What You Must Know About Systemic Racism – Part 10: Fatal Police Shootings

Source: Business Insider

Photo Evansville Courier

Roughly half of those fatally shot by police are white, but Black and Latinos are fatally shot at a disproportionate rate compared to their representation in the US population.

The Washington Post has compiled one of the most thorough datasets available when it comes to fatal police shootings, and it has sparked debate over what it means when it comes to racial bias in police killings.

The data show that more than half of the people fatally shot by police in America within the last five years were actually white — but fatal police shootings of Black people were disproportionately high, considering they account for roughly 13% of the US population.

As of June 12, 2,469 white people had been fatally shot since 2015 at rate of 13 per million, whereas 1,293 Black people were fatally shot at a rate of 31 per million.

The database also comes with a number of other qualifiers — namely, that it tracks only fatal police shootings, not fatal police encounters in general. So the deaths of Black men like George Floyd, which occurred after a Minneapolis police officer knelt on his neck for nearly nine minutes, have not been included in the dataset, nor have the deaths of Eric Garner in Staten Island, who died from a police chokehold, or Freddie Gray in Baltimore, who died of spinal injuries he suffered in a police van.

It’s also worth pointing out that every fatal police shooting included in the database has its own unique set of circumstances that may or may not have justified a shooting. For instance, the database includes Omar Mateen, the mass shooter who killed 49 people in an Orlando nightclub in 2016 before police fatally shot him.

The majority of fatal police shootings — 4,037 out of the 5,403 people fatally shot by police in the last five years — occurred when a suspect had either a gun or a knife.

Though the presence of a weapon does not in and of itself mean each of those police shootings was justified (for example, the database includes the fatal police shooting of Philando Castile, who was legally armed and obeyed the officer’s commands during a traffic stop), officers are generally permitted to use deadly force when they believe a person poses a serious threat of injury or death.

But even when narrowing the data down to fatal police shootings of unarmed people, it shows a similar story as the aggregate data. Of the 352 instances where police fatally shot unarmed people, 145 of those people were white and 123 were Black (63 were Hispanic and 21 were designated “other” or “unknown.”) — that’s a rate of 10.7 white deaths per 10 million, and 30.1 Black deaths per 10 million.