM on May 31, 2015


Justinian >

One thing that sticks out to me is that while black men were shot by police at a rate significantly higher than their composition of the population, Hispanic men were shot by police at a lower rate. I don't know why that is and I didn't see any theories in the link.

Keep in mind that there isn't any "normal" amount of police shootings per capita for any category of person, so there is a sense in which the ratio of people shot to their demographic share of the total population is less important than the fact that there are more than a handful of extra-judicial executions in the first place. In Germany, police shoot maybe 1-3 people per year, on average; in the UK, it's less than one person per year; even in Canada, it's not even close to breaking triple digits, averaging less than 20 annually. As portions of the total populations of those countries, the rate of police killings is still a small fraction of America's.

Racism among the police is huge and very serious problem in America, but what we're seeing here transcends race. The cops in this country are out of control. From the article:

Dozens of other people also died while fleeing from police, The Post analysis shows, including a significant proportion — 20 percent — of those who were unarmed. Running is such a provocative act that police experts say there is a name for the injury officers inflict on suspects afterward: a “foot tax.” (emphasis mine)

That's just horrifying. The idea that trying to escape an encounter that one might rightly suspect has a high chance of ending in one's death could be provocative should be extremely disturbing to every American.

Justinian >

Secondly, WaPo does do some normalization based on population of the census tracts but while they talk a little about many of the shootings happening in poor areas I do not see any analysis of it. That seems like a glaring oversight. Do the skewed effects disappear when you normalize for economic factors or not? Such an obvious thing they should have included. You can't solve a problem when you don't bother to precisely identify it.

What do you mean, exactly, by "normalize for economic factors"? It sounds like they only included census tracts in order to compare victimization rates evenly by race; how could controlling for socio-economic status affect the race-based disparities? Or did you mean something else?
posted by clockzero at 4:24 PM on May 31, 2015 [10 favorites]


The article says "Overall, blacks were killed at three times the rate of whites or other minorities when adjusting by the population of the census tracts where the shootings occurred." but I don't think that's all that clear. What does it mean, exactly? Maybe I'm just not understanding what they're saying.

What I mean is that I'd like to see a breakdown of shooting rates between races of similar economic status. Are rich black folks shot at a significantly higher rate than rich white folks? Are poor whites shot at a lower rate than poor blacks? Perhaps "when adjusting by the population of the census tracts" means they looked at that but it's not a very clear and specific statement.
posted by Justinian at 4:41 PM on May 31, 2015 [1 favorite]


I think WaPo should win a Pulitzer Prize for this. This may well be the kind of data that will help support real changes in law and the courts.
posted by Little Dawn at 6:11 PM on May 31, 2015


Given that census tracts contain at most 8,000 people, and an average of 4,000, I'd wager most of them are close to economically homogenous already, although certainly it wouldn't hurt to fully normalize the results.
posted by Holy Zarquon's Singing Fish at 6:12 PM on May 31, 2015 [1 favorite]


The article says "Overall, blacks were killed at three times the rate of whites or other minorities when adjusting by the population of the census tracts where the shootings occurred." but I don't think that's all that clear. What does it mean, exactly? Maybe I'm just not understanding what they're saying.

What I mean is that I'd like to see a breakdown of shooting rates between races of similar economic status. Are rich black folks shot at a significantly higher rate than rich white folks? Are poor whites shot at a lower rate than poor blacks? Perhaps "when adjusting by the population of the census tracts" means they looked at that but it's not a very clear and specific statement.


Yeah, it's a bit ambiguous. I suspect (though my statistical skills are modest) they did that adjustment in order to calculate an odds ratio that would apply to White and Black people generally: if you had a group of 100 people who all got arrested in a specific area and you wanted to infer, based on that sample, how much more often Black people get arrested than White people, you would want to know how many people of various ethnic characteristics in that area don't get arrested.

I agree that it could be valuable or interesting to include socio-economic status in the analysis, but if your outcome variable is still the odds of being arrested, including SES as an independent variable could make for an unwieldy interpretation of questionable analytic value; you would end up with some bizarre quantification like "every dollar of income above threshold x decreases the chance of being arrested by .003 percent for Whites, and .0001 for Blacks," or I guess you could put people into quintiles or something like that.

The other problem, though, is that you probably have relatively little variation of SES in the sample, and if there aren't many (or any) rich Blacks or rich Whites in the sample, you wouldn't want to guess at the effect of wealth on likelihood of being shot by the cops based on what is in the sample.
posted by clockzero at 6:20 PM on May 31, 2015 [1 favorite]


Yeah, this is just crazy. When the suggestion is to interact with human police officers in much the same way we're taught to interact with vicious wild animals like bears, something has gone really fucking wrong.

I think this might actually be a brilliant form of protest. If protesters just pretended to drop dead around police that would be pretty amazing.
posted by srboisvert at 7:17 PM on May 31, 2015 [4 favorites]


Then the beatings and taserings begin.
posted by Artw at 8:06 PM on May 31, 2015 [1 favorite]


This is shocking.
posted by clavdivs at 8:36 PM on May 31, 2015


You'd think , "Help, police, my friend needs medical attention" would not lead to fatal violence. You'd be wrong.
posted by BinGregory at 5:26 AM on June 1, 2015




"To understand why and how often these shootings occur, The Washington Post is compiling a database of every fatal shooting by police in 2015, as well as of every officer killed by gunfire in the line of duty."

I understand that the focus of the article is police shooting civilians, I was disappointed that - from my quick reading - that not one statistic was given concerning officers killed by gunfire. If you're not going to bother giving the least bit of data, why bother to mention that the data exists?

Ah, wait, here it is, also from the Washington Post:
Police officers experience fewer deaths these days — but increased tension .
posted by King Sky Prawn at 8:17 AM on June 1, 2015


Between January and May, 14 police officers were killed by suspects in the line of duty, according to the Officer Down Memorial Page statistics cited in the article linked by King Sky Prawn.

The article on officers killed by gunfire also notes (emphasis added):
The FBI’s preliminary figures show that 51 law enforcement officers were “feloniously killed” in the line of duty last year, a significant increase from 2013, when 27 officers were feloniously killed.

Still, statistics suggest that being a police officer has gotten safer.

The 2013 tally was the lowest in more than 30 years, federal statistics show. On average, about 50 police officers have been fatally shot each year over the past decade, and that number has fallen by more than half since the 1970s, according to the memorial fund.
While the FBI keeps track of law enforcement officers killed and assaulted in the line of duty, it's far more difficult to monitor trends in fatal shootings by police because "there is no reliable national data on how many people are shot by police officers each year," the Post reported last fall.
posted by virago at 12:51 PM on June 1, 2015 [4 favorites]




virago: "there is no reliable national data on how many people are shot by police officers each year"

I wonder if that fuzziness is due to something like them considering justified shootings to be the fault of the victim, thus "by police" becomes something the victim did to themselves, or due to circumstances the victim brought about, absolving police of mere mention.
posted by rhizome at 4:28 PM on June 8, 2015


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