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April 13, 2023
In excess of half of all police-involved killings in the US go unreported with the majority of victims being Black, according to a new study published in the Lancet, a peer reviewed journal.
Research at the University of Washington School of Medicine’s Institute for Health Metrics and Evaluation found that in the US between 1980 and 2018, more than 55% of deaths, over 17,000 in total, from police violence were either misclassified or went unreported. The study indicated that Black Americans are more likely than any other group to die from police violence and are 3.5 times more likely to be killed by police than white Americans.
“Recent high-profile police killings of Black people have drawn worldwide attention to this urgent public health crisis, but the magnitude of this problem can’t be fully understood without reliable data,” said Fablina Sharara, a researcher at the University of Washington School of Medicine and co-lead author of the study.
Researchers compared data from the US National Vital Statistics System (NVSS), a government database for tracking the US population. Open-source databases aggregate information from news reports and public record requests, capturing a wider range of fatal police-involved incidents.
“Open-sourced data is a more reliable and comprehensive resource to help inform policies that can prevent police violence and save lives,” said Sharara. In total, the NVSS database misclassified nearly 60% of all fatal police encounters involving Black Americans.
NVSS also missed approximately 50% of all police-involved deaths of Hispanic people, 56% of all police-involved deaths of non-Hispanic white people, and 33% of deaths involving non-Hispanic people across other races.
“Inaccurately reporting or misclassifying these deaths further obscures the larger issue of systemic racism that is embedded in many US institutions, including law enforcement,” Sharara said. The paper found that men die from police violence at higher rates than women, with 30,600 police-involved deaths recorded among men and 1,420 among women between 1980 and 2019.
“As a community we need to do more. Efforts to prevent police violence and address systemic racism in the USA, including body cameras that record interactions of police with civilians along with de-escalation training and implicit bias training for police officers, for example, have largely been ineffective,” said co-lead author Eve Wool.
ARTICLE: PAUL MURDOCH
MANAGING EDITOR: CARSON CHOATE
PHOTO CREDITS: NEWSWEEK