Interpreting the data of Black Lives Matter and Law Enforcement

5 Jan

From Rachel Lu:


Is it rational for black men to fear they may be killed by police? The Washington Post has just released a new, groundbreaking study on police violence that may help answer that question. It investigates every fatal police shooting in the United States in 2015. You can see the data here.

Plenty of arresting details come out of this study. Those who followed the Tamir Rice case may be interested to know that realistic-looking toy guns were involved in fully 3 percent of the shootings. Almost 10 percent of victims were unarmed when they were killed, and a very disproportionate number of these were black. About a quarter of the suspects were fleeing when they were shot, while a quarter struggled with mental illness.

The headliner, though, is something we already knew: a lot of Americans get killed in police shootings. As of Christmas Eve, police in America had fatally shot 979 people across the United States. (The Guardian, with a similar study, puts the number over 1,000.)

That’s a lot, when you consider that multiple European countries can count on one hand the number of fatal police shootings each year. Every country is different, of course, in innumerable ways. Nevertheless, such enormous disparities should prompt some probing questions.

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