Who Are Police Killing?

Rate of law enforcement killings, per million population per year, 1999-2011. Source: Centers for Disease Control and Prevention, National Center for Health Statistics.

Rate of law enforcement killings, per million population per year, 1999-2011.
Source: Centers for Disease Control and Prevention, National Center for Health Statistics.

Native Americans Most Likely Group to be Killed by Cops

While recent killings by police in Ferguson, Missouri, and New York City receive national attention, the fact is that from 1999 through 2011, American law enforcement officers killed 4,531 people, 96 percent by firearms and 96 percent of them men, according to the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention.* The rate of police killings of African Americans has fallen by 70 percent over the last 40-50 years, but their risk remains much higher than that of Whites, Latinos, and Asians.

The five states or jurisdictions where a person is most likely to be killed by law enforcement are New Mexico, Nevada, District of Columbia, Oregon, and Maryland. California ranks sixth from the top. Alabama, North Carolina, New Jersey, Massachusetts, and New York are the safest (or, perhaps, the worst at reporting).

The major counties and urban jurisdictions with the highest rates of law enforcement killings are Wyandotte County (Kansas City); Denver County, Baltimore (city), Norfolk (city), and Anderson County, South Carolina; interestingly, Harris County (Houston) has the lowest reported rate. Fresno, Riverside, Kern, San Bernardino, and San Diego have the highest rates in California; Contra Costa has the lowest.

The racial group most likely to be killed by law enforcement is Native Americans, followed by African Americans, Latinos, Whites, and Asian Americans.

Native Americans, 0.8 percent of the population, comprise 1.9 percent of police killings. African Americans, 13 percent of the population, are victims in 26 percent of police shootings. Law enforcement kills African Americans at 2.8 times the rate of white non-Latinos, and 4.3 times the rate of Asians.

Latinos are victimized by police killings at a level 30 percent above average and 1.9 times the rate of White, non-Latinos.

One-fourth of those killed by law enforcement are under age 25, 54 percent are ages 25-44, and nearly one-fourth are ages 45 and older. Teenagers comprise only 7 percent of all police killings. The risk of an older teen age 15-19 being killed by police is about the same as for a 50 year-old; for a younger teen age 10-14, about the same as for an 80 year-old.

Editor’s Note: This article was first published in Center on Juvenile and Criminal Justice on August 26, 2014. Used with permission. All rights reserved.

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