How many police killings per year in the USA?


The USA has a long loving relation with numbers. Most sports fans can give you totals, averages and dates from events in current and past history for their beloved athletes. This country is governed by politicians relying on poll data, even asking what presidential candidate the average american would preferred to be cared by if they were ill… (Oh, just so you know in 2012, that was 49% Obama – 36% Romney). When I was writing an article about what goes on in the USA these days, I found that there is no reliable data available about the police shootings, police killings, etc…

The FBI keeps track and detailed analysis of all officers who died. But no agency seems to be concerned to know how many people die as a result of a police intervention. There is no central datasource on how many police killings per year happen in the  USA. And that’s shocking, especially in these days where we have the commotion surrounding the death by police of Michael Brown and Eric Garner.

The Wall Street Journal tried to compile a list this week, as did the Washington Post in September, and Wikipedia keeps a crowd-managed list. Not all names can be verified and not all sources are mentioned, but if we start with the information collected here, we find that between January of 2014 and September of 2014, there are 330 documented cases of deaths inflicted by police. Between New Year and October 1st of this year, on average every 20 hours a person in the USA died as a result of a police action. In the UK, there is 1 documented case over the same period of time.

This means you have one chance in about a million (1/967603 to be precise) of getting killed by police in the USA, and a chance of one in 64 million (1/64100000) of dying by police in the UK. So 66 times more chances in the USA. Or, put differently, this means you will on average get shot 175 times by US Police, before winning the US Powerball.

And if, on top of the amount of deaths, it feels as if police officers walk free after the recent deaths, it’s easy to understand why more and more people are upset.

American dream, the nightmare version?

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  1. Pingback: Eric Garner NYPD - I fail to understand...

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