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Black Teens Killed by Cops 21 Times More Than White Teens
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Black Teens Killed by Cops 21 Times More Than White Teens

Summary: A study that analyzed police shootings found that black teens were killed much more often than white teens. However, more data must be compiled before a true conclusion can be drawn.

A disturbing study by ProPublica shows that young black males are at a much higher risk of being shot and killed by police officers—21 times greater, according to Digg.com.

  
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The study analyzed 1,217 police shootings that ended in fatalities over a two-year period from 2010 to 2012. Black males aged 15 to 19 years old were killed at a rate of 31.17 per million. White males in the same age range were killed at a rate of 1.47 per million during the same period.

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The data backs up what many African Americans have complained about for decades—that they are killed at higher rates than the rest of the American population.

Detailed accounts of over 12,000 police homicides from 1980 to 2012 were also examined by ProPublica. These accounts were contained in the FBI’s Supplementary Homicide Report. However, the data did not support a racial basis—instead, it confirmed some assumptions, contradicted others, and added even more questions about deadly police force.

Colin Loftin is a University at Albany professor who serves as the co-director of the Violence Research Group. He explained that the FBI data is a minimum count of homicides by police. It’s impossible to truly measure why some persons may have a higher risk of homicide by police without additional and more detailed records. Loftin admitted that what the current data does show about the race of victims and officers is “certainly relevant.” He added, “No question, there are all kinds of racial disparities across our criminal justice system. This is one example.”

The FBI data has appeared in various news stories throughout the years, including during coverage of the August shooting of black teenager Michael Brown by a white police officer in Ferguson, Missouri. Many experts pointed out that the FBI reports were very limited in what information they provided.

For example, many of the United States’ 17,000 police departments do not even file reports that involve fatal police shootings. Some police departments certainly do, but there is not uniformity among police departments in this requirement. Florida departments last filed such reports in 1997, and New York City last reported police homicides in 2007. The information in the reports that are created are often flawed. However, at least 1,000 police departments filed reports over the 33-year period data was analyzed.

Therefore, the absolute numbers may be an issue, but one may compare trends between black and white victims. The study’s analysis divided the number of people of each race killed by police by the number of people of that race living in the country at that time. This yielded two different rates: the risk of getting killed by the cops if you’re white, and if you’re black.

However, David Klinger, a University of Missouri-St. Louis professor and expert on police use of deadly force, pointed out that racial disparities in the data could be a result of “measurement error,” since unreported killings would also be a factor. He did say that the disparity between white and black teenage boys was so wide, that he “doubt[s] the measurement error would account for that.”

The Victims

The numbers show that some of these victims are tragically young when they die. In fact, 41 teens 14 or younger were killed by the police from 1980 to 2012: 27 were black, 8 were white, 4 were Hispanic, and 1 was Asian.

Whites were also victims of police shootings. Of all those who died in police shootings from 1980 to 2012, 44 percent were white.

Interestingly, most of those killed were around the same age. The average age of blacks killed during the 33-year period was 30, and the average age of whites was 35.

The Officers

Although mostly white officers were involved in the shootings, black officers certainly were as well. Black officers were involved in just more than 10 percent of the fatal police shootings. 78 percent of those killed were black.

White officers, who make up a large percentage of the police force, were responsible for 91 percent of shootings of whites, and 68 percent of people of color killed. These victims of color made up 46 percent of all those killed by white officers.

What Happened During the Shootings?

There were many reports that did not list the full circumstances of the shootings. Many were listed as “undetermined.” However, there were 151 instances in which police reported that the teenage victims were fleeing or resisting arrest. In those cases, 67 percent of the victims were black. From 2010 to 2012, 14 of 15 of those shot while fleeing arrest were black.

This data does not mean that police are out hunting teenagers. “Officer under attack” was cited as the reason for 33 percent of shootings from 1980 to 1984, and 62 percent from 2005 to 2009. A 1985 Supreme Court ruling provided that police would only be able to justify using deadly force if suspects posed a threat to officers or others.

Weapons

Most of the killings involve handguns, however, from 1980 to 2012, 714 shootings involved shotguns. In Los Angeles, 47 cases involved shotguns, and there were 14 cases in Dallas.

Photo credit: telegraph.co.uk



 

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