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by Peter Moskos

August 24, 2014

Race and justifiable police homicides (III): one a day

[Update: Using better data, the number is more like three a day.]

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). Again, how you want to use or misuse that statistic is up to you. And you need to take it with a large grain of salt. Either at least one person a day needs to be shot to protect somebody from getting killed or seriously hurt. Well, either that or police are cold blooded murderers who fill a one-body-a-day quota in the murder department. I'm more partial to the former explanation...

But it might be worth mentioning that the combined total for deaths from police shootings in Japan and Britain was... zero. Germany had eight.

Now ask yourself this: are police-involved killings in the US going up or down. That's tomorrow's fact.

And now, for the nerdy set, some numbers:

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

The rates of justifiable police homicide, are roughly (per 100,000):
black: 0.33
Indian/Native American: 0.17
white: 0.12
Asian: 0.06

To put these numbers in some perspective, there were 13,063 total homicides in 2012.
white men: 4,332
black men: 5,745
white women: 1,651
black women: 858
Asian men: 160
Asian women: 82
Native/Indian men: 72
Native/Indian women: 22

The 2012 US homicide rates (per 100,000, and again, roughly):
black: 16.5
white: 2.7
Asian: 1.6
Indian/Native: 3.2

One other interesting tidbit, if you're still with me, is if one looks only at murders in which the killer is known to be a "stranger" (which is just 15 percent of all homicides... and this does not include the larger category of "relationship not determined"). Then the numbers plummet:
white men: 912
black men: 812
white women: 112
black women: 90
Asian men: 45
Asian women: 9
Native/Indian men: 15
Native/Indian women: 1

I mention this because fear and public policy is built so much around the concept of people (I'll say it: white women) being killed at home or in a robbery by some stranger (I'll say it again: a black man). And yet there were just 32 such victims in 2012. And 2012 was a high year. 2011 saw just 25 white women killed by black strangers.

The odds of being killed by a stranger, especially if you're a woman, are almost infinitesimally small. Though to be fair, they're still greater than the chance of being killed by lighting or attacked by a shark.

[Rates are based on these population numbers (which are not cut and dried): white 224 million; black 40 million; Asian 15 million; Native/Indian 3 million. Homicides from the 2012 UCR homicide supplement.]


Josh C said...

I cannot parse your Germany/Britain paragraph. Would you mind checking that it matches your intent?

PCM said...

Thanks. Corrected. I meant Japan and Britain.

Anonymous said...

What about Mexicans?

Anonymous said...

Hispanic's are most likely counted in the "White" category since there appears to be no separate category for them (But there should be).

Anonymous said...

It would appear that Hispanics are lumped in with Whites, which seems... unhelpful.