Police brutality has been a contentious and high-profile issue in the US and worldwide.
There aren’t any publicly released government statistics related to police violence, and until 2019, there was no regulatory authority gathering data on the rising cases of police brutality. Therefore, it’s hard to understand how prevalent police killings have become over the years.
However, some third-party sources like Statista and MappingPoliceVoilence.org are curating numbers on this topic.
We looked into more such resources to outline some startling stats, news and facts associated with police brutality across the world.
With so many cases of police brutality in the US and worldwide, it can be difficult to find a silver lining. Here is a list of our top picks for police brutality statistics.
We’ve seen numerous instances of police killing and severely injuring people in the US and everywhere else around the world during arrests fueled by protests and racism. In most cases, the police are quick to use force when responding to demonstrations or protests.
A few years ago, police in Hong Kong repeatedly deployed weapons such as rubber bullets and tear gas against protestors in an unlawful way. Police officers injure or kill people using these methods and are rarely held accountable for their actions.
Hence, you must learn about your rights and understand what the police are allowed and aren’t allowed to do when dealing with mobs and protestors. There needs to be a stand taken by people and governments worldwide to stop unlawful police brutality and the use of excessive force when making arrests or stopping demonstrations. To prove that point, we will be sharing some police brutality statistics from around the world.
Thousands of people worldwide are killed by law enforcement every year. However, police officers in the US shoot and kill more people than police in developed countries like Japan, Germany, and the United Kingdom.
Let’s look at the list of countries with the highest numbers of civilian casualties at the hands of the police, based on recent data (2016–May 17, 2021):
Brazil has the most police killings, with 6,160 deaths, six times more than the US. Unsurprisingly, Rio de Janeiro, a state known for its drug wars and gangs, has the highest number of police killings. Officials claim that most victims of police brutality here were armed and died in encounters with the police.
Police killings are virtually non-existent in European countries, with Switzerland, Denmark, and Iceland reporting zero instances of police brutality for a few years in a row. It’s no surprise that both Iceland and Denmark are ranked the top ten safest countries worldwide. Moreover, police in Iceland don’t carry firearms.
Other developed countries also have low numbers of police brutality. New Zealand, Portugal, Luxemburg, Hong Kong, Malta, Saint Lucia, and Norway only reported one case of death by police in a year.
Funding of police departments varies among wealthy European countries. At the lower end of the spectrum, Finland only spends less than 0.5% of its gross domestic product (GDP) on law enforcement. However, Hungary spends the most, around 1.4% of its GDP.
In comparison, the US only spends 1% of its GDP on funding police departments. Local governments fund most of them, but federal, and state governments finance their law enforcement agencies by themselves.
In Mexico, the cities and states fund the police department. However, critics claim that the wealthy areas have better equipped and trained forces.
Western European and Australian cities don’t fund their police forces. Switzerland is an exception, though, as many municipalities finance local departments.
Most advanced democracies also face the problem of police brutality. Officers around the world are using aggressive means like tear gas and rubber bullets to control protestors. The French police used these tactics in late 2018 when the Yellow Vests protests happened.
When it comes to police killings, the US surpasses other countries. It’s estimated that police in the US killed 7,638 people from 2014 to 2019, compared to only 224 civilians killed in police encounters in Canada. Countries like Norway and Finland haven’t experienced any police killings in several years.
The European Convention on Human Rights, adopted by 47 countries, permits using force by police officials only when “absolutely necessary,” with countries strictly regulating its use. For example, police in most European countries are not allowed to use neck restraints, a controversial tactic that has led to the death of many civilians in the United States.
Police in the United States are armed with military-grade equipment, sometimes used on civilians during protests and arrests. That has resulted in a high casualty rate and the rising cases of police brutality across the United States. The justification that police departments in the US provide for arming themselves is that most civilians own guns and will use them to resist arrests.
Here are some of the police brutality statistics in the United States below.
From 2013 to 2020, police killed more than 9,000 civilians in the US, at an average of nearly 1,100 per year. Till May 2021, there have been more civilians killed by police (363) than the days passed in the year (120).
The most common cause of death among civilians in police encounters has been shootings, as gunshots account for 9 in 10 deaths. The other three causes include physical restraint, tasers, and vehicles. Sadly, the number of victims of police brutality in the United States increases every year.
In the first six months of 2021, 523 civilians were shot and killed by police. The numbers weren’t much better in 2020, as there were 1,021 people shot and killed by police, and in 2019, 999 people lost their lives in police shootings.
Police shootings occur in every state and happen more frequently in cities with concentrated populations. The states with the highest percentage of police shootings are New Mexico, Alaska, and Oklahoma. Let’s look at the major cities with the highest rates of cop shootings in 2016–2021 (through May 17).
Los Angeles, California, has had the highest number of police killings over the past five years, with 70 cases. Phoenix, Arizona, takes second place, with 46, and Chicago police have fatally shot 45 people during that period. Here is the complete list:
|Los Angeles, California||70|
|New York, New York||44|
|Kansas City, Missouri||25|
|St. Louis, Missouri||25|
|Las Vegas, Nevada||23|
|Oklahoma City, Oklahoma||21|
|San Antonio, Texas||18|
|Long Beach, California||17|
|Albuquerque, New Mexico||17|
When it comes to police brutality cases, Los Angeles has a grim history. Several days of civil unrest took place in the city in 1992 when five white police officers were acquitted after brutally beating Rodney King, a black motorist. A bystander had caught the attack on camera, which fueled the tensions.
Even decades before that, in the 1965 riots, Watts, a predominantly black neighbourhood in the city, was the site where civilians and police had a six-day skirmish.
Police killings in Los Angeles remain common, and the LA Times conducted an in-depth analysis, which revealed that since 2001 at least 935 people had been killed by the LA County law enforcement. During that time, the city has only charged two police officers.
Even though the numbers paint a different picture, the reality is police shootings in the United States are not as common as some would like you to believe. To get the complete picture of the rarity of police shootings, you must remember that their frequency has spiralled with the increased percentage of people carrying weapons with them.
According to police brutality statistics NYC, an average of 72 people were killed in police shootings in New York City per year in the early 1970s. When you fast forward to 2020, you find out that only 19 people were shot and killed by police officers in the entire state of New York in 2020, and each individual carried a gun or a knife.
It is estimated that nearly 11 million arrests were made in 2019, out of which 999 people were fatally shot by police officers. That shows that 0.0099% of the people who might have been arrested lost their lives to police shootings. Moreover, 0.0016% of all people who encountered a police officer were killed by one.
A study found that people who have an untreated mental illness are 16 times more likely to be killed by police in a shooting. That’s mainly because such individuals don’t understand the police officers’ commands and are often hostile when stopped. That leaves the law enforcement official with little choice but to use excessive force when making the arrest.
What Percent of Police Shootings Are Justified?
Source: Maciver Institute.
Incidents in which police officers in the United States use excessive force are rare. It’s mainly required when the person is a criminal or is inherently violent.
Police officers are often painted as the guilty party when a person is killed in a shooting incident. However, police brutality statistics in the US reveal that 94% of the 6,211 people killed by police officers in the US since 2015 have been armed in some manner. Around 60% of them had a gun, 75% were armed with a knife, and 87% carried a gun, knife, or another weapon. Nearly every person shot and killed by police officers in the US was armed.
A report by the Memorial Fund stated that 48 police officers lost their lives to gun-related incidents in 2020, which was a decline of 6% when you compare it to 51 police officers being shot and killed in 2019. Out of the 48 fatally shot police officers:
That clearly shows the level of threat and the risks that police officers are taking daily. Moreover, the number of officers who lose their lives in the line of duty is only increasing.
Even with such numbers, a staggering 55% of Americans said they were not confident that police training was adequate for avoiding excessive use of force.
There are several instances where you may be involved in a scenario where a police officer has to use excessive force against you. However, that doesn’t mean you should end up losing your life or get fatally shot. Here we reveal the police brutality statistics by encounter type.
Source: Maciver Institute.
There are various circumstances and factors that you must consider when discussing the rising cases of police shootings. The first and foremost statistic to keep in mind is that nearly every person who has been shot and killed by police officers has been armed. These figures go back to the time when The Washington Post first began its comprehensive fatal shooting database.
The statistics clearly show that if an attempt is made to stop armed people, they will not hesitate to use deadly force against police officers. Such a hypothetical leaves little choice to the officer as they must respond appropriately to diffuse the situation and save their lives. In recent years, nearly every single one of the 6,000 people killed by police officers in the United States had been armed and tried to resist arrest or escape.
Out of that number, only 2% of people killed by an officer were black and unarmed. A staggering 91% of blacks killed by police since 2015 were armed and tried to resist arrest. The evidence couldn’t be clearer when it comes to the circumstances leading up to police shootings and why people lose their lives at the hands of law enforcement.
In recent times, race relations have been under the public lens once again. Police brutality statistics show that there are some discrepancies between the numbers of white people and black, Native American, and Hispanic people killed by police. Let’s take a closer look at the facts and numbers.
Black Americans were 28% of those killed by police in 2020 despite making up only 13% of the population. Native American and Hispanic people have also been overrepresented in police killings. On the other hand, whites and Asian/Pacific Islanders are the only ethnic groups underrepresented in police killings.
The rate of homicide in the US occurs at nearly 5 per 100,000 people, but the rates of most police killings far exceed that number for some ethnic groups.
Even though the true scope of police brutality in the United States can’t be quantified, a report revealed that over 2,600 Latinos were killed by police or died in police custody over the past few years. The report indicates that the deaths of people of colour are undercounted, and more needs to be done to protect Latinos’ rights in the US.
In 2015, the Obama Justice Department studied the Philadelphia Police Department’s use of force. It determined that white officers were less likely to shoot an unarmed black suspect than black or Hispanic officers.
There can be no denying that the rate at which police have killed black people is way higher than that of white people. For example, in Utah, police have killed black people at a rate of 26.7 per 100,000 since 2013, compared with 2.7 per 100,000 for white people.
Even though police brutality numbers are shockingly high, you will be even more shocked to hear that children and minors are not safe from law enforcement. There has been a rising number of cases where children have been shot fatally by the police. Here are the statistics.
Over the past six years, around 112 children have been fatally shot by the police. 23 victims of those killed were under the age of 15. The data has also shown that the children were disproportionately black and Hispanic, 37% and 25%, respectively.
Out of 112 deaths, only five cases resulted in officers being charged criminally. Moreover, 66% of incidents are in the database without video documentation.
As per The Washington Post database, children tend to be armed with a weapon during these fatal police encounters. However, this number is not as high as for adults who lose their lives after being shot by police officers. Adults are lethally shot 76% of the time in police encounters, while minors are shot 63% in such situations.
66% of the children killed due to police shootings were black, Native American, Asian, or Latino, compared with 44% of adults from minority communities. Children also were more often shot while running from police: 50% compared with 33% of adults.
Data from Mapping Police Violence, which has tracked police killings of children since 2013, has revealed nearly 175 fatalities of children younger than 18 years, including three one-year-olds.
The rate at which police brutality is increasing every year is extremely concerning. Another thing that should be of concern is that women also experience excessive use of force by police officers.
The analysis reveals that 3 out of every 100,000 females will be killed by police. That means police officers will not relax or assume that there’s no threat simply because they deal with women.
The same analysis suggests that approximately 1 of every 1,000 black men/boys can be expected to be killed by the police. The lifetime risk of getting killed by law enforcement for American Indian and Alaska Native men/boys is about 1 in 2,000, while it’s approximately 1 in 2,500 for white men and boys.
Even though there is room for debate over the various policy interventions that may limit the number of police brutality cases in the US, there’s a lack of scrutiny and accountability over these incidents. When police officers kill a civilian, the assumption made initially is that the incident was justified and they had to use necessary force.
However, the same train of thought isn’t held by everyone, and that’s when a clash of ideas occurs. Even though the truth may lie somewhere in between, the general public can’t make informed decisions about gun legality, gun reform, or police brutality without facing the cold, hard facts. The facts are undeniable, and the police brutality statistics show the true picture of police violence in the US.
Even though the overall number of people killed in police shootings has increased steadily over the past couple of years, it can be said safely that police brutality has decreased over time. It may surprise those who want to hold the police accountable for any arrest involving excessive force.
Human Rights observers raised concerns about increased cop brutality in the United States after the attacks of September 11, 2001. A report highlighting the US “war on terror” was being used as an excuse by law enforcement agencies to control civilians and use excessive force with little accountability for their actions. It even sparked an increase in racial profiling and force against those of South Asian, Muslim, Middle Eastern, and Arab origins.
When you look at cities with the highest police to population ratio in the United States, there is only one winner, Washington D.C. In 2018, the city had more than 547 police staff for every 100,000 residents. Washington D.C employed 3,841 police staff, which is the highest number among US cities.
Even though 2020 brought about a pandemic that completely halted day-to-day activities and the lives of many Americans, fatal police shootings still occurred at a consistent rate. That estimate comes to 1021 people fatally shot and killed by police in 2020.
Some of the leading causes of police brutality that we believe should be addressed are a lack of accountability and improper training.
Law enforcement personnel should obtain constant updates to training methods so that officers only use excessive force when necessary and focus on safe detainment. Without ongoing changes and proper training, most police officers will maintain the same processes that have resulted in countless police brutality cases
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