What we know about the demographics of people killed during interactions with law enforcement | Michigan Radio
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What we know about the demographics of people killed during interactions with law enforcement

Jun 9, 2020

The political will for police reform has made a big leap forward this year. But once we get to the point of acting on proposed changes, it will be important to have data that tells us what's happening. 

Michael Esposito is a research fellow at the Institute for Social Research at the University of Michigan. He's spent his academic career looking at the systemic issues around police use of lethal force. Recently he and colleagues Frank R. Edwards and Hedwig Lee have used non-traditional, crowd-sourced data to quantify the risk that people of different ages, genders, and racial groups have of being killed by law enforcement. 

Below are some of the findings he shared in our conversation:

  • About 1 in every 1,000 black men can be expected to be killed by police at some point in their life, compared to 1 in every 2,500 white men. 
  • While women have a considerably lower risk of being killed by police than men, black and Native American women are at a risk 1.5 times greater than white women.
  • Police killings are the sixth leading cause of death among men of all races ages 20-34 in the United States.

Esposito said police killings make up eight to nine percent of all homicides with adult male victims in the United States. He noted that this is an exceptionally high rate compared to every other country, where the annual number of police killings is “near zero.”

“That comparison means we can do something to prevent this entirely,” Esposito said. “I think people are taking that a little bit more seriously now."

You can read more about Esposito’s research here.

This post was writtern by Lia Baldori.