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    Data on police killings bucks media narrative

    Data on police killings bucks media narrative

    90% of those shot by police were armed with a deadly weapon

    One of the dominant theories of our time is that police officers are waging a Terminator-like war against unarmed young black men, killing them with a ruthlessness and determination evocative of a genocide, all the while escaping legal sanction.

    The Washington Post, certainly not a paper to shy away from fanning the flames of discord, seems to have stumbled upon some actual data on the subject.  Their reporting of this data is, as one might have expected, far richer in anecdote than analysis, but nevertheless the snippets of data that slip through are perhaps noteworthy.

    We start with a data point showing 385 police killings of suspects so far this year.

    Of these 385 killings, only about 25% involved a black suspect.  While it is certainly true that this 25% is disproportionate to the 13% or so of the US population that is black, it is also true that black suspects are disproportionately represented among those arrested for violent crime in general.

    Police shootings. Source-Washington Post

    Police shootings. Source-Washington Post


    Crime statistics gathered by the Federal Bureau of Investigation are informative on this last point. The data on arrests indicates that black people account for 56% of those arrested for murder and voluntary manslaughter, forcible rape, robbery, aggravated assault/battery, and burglary.

    Of course, not all those who are arrested for a crime are necessarily convicted of that crime, or even of any crime at all, but there’s no reason that this caution would not apply similarly to every demographic group captured by the FBI data.  Thus the tremendous disparity in arrest rates for the most violent crimes remains remarkable, and this remains so even if the claimed cause for the disparity is racism.

    The result then is that the FBI data suggests that roughly 56% of the most violent crimes are committed by black people, but the Washington Post data indicates only about 25% of those killed by police are black people.  This would seem to be a disproportion favorable to black people.

    So much for the assertion that the police are waging war on black people.

    None of this suggests, of course, that police officers never use their weapons unlawfully, sometimes against black suspects. Naturally, where such cases occur they should be prosecuted vigorously.  One case authorities believe to fall into this category is the shooting this past April in South Carolina of Walter Scott by Officer Michael Slager, which Legal Insurrection reported on here:  Cop Shoots Fleeing Unarmed Black Man, Charged With Murder, and here Dash Cam Footage of Walter Scott Shooting Released, and here On shooting fleeing suspects.  Slager was promptly charged with murder and arrested.

    Also interesting, of the 385 police killings nearly 90% involved the shooting of a suspect who displayed a deadly weapon, or apparent deadly weapon (e.g., a realistic looking toy gun).

    Victim armed or unarmed. Source-Washington Post

    Victim armed or unarmed. Source-Washington Post


    There goes the “unarmed victim” claim.

    In addition, the data do not tell us how many of the remaining 10% were cases like the “unarmed” attack on George Zimmerman, or of the “unarmed” attack on Officer Darren Wilson.  Both of those attacks were adjudicated to entirely justify the victim’s use of a gun in self-defense to kill their assailant.

    I haven’t the stomach or time to dive into the many anecdotal events stuffed into the analysis in an apparent effort to dull the sharp edge of the reality this data represents, but naturally you should feel free to read the whole thing.

    –-Andrew, @LawSelfDefense

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    Andrew F. Branca is an MA lawyer and the author of the seminal book “The Law of Self Defense, 2nd Edition,” available at the Law of Self Defense blog (autographed copies available) and (paperback and Kindle). He also holds Law of Self Defense Seminars around the country, and provides free online self-defense law video lectures at the Law of Self Defense Institute and podcasts through iTunes, Stitcher, and elsewhere.


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    Stan25 | June 4, 2015 at 7:57 am

    More blacks are killed from abortions than being shot by the cops. Yet, no one seems to think that does not matter. Where are the black activists on this issue? Oh that is right, they support abortion in any stage of pregnancy.

    Stan25 | June 4, 2015 at 8:02 am

    How many of those black deaths are suicide by cop? Or do they even want refine that statistic?

    Missouri CCW | June 4, 2015 at 8:11 am

    So 49 unarmed people killed in the US in 2015. The US population is 318.9 million. Over 151 days, that’s 48.1 billion person-days. With 49 killed over 151 days, that’s 0.00000000102 people killed per day on average per capita over that period. The article was clearly meant to incite faux rage.

    I could run the same statistics any given weekend in Chicago and the numbers would be orders of magnitude worse.

    healthguyfsu | June 4, 2015 at 8:18 am

    FEMALE PRIVILEGE….I spy with my little eye FEMALE PRIVILEGE!

    dmi60ex | June 4, 2015 at 12:08 pm

    I lived 40 years of my life rural America WVa . I can tell you . There are areas of 99% white areas that are ghettos where the majority of whites live and that is where most of the crime is and people get hurt or shot in confrontations with police.The media does not understand statistics. They just understand agenda

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