Today, local politicians worry more about an officer-involved shooting then balancing their budgets. If you didn’t know better, one would think that there are packs of rogue cops all over the United States hunting down and killing people. But, then again, maybe you don’t. In the age of the Internet and access to all kinds of information, many choose to be ignorant of the facts. Everyone is entitled to their own opinion, but not their own facts. This post will break down the facts so you can be better informed. The question remains, “Who gets shot by the police?”
Part of the problem is a lack of statistics that are officially gathered by the government. The FBI collects a variety of data for a number of databases, but when it comes to police-involved shootings, they don’t. This has opened the door for anyone and everyone with an agenda to collect their own data. At the moment, The Washington Post is an actively managed database of officer-involved shootings in the United States. What does it tell us? This post will derive its conclusions directly from Post’s database.
Who Gets Shot by the Police?
There isn’t a police officer that I know of that is hoping to get involved in a shooting. Take it from me, who has actually been in an officer-involved shooting, nobody wants to do it. There is no training in the world that can prepare you for firing your weapon at a human being. You can shoot at paper targets all day long – it doesn’t matter. We don’t train our police officers like the military. Police officers do not work in active war zones and are not constantly shot at.
At the time of this writing, there were 721 people killed by the police in the United States since January 1, 2017. That’s an average of 2.76 people a day or eighty (80) per month. Here is the breakdown:
Male: 688 (95.4%)
White: 323 (44.8%)
Black: 164 (22.7%)
Hispanic: 112 (15.5%)
Other: 24 (3.3%)
Incidents when a person is unarmed are the most scrutinized of all cases and they should be. In 721 fatal encounters, there are 652 confirmed cases where the suspect possessed or was using some type of weapon. There have been a total of 32 cases when the individual was unarmed and 37 cases where it is unknown if the person was armed. It is important to note that being unarmed doesn’t make a person not dangerous. Every encounter with a police officer has a gun readily available.
States with the most Officer-Involved Shootings
California has the highest number of fatal uses of force than any other state in the nation. There have been 124 fatal encounters with police. Officer involved shootings in California account for 17.2% of all shootings. The next closest state is Texas with 53 or 7.4%. I also have to note that California and Texas are also the most populous states.
Do Some Research
One should always be careful when statistics are being thrown around. What’s the person’s intention? Are they trying to educate? Deceive? The way statistics are presented can mean a lot too. Does it sound better to say 4 out of 5 voters approve of the measure or 80% of voters approve? Both numbers are the same, but one may appeal more to the average listener. There is so much information that can be found with a couple of mouse clicks, I wonder why people take everything they hear as gospel.
IACP Releases Guide on Handling Officer-Involved Shootings