The use of lethal force by police in USA: Mortality metrics of race and disintegration (2015-2019)

Keywords: Black lives matter (BLM), All lives matter, George Floyd, Justine Ruszczyk Damond, police violence, police brutality, systemic racism.


Policing in the USA is dangerous for the US public. The objective of the present study is to determine the gross deaths due to lethal force by police and the racial distribution of those deaths compared to the racial distribution of the US population. Longitudinal data reveal that police in the USA kill one thousand people per year (n=1004 in 2019). Deaths by year and race are presented for the years 2015 through 2019. The racial distribution of victims of US police lethal force is not proportionate to the racial distribution of the US population. Whites account for the largest racial group of deaths, but are under-represented, accounting for 45% of police killings (and 60% of the population). Blacks are over-represented, accounting for 24% of police killings (and 13% of the population). Hispanics are proportionately represented, accounting for 17% of police killings (and 18% of the population). Others (including Asian, Native American, and others) are under-represented, accounting for 4% of police killings (and 8% of the population). The rate of US police killings has been relatively stable for the past five years (with a low of 962 deaths in 2016 and a high of 1,004 deaths in 2019). The US police killing rate in The USA is 3.05 police killings per million of population. The US police killing rate of Blacks is 5.34 per million of Hispanics is 2.63 per million, of Whites is 1.87 per million, and of others is 1.5 per million of population. The US police killing rate of Blacks is 2.86 times the US police killing rate of Whites. US police killing rates compare unfavorably with other jurisdictions. The police fatal shooting rate in Australia is 0.17% per million of population, one eighteenth of the police killing rate in the USA (an Australian rate of police killings applied to the US population would produce 56 US police killings per year). The reasons for the high rate of police killings in the USA and for the racial disparities of those killings are multifactorial. The valorization of violence and the glamorization of guns are woven tightly into the history and culture of the USA. The metrics of US police killings are a symptom of larger issues within American society. Treating one symptom will not remedy the malady blighting the organism. Is it time for an American societal and rethink of its relationship with violence, in the light of these metrics of disintegration? Is Violent America fixable? Only time will tell


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