Final total of people killed by US police officers in 2015 shows rate of death for young black men was five times higher than white men of the same age
Despite making up only 2% of the total US population, African American males between the ages of 15 and 34 comprised more than 15% of all deaths logged this year by an ongoing investigation into the use of deadly force by police. Their rate of police-involved deaths was five times higher than for white men of the same age.
Paired with official government mortality data, this new finding indicates that about one in every 65 deaths of a young African American man in the US is a killing by police.
“This epidemic is disproportionately affecting black people,” said Brittany Packnett, an activist and member of the White House taskforce on policing. “We are wasting so many promising young lives by continuing to allow this to happen.”
Speaking in the same week that a police officer in Cleveland, Ohio, was cleared by a grand jury over the fatal shooting of Tamir Rice, a 12-year-old African American boy who was carrying a toy gun, Packnett said the criminal justice system was presenting “no deterrent” to the excessive use of deadly force by police. “Tamir didn’t even live to be 15,” she said.
Protests accusing law enforcement officers of being too quick to use lethal force against unarmed African Americans have spread across the country in the 16 months since dramatic unrest gripped Ferguson, Missouri, following the fatal police shooting of 18-year-old Michael Brown by a white officer.
Overall in 2015, black people were killed at twice the rate of white, Hispanic and native Americans. About 25% of the African Americans killed were unarmed, compared with 17% of white people. This disparity has narrowed since the database was first published on 1 June, at which point black people killed werefound to be twice as likely to not have a weapon.
The Guardian’s investigation, titled The Counted, began in response to widespread concern about the federal government’s failure to keep any comprehensive record of people killed by police. Officials at the US Department of Justice have since begun testing a database that attempts to do so, directly drawing on The Counted’s data and methodology.
The FBI also announced plans to overhaul its own count of homicides by police, which has been discredited by its reliance on the voluntary submission of data from a fraction of the country’s 18,000 police departments. The Guardian’s total for 2015 was more than two and a half times greater than the 444 “justifiable homicides” logged by the FBI last year.
The FBI director, James Comey, said in October it was “embarrassing and ridiculous” that the government did not hold comprehensive statistics, and that it was “unacceptable” the Guardian and the Washington Post, which began publishing a database of fatal police shootings on 1 July, held better records. The Counted will continue into 2016.
Data collected by the Guardian this year highlighted the wide range of situations encountered by police officers across the US. Of the 1,134 people killed, about one in five were unarmed but another one in five fired shots of their own at officers before being killed. At least six innocent bystanders were killed by officers during violent incidents; eight police officers were killed by people who subsequently died and appeared in the database.
For more (http://www.theguardian.com/us-news/2015/dec/31/the-counted-police-killings-2015-young-black-men)