There Have Only Been 9 Days This Year When Police Didn't Kill Someone

America remains number one — at least as far as law enforcement using deadly force is concerned. According to data provided by Mapping Police Violence, there were only nine days this year in which a law enforcement officer failed to kill someone.

The vast majority of days saw at least one officer-involved killing, while others saw multiple. Another source that compiles news stories about the deaths of people at the hands of law enforcement, KilledByPolice.net, reports that the 2015 total stood at 512 dead as of Friday, June 12 (not counting the suspect who was killed in Dallas, Texas, on Saturday morning during an armed assault on police headquarters).

Not all of these killings were unjustified; sometimes people are shot and killed while endangering others. But the statistics do shed some light on just who tends to be targeted during officer-involved shootings, and the implications are disturbing.

The Guardian wrote that as of June 10, "49.6% of people were white, 28.2% were black and 14.8% were Hispanic/Latino. According to the 2013 census, the US population is 62.6% white, 13.2% black and 17.1% Hispanic/Latino." Just over one-fifth (21.6%) of the victims were unarmed.

The growing body of evidence confirms previous accountings that revealed how much more likely black people in the U.S. are to find themselves shot by an officer than their white fellow citizens. According to statistics compiled by Mapping Police Violence, in 2014, black people were approximately 2.83 times as likely as white people to be shot and killed by a police officer. 

Police officers oversee protests against the acquittal of Cleveland Police Officer Michael Brelo in a protest on May 23.
Source: 
John Minchillo/AP

As Mic has previously reported, these high rates of shootings exist in no other wealthy, democratic countries. The chart below compares KilledByPolice.net's 2014 list of confirmed killings to the FBI's incomplete data set and reports from other countries like Japan, where strict gun control has reduced the nation's gun homicide rate to nearly nothing.

As recent police killings like those of Eric Garner, Michael Brown, Tamir Rice and many other black men under disputed circumstances have attracted nationwide attention, the Obama administration has taken action, limiting federal sales of certain kinds of military-style equipment to local police forces under the Pentagon's 1033 program and launching unprecedented investigations of police forces accused of patterns of excessive force (most recently in Ferguson, Missouri, Baltimore and Cleveland).

While the investigations often deliver sweeping reform agreements, the Marshall Project writes that changes often stop short of activists' goals and that the Justice Department can only investigate less than approximately 0.02% of the nation's 18,000 police forces each year. Police forces remain able to access large amounts of military-style equipment, the ACLU reports that SWAT team deployments have risen precipitously and American police officers or departments are still rarely held accountable for excessive force or dubiously aggressive police tactics.

Perhaps that explains why America's epidemic of police violence shows no signs of slowing down.

"We know that reforming 1033 or putting limits on military equipment is not going to be enough," Million Hoodies Movement for Justice director Dante Barry told the Washington Post in May. "Any reform done to policing must be systemic and transformative. Militarized police culture, surveillance technologies and equipment must all be looked at if we are to see an end of police militarization in our communities."

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Tom McKay

Tom is a staff writer at Mic, covering national politics, media, policing and the war on drugs. He is based in New York and can be reached at tmckay@mic.com.

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