You wouldn’t know it from the speeches at either of the major-party political conventions. But the number of Americans—black, white, Hispanic, and others—killed by police continues to grow at an alarming rate.
You wouldn’t know it from U.S. media, either—since, like the political parties, they tend to create an equivalence between shootings of police and shootings by police and blame those who have died at the hands of police for their own plight.
So, we have to go to foreign media, such as the British Independent [ht: ja], to comprehend the level of police violence in the United States, especially by way of comparison.
One counting project found 613 people had been killed by US police so far in 2016, as of 28 July [618 as of 27 July]. American police routinely carry guns, and most high profile incidents are shootings.
Official figures in the United Kingdom could not paint a more different picture. Statistics released by the Home Office – Britain’s interior ministry – show how rare it is for the UK’s police to use guns.
In England and Wales in the 12 months to March 2016, British police discharged their firearms on just seven occasions, the statistics, released on Thursday show.
This figure is actually a record, of sorts. In the same period ending in March 2013, firearms were used only three times. In the 2015 period they were used six times. Seven uses of weapons is the highest since at least 2009.
Yes, that’s right, 7 occasions over the course of a year, compared to 618 in the United States just in the first 7 months of 2016.
The United States, of course, has a much larger population than the United Kingdom.
Britain has 64.1 million residents, the US 319 million. But on a per-capita basis, Britain’s rate of police gun use would translate into US police using their guns on 35 occasions in an entire year. This would be an unthinkably low number.
Here’s another useful comparison (from Edward P. Stringham): the 2015 homicide rate for U.S. law-enforcement officers (4.6 deaths per 100,000 officers) was nearly identical to that of all Americans (4.5 per 100,000). But, in the same year,
police killed 1,207 Americans, or 134 Americans per 100,000 officers, a rate 30 times the homicide rate overall. Police represent about 1 out of 360 members of the population, but commit 1 out of 12 of all killings in the United States.
It’s clear that, in the United States (compared to other countries and the overall homicide rate), guns don’t kill people, police officers do.