Study Finds Black People Killed By Police More Likely to Be Unarmed

Illustration for article titled Study Finds Black People Killed By Police More Likely to Be Unarmed

An extensive study by the Guardian has found what many of us already knew to be true: Black and brown Americans are more likely to be killed during encounters with the police and are less likely to be armed than white people who suffer the same fate.


Looking at the 464 Americans who have already been killed this year by law enforcement, the study revealed tangible proof for what has essentially been the thesis for the Black Lives Matter movement.

The Guardian’s statistics include deaths after the police use of a Taser, deaths caused by police vehicles and deaths following altercations in police custody, as well as those killed when officers open fire. They reveal that 29% of those killed by police, or 135 people, were black. Sixty-seven, or 14%, were Hispanic/Latino, and 234, or 50%, were white. In total, 102 people who died during encounters with law enforcement in 2015 were unarmed.

When you keep in mind that black people make up only 13% of the population, these numbers become all the more staggering and depressing.

When Michael Slager was caught on camera first executing Walter Scott as he fled for safety and then planting a gun near the body to bolster whatever lie he was going tell, it proved why many people of color are not so delusional as to blindly accept police accounts as truth. We are often skeptical of reports that black and brown victims were necessarily perceived as threats because they were carrying weapons—and it turns out that close to one third of the time they aren’t.

An analysis of public records, local news reports and Guardian reporting found that 32% of black people killed by police in 2015 were unarmed, as were 25% of Hispanic and Latino people, compared with 15% of white people killed.

The research is part of a larger project by the Guardian that they’re calling The Counted, which will be an interactive database that monitors all police killings in the country. Let’s just reflect for a minute on the fact that a British newspaper will likely end up with the most exhaustive collection of information on American police killings because local agencies aren’t even required to document when they kill one of the citizens they’re supposed to protect and serve.

The initiative was also praised by a range of policing experts and by campaigners who are urging government authorities to make the official recording of fatalities mandatory for all 18,000 police departments and law enforcement agencies operating in the US.


The Guardian’s data also found that law enforcement officials kill people at “twice the rate calculated by the US government’s official public record of police homicides.Remember that the next time someone tries to use the FBI’s flimsy data to argue that police are not, in fact, unjustifiably gunning down black and brown people.

The Counted will include crowdsourced information which has proven to be key and often much more accurate than whatever excuses the police use to cover their asses.

The database, which will combine Guardian reporting with verified crowdsourced information, has logged 464 police killings for the first five months of 2015. The US government’s record, which is run by the FBI, counted 461 “justifiable homicides” by law enforcement in all of 2013, the latest year for which official data is available.

The vast majority of deaths recorded – 408 – were caused by gunshot. Of the 27 deaths that occurred after a Taser was deployed by law enforcement, all but one involved an unarmed person.


For people who say that all the protests and “riots” that have taken place since Mike Brown was gunned down by Darren Wilson on August 9th of 2014 have accomplished nothing, know that studies like this are proving you wrong. While The Counted is obviously not the only solution to a deep, systemic problem that is as American as the Star Spangled Banner, it is helpful. It provides concurrent, indisputable proof for why black and brown communities are so goddamn sick and angry of the police forces running through their neighborhoods acting like thugs with absolutely no consequences to their actions. We’re not making this shit up.

With any luck, the widespread release of data like this will start to awaken the humanity and consciousness—that I hope against hope is in most of us—and make the entire nation angry enough to do something about it.


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Image via Getty.