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by Peter Moskos

January 1, 2019

State variation in police-involved shootings

Welcome to 2019!

I've compiled the past four years of Washington Post data on those shot and killed by police. Four years gives us a reasonable amount of data. The first thing that jumps out is that the number of people killed by police has remained strikingly constant each and every year for which we have data (from the Washington Post).



The other thing that continues to jump out (I've written about this before) is the state-by-state variation.



The national annual average (2015-2018) is 0.31 (rate per 100,000). And yet New Mexico is 0.98 and New York is 0.09. This is a large difference.

Or take Utah (because of this story in the paper). Utah has a murder and violence rate below the national average, a low poverty rate, and is 90 percent white. And yet people in Utah are almost 5 times as likely an in New York to be killed by a cop. Utah has murder rate lower than NYC, 1/5 the poverty rate, far fewer cops, and Utah is 90% white. In 2018, the rate of people shot and killed by police in Utah is multiple times higher than NYC.

I'd speculate significant variables are (in no particular order) training, fewer cops per capita, fewer cops per mile (no backup), one-person patrol, more guns, gun culture, more meth, more booze, and race (with more white states having more police-involved shootings).

The ten leading states -- as in cops most shootingest states -- in rank order, are New Mexico, Alaska, Oklahoma, Arizona, Colorado, Nevada, Wyoming, West Virginia, Montana, and Idaho. It certainly seems like if we were to focus on the states that have the highest rates of police-involved shootings (and by far), we could find some low-hanging fruit to reduce the number of said shootings. But to do this we'd have stop thinking of police-involved shootings as primarily related to race.

Collectively the top-10 states are 4.9 percent African American (compared to 13 percent nationally). These are the cowboy states out west. The 10 states with the highest percentage of black population (collectively 25%) have a rate of police-involved homicide (0.24) that is below the national average.

1 comment:

Jay Livingston said...

Funny you should mention Utah. All of your top ten states except WV and OK are in the top 12 on percent Mormon. And of the eight most Mormon states, all but Hawaii and Utah are in your top ten.