Get the facts straight: Police Brutality

How much does police violence affect Americans

by Logan Griffin


In the current political climate, many issues have arised involving police violence. Many groups have formed out of this discussion, the most prominent being Black Lives Matter which has incited talking points about the racial statistics when it comes to police related violence. Issues like these leave many questions, here are the facts:


What Started this discussion?

The issue on what extent of violence police should use to enforce the law has always been debated amongst Americans even dating back to the American Revolution. However, an important period for this discussion was during and after the Civil Rights movement and riots incited after police brutality towards racial minorities. Like the riots in Los Angeles after the beating of Rodney King during his arrest. These issues have not gone away.


How many people are killed by police a year?


There isn’t complete vetting or understanding towards how many are killed by law enforcement in the US. Primarily because the statistics only considers deaths that are “killings felons by a peace officer in the line of duty” meaning the general consensus on whether a death is justified under law enforcement action is determined solely by the police department. The FBI reports an average of 390 deaths under these conditions a year. This is where the term “justifiable” is used, This makes collecting data on police deaths nebulous and much more complicated than a simple count. Many investigations by several journalistic outlets (The Guardian, The Washington Post) and the research project Fatal Encounters have looked at nationwide statistics on police related deaths, each investigation has shown nation-wide deaths exceed that of what’s reported by the FBI.


Is there racial imbalance when it comes to police violence?

According to the FBI’s 2012 supplementary homicide report: 31 percent of the victims to deaths by police were African American. A key statistic to take into note is that African Americans (at the time of the data being recorded) only consisted of 13 percent of the population. This amount is disproportionate when compared to the rates of police homicide of other races, Caucasians taking up 63 percent of the population while being 52 percent of the deaths by police, and Hispanics taking up 17 percent of the population while being 12 percent of the deaths. While it is evident that Caucasians are the majority in police deaths, they also happen to be the Majority when it comes to population.


Is police violence more prominent now than it was before?


According to data collected by Mapping Violence from the years 2013 to 2016 there has been a slight increase in deaths from the data first shown in 2013 however in the last 2 years the amount has leveled to be just above or below one hundred a year. This isn’t a statistic that characterises a long term change in death rates however, it does show how police violence fluctuated the last years.


How is this being addressed?


Many find the statistics on police violence unjust, people are trying to enact change in different ways. One is protest, Organisations like Black Lives Matter and the ACLU have made a lot of efforts and protest to bring awareness to police brutality. Lawmakers have been writing legislation that limits the power of officers or monitors them. Many have taken to social media to discuss the issue as well.