About . . . . . . Classes . . . . . . Books . . . . . . Vita . . . . . . . Links. . . . . . Blog

by Peter Moskos

October 4, 2015

It's more dangerous to be black than to be a cop

I heard this somewhere recently and it made me go, really? So I thought I would double check.

Indeed, one is more at risk to be murdered as a black person in America than as a police officer.

For 2013 and 2014 I get an average of about 80 officers killed on duty per year (this excludes correctional officers, traffic accidents, a few other categories.) That's a rate of 9.0 per 100,000 (based on 885,000 officers).

Meanwhile the homicide for blacks in 2013, men and women, is 15 per 100,000. (Based on a black population of 41.7 million and 6,261 homicides in 2013.) That's crazy. Blacks are three or four times more likely to be shot and killed as on-duty police officers.

[Now of course one could quibble that cops are only on duty 1/6 of the time and a good chunk of cops never see the street. Meanwhile being black is a 24/7 job. So hour by hour it might be more dangerous to be a cop. But stop quibbling. Even with a flawed comparison, sometimes you just need a stat just to smack you on the side of the head.]


id said...

How is 15 per 100,000 3 or 4 times greater than 9 per 100,000?

Adam said...

Imagine the contrast if you were to narrow this to just young black men.

I found a very old (1994) Bureau of Justice Statistics report on that, which said "Even though black males age 12 to 24 represent 1.3% of the population, the FBI's Uniform Crime Reports (UCR) 1992 data show that they experienced 17.2% of single victim homicides. This translates to a homicide rate of
114.9 per 100,000 black males in this age range."


I'm not sure how they chose 12-24 as their range, but however you slice it, 115 per 100,000 is pretty crazy. I wonder what the current numbers are.

Peter Moskos said...

ID: 3 or 4 times is shooting homicides only. The more narrow figure compares many more on-duty police deaths (not just cops being *shot* and killed).

id said...

Got it. Also, following up a previous thread: is there a good study that captures, or attempts to capture, the relationship between improved trauma care and gun deaths? Has it appreciably exaggerated the decline in gun violence in any substantial way? Is there any evidence of difference between, say, Baltimore (which is packed with three world-renowned trauma centers near violent areas) and Chicago (where the south side doesn't have a high-level trauma center?)? Or are the numbers too small?

Peter Moskos said...

Google: In Medical Triumph, Homicides Fall Despite Soaring Gun Violence. Wall Street Journal By Gary Fields and Cameron McWhirter Dec. 8, 2012
But it's from 2012
I just googled this and found more recent stuff:
"survival rates of being shot trends"

This is NOLA specific, but seems useful:

id said...

Yeah when I googled the only thing I could find those NOLA numbers and that wsj story. I do remember a couple years ago that shootings in Baltimore went down (I think?) but murders went up. It was a small enough fluctuation to indicate randomness

id said...

Also what a great use of sabermetrics

Concerned citizen said...

CDC homicide victim data might be more complete than DOJ data (I defer to Prof. Moskos on this).

In any event, to answer your question, CDC data indicates the following:

Homicide victim rates for 15-24 yr-old black males, for selected years:
1950--53.8 (per 100K)

CDC Health U.S. 2013, Table 34, p. 2 of 4

Adam said...

Thanks. Those are interesting trends. I wonder what explains them. The crack epidemic, mostly?

Page 14 of this Bureau of Justice Statistics report has more:

Peter Moskos said...

Yes. The rise in homicides related to crack around 1990 was almost 100% confined to shootings among young urban black males.

As to CDC vs DOJ? I don't know. I use DOJ mostly because I always have. It's easy to download their data files through ICPSR. I've never really ventured into CDC data. I've never felt I ever actually had a need to. Maybe I'm missing out.