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by Peter Moskos

October 10, 2014

The PIHN Winners

The winner, still by far, is Riverside, CA. But sneaking into second place is Mesa, Arizona, the only non-Californian city in the top 6.

Here's the top 20 with the PIHN. All 20 are west of the Mississippi:
Riverside: 31
Mesa: 14
San Diego: 12
Sacramento: 9
Bakersfield: 8
Seattle: 8
Portland: 8
Albuquerque: 7
Fresno: 7
Tucson: 7
San Jose: 7
Long Beach: 6
Colorado Springs: 6
Oklahoma City: 6
Denver: 6
Phoenix: 5
Tulsa: 5
Austin: 5
San Antonio: 5
The first city east of the Mississippi is Philadelphia, which has a PIHN of 2.9. This mean that police in San Diego are 4 times more likely to kill somebody, taking the overall homicide rate into account.

I compiled and ran the numbers for 40 cities for which I believe the UCR data on justified police-involved homicides seems valid for the past 15 years. By "seems" I mean me looking over the numbers to make sure there's an entry for every year and that the overall number in close to what one might expect, based on population and crime. Once I supplemented missing data with other data (New York City), and once I just averaged from fewer years (San Antonio).

Cities which I think lack valid data include Boston, Charlotte, Detroit, El Paso, Fort Worth, Honolulu, Jacksonville, Louisville, Virginia Beach, Omaha, Arlington, Raleigh, Miami, Washington DC, and Wichita. But except for those, I compiled numbers for every city larger than 350,000 (and a few smaller ones, too).

But when the PIHN gets below two, I start to suspect some of the data is missing. But who knows? Maybe I'm not giving credit where credit is due.

There's also the possibility that the PIHN adjusts too much for violence. It does, in effect, punish cities for being safe. But police officers in "safe" cities might be quicker to shoot, since they're less used to danger. Certainly cities with low homicide rates rank high on the PIHN scale. But not always. Sacramento has a high homicide rate and a high PIHN. New York has a low homicide rate and a low PIHN. But it might be more interesting to make a scale which eliminates any correlation between PIHN and a city's homicide rate. But I also suspect, based on experience, that police in high-crime areas deserve more credit than they get for not shooting. Some of the bad shootings I've seen recently... I can't imagine a cop in Baltimore being so damn scared for no good reason.

There are fewer than 15 homicides a year in Riverside. Given that, it seems hard to believe that police kill almost five a year.


David Woycechowsky said...

Your mention of Portland reminds me of a movie that you should see:


Just watched it for the first time recently, and I think that you could benefit from it.

e/m me a mailing address if you want me to send you a copy of the DVD.

Anonymous said...

I have read over the years that cities in California tend to have low numbers of sworn officers, relative to their populations, compared with cities back East.

Is it possible an office without adequate backup might be more prone to losing control of a situation, justifiably fearing for his life, engaging in lethal force? Pure speculation, but for whatever it might be worth.