Update: Fallen Encounters tweeted me that although they are working to complete the data, they have some states data 100% completed. The other states have some missing cases since 2000, they estimate they are 62% done. I have redone the graphics etc, using ONLY the completed data cases. The following analysis contains ONLY the complete states, which compromise the following:

“AL” “CA” “NC” “FL” “AZ” “NV” “NY” “ME” “RI” “MS” “LA” “CO” “WA” “UT” “VT” “AK” “OR” “MN” “MA” “MT” “ID” “CT” “DE” “DC” “ND” “WY”
“NH” “SD” “MI”

So notice there’s no Texas in here, nor Illinois. The substantive conclusions don’t change, the police are killing drastically more people since 2010, particularly White people.


I’ve gotten a lot of response (some positive and some very negative) from my recent post looking into police shooting data that looks at race, whether or not the victim was armed and their region of the united states. Anyways, I wanted to look at a set of data on police brutality that covered a longer time frame to see if many people’s (and mine too) assertion that police have been militarized as of late. The cases that receive the most press today often involve the death of an African-American but many cases where White or Hispanic people are killed do not receive as press, but I hear about them a lot online (and fox news radio-I know, shame on me) and have heard many more of these stories in the past few years than I ever recall growing up. To investigate this, I looked at this data set which has information dating back to January on people killed during police interactions. Below is the breakdown of the causes:

BreakdownNew

I don’t want to deal with the vehicular related deaths because they could be related to car chases or just simple accidents and some of these categories, like drug overdose don’t seem to be the police officer’s fault. Likewise, I don’t want to focus on cases where the victim fell, drowned or asphyxiated without being restrained so I’ll zero in on cases where police tasered, shot, pepper sprayed or restrained the person who died. Take a look at the graph below over time:

PoliceNEW1

So it looks like the assertion that police officers are being militarized has some backing. Also note that we’re in July so the 2016 figure could easily continue this trend (on track for about 1200 deaths). Now I want to point out for the impending hoard of naysayers coming that this data set doesn’t have armed status, so we can’t really know how many of these people may have been shooting back or attacking police. Still, the trend here is harrowing-police brutality IN GENERAL has increased drastically and consistently since 2000. I think this is getting missed in the recent media coverage of wrongful African-American deaths due to police and should lead to overall police accountability improvement.

That being said, there is still a disproportionate amount of these deaths that are African-Americans. Take a look at the graph below, broken down by race:

PoliceNew

So we still see the same trend for Caucasians and African-Americans, namely that deaths caused by police have increased, with a big increase in 2012. White people especially have been killed in higher numbers since 2010. In 2012, several high profile cases involving African-American deaths (particularly Trayvon Martin) and according to wiki the black lives matter movement started in 2013. What I don’t want to get lost here, is that police aren’t just killing African-Americans more, they are killing more White people (and to a lesser degree, Hispanics) too. The largest increase, by a large margin, is the number of Caucasians killed per year by Police. But take a look at the graph of proportions of deaths by race below, keeping in mind that white people make up 63.7%, African-Americans make up 12.2% and Hispanic people make up 16.7% of the US population, respectively.

PCTNEW

The percentage of white people killed by police has risen drastically since around 2007. While White people are being killed at a proportion less than their population percentage and Hispanic people are killed at about their population percentage, African-Americans are being killed at a higher rate than their population percentage. Now this isn’t incorporating whether or not the victim was armed or assaulting an officer, but keeping this out of the equation for all races makes looking at this consistent.

Take Aways :

We see that African-Americans are being killed at a higher rate than their population percentage. Additionally, which I think gets swept away by the media, is that Police brutality against Caucasians (and people in general) has increased drastically in the past few years. This could be due to the apparent militarization of the police  or possibly something deeper about the American 21st century psyche.

A friend of mine suggested this might be due to increased enrollment of former military personnel in the Police force after bringing many troops back from the middle east. This information is not available online and I have filed a freedom of information act request (as of 7/13/16) with the Department of Veterans Affairs to get this information.

People need to know these trends and police departments (and maybe politicians) around the country need to make changes to end this troubling trend.

-Andrew G. Chapple

Note to Nate Silver: I recently bashed y’all for dichotomizing your police data but don’t you worry, I’m going to fit the model from my recent post on mass shootings to the exact dates to see if there’s a bigger trend than the yearly approach. This will be posted if anything interesting comes out of it.

If you enjoyed this post, take a look at some of my other Adventures in Statistics.

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One thought on “A follow up on Police Brutality: Police caused deaths have increased drastically since 2010, especially for Caucasians

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