Why Are Black Men Killed By Police 21 Times More Often Than White Men?

April V. Taylor

Thanks to the terribly inadequate federal record keeping about the number of people killed by police, there is a lot we do not know about who cops kill, but what has been determined by a recent study completed by ProPublica is that Black men are 21 times more likely than white men to be killed by police.  ProPublica ia a non-profit that specializes in investigative journalism; they analyzed federally collected data on police shootings to make their determination.  However, it must be noted that the data does not represent the full scope of police killings because many municipalities do not report that data to the feds.    The data used involves deadly police shootings that occurred between 2010 and 2012.

To put this data in perspective, 185 more white males would have had to have been killed by police to but them at equal risk of being killed by police; The jarring truth is that this would have amounted to more than one a week. Although most officers who killed civilians were white, just over ten percent of officers in the study were black, and they also killed Blacks more often.

In highlighting the incompleteness of the data, ProPublica stated, “vast numbers of the country’s 17,000 police departments don’t file fatal police shooting reports at all, and many have filed reports for some years but not others.”  The reassurance that the data analyzed by ProPublica may provide an incomplete but not inaccurate snapshot is that at least 1,000 of the departments have reported consistently over the last 33 years.

What is more disturbing than the racial disparity in police killings is the fact that a Stanford University study shows that the criminal justice system may be working exactly the way white people want it to.  The study was release in August and published in Psychological Science.  The study found that despite some whites believing that current sentencing laws are too harsh, they are less likely to support changing sentencing laws when they are made aware of the fact that the prison population in the United States is disproportionately Black.  In other words, harsh sentencing laws are no longer a concern for many white people when they realize that Black people are the ones who are more likely to be affected by them.  In addition, the study found that white people approve of the criminal justice system more when they are advised that it is racist and unfair to Black people.  This further supports the notion that many white people are not concerned about an unfair and biased criminal justice system as long as it is not unfair to them.

No matter what race or ethnicity someone is, it should be disturbing that a Black person is killed by a police officer every 28 hours; that is nearly one every day.  There is an absence of justice when police officers are allowed to act as judge, jury and executioner, and their is systemic racism when Black men have that injustice perpetrated against them at a rate 21 times higher than white men.