12/09/2014

Six Facts About Racially Oriented Homicides by Police

Fact 1: The racial percentage of those killed by police hasn't changed. In other words, police are not more (or less) likely to shoot and kill blacks than they were 15 years ago. (In more academic terms, there is no correlation between year and race, from 1998 to 2012, selecting for whites and blacks).

Fact 2: Blacks are more likely than whites to be shot and killed by police, but probably less so than you'd suspect. 34 percent of those killed by police are African American. But put another way, 62 percent of those killed by police are white.

Fact 3: UCR data on justified police-homicides are notorious incomplete. These numbers are an undercount. But given the data we have, as reported (or not) to the DOJ by local police departments, police kill at least one person a day (426 in 2012, to be exact, 30 percent were black, 63 percent were white).
In 2012, police killed a total of 426 people. Of those:
white men: 267
black men: 128
white women: 6
black women: 4
"Asian or Pacific Islanders": 9
"American Indian or Alaskan Native": 5

Fact 4: Police-involved killings are going up. This one surprised me. Because police-involved shootings are generally correlated with overall homicides. But homicides are more or less steady right now, and down 10,000 since 1998 (14,000 in 1998, 13,000 in 2012).

Fact 5: Black officers are disproportionately more likely than white police to kill black people. But this should not come as a surprise since black officers are much more likely to work in black areas and in cities where there are more blacks. Again, without a good denominator, this doesn't mean much. 73.5 percent of those killed by black police are black. For white police the percentage is 27.6 percent.

Fact 6: Black police officers do kill white people. Black officers (about 1 in 7 of all police) kill about 27 blacks and 9.4 whites per year. White police (of whom there are many more) kill an average of 81 blacks and 200 whites each year (both for the past 15 years).

All data comes from FBI’s Uniform Crime Reports and studies by Peter Moskos, an associate professor at John Jay College of Criminal Justice in the Department of Law, Police Science, and Criminal Justice Administration. Moskos is a former Baltimore City police officer and Harvard and Princeton trained sociologist.