A Few Facts About Police Action Shootings

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July 11, 2016 9:19 AM

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As we try to come to terms about recent events in the news regarding law enforcement and the communities they serve, I think it’s only fair that we start with the facts.  I do believe the best way to address the issues we’re seeing is not with shouting and screaming, but conversation and listening and looking at what the data has to say.

The Washington Post did an excellent analysis of fatal police action shootings (FPAS) for 2015.  And while they found nearly 1000 FPAS took place, a breakdown portrays a different picture than what we might see in the media or what we want to believe as part of our own respective narratives.

Here’s what the Post found.  Out of  965 FPAS in 2015…

  • 564 were armed with a gun.
  • 281 had another weapon.
  • 90 were unarmed.

A majority of FPAS fell into three categories…

  • The suspect was wielding a weapon.
  • The suspect was suicidal or mentally troubled.
  • The suspect ran when officers said stop.

In 75 percent of the cases, the Post found, the police were under attack or defending someone.

  • 31 percent of suspects pointed a gun at officers.
  • 28% were shooting at the cop or someone else.
  • 16% were attacking the officer with another weapon.

While, white cops shooting unarmed black men were less than four percent of FPAS, 40 percent of the unarmed shootings involved black men.   A majority of the suspects who were shot while armed were white.  Three in five of the individuals shot after exhibiting “less than threatening” behavior were black or Hispanic.   And when adjusted for population, blacks were seven times more likely to be shot than whites.*

 

More than 240 of people shot by police had mental health problems, 75 were suicidal and in 168 cases, the family confirmed history of mental illness and 90 percent were armed with a weapon and most of the officers involved in the training had no mental health training.

It is very rare for an officer to be charged in a FPAS; only 11 out of 65 in the past decade have been convicted, however the number of prosecutions tripled in 2015.

And when it comes to police killed in the line of duty, according to the National Law Enforcement Memorial Fund, 124 officers were killed in the line of duty 2015.

  • 42 by firearms,
  • 35 by auto and motorcycle accidents.
  • 30 were job related illnesses.
  • The average age of the officer killed in the line of duty was 40 and had been on the job 12.5 years.

I present to you these facts, because you can’t address an issue until you know exactly what you’re addressing.   I think there is merit to both sides of the argument taking place over the relationship between police and certain segments of the community, but in order for conversations to take place, there has to a be starting point.  Hopefully this will be part of the discussion.

*Editor’s note:  The only “issue” I had with the Post data that blacks were seven times more likely to be to shot by police than whites is a problem I have with a lot of racial statistical data because the black population is much smaller than the white.   So for example if I have 1000 whites and 100 blacks in a room and 10 of each group is shot by police, while the number is the same, the percentage for whites is only 1 percent, while for blacks it is 10 percent because the overall population is smaller, so anything that happens to blacks will disproportionately be larger.

 

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