Tom Engelhardt wrote in The Nation that killings at the hand of police has been in the news a lot lately. The figures the FBI have traditionally compiled on police shootings have proven to be way too low, so others have entered the fray. The Washington Post, for instance, recently began compiling a database of “every fatal shooting by police” in the United States in 2015. Their figure so far: at least 385 for the first five months of 2015 or approximately one of every 13 non-suicide gun deaths so far this year.
“About half the victims,” the Post reports, “were white, half minority. But the demographics shifted sharply among the unarmed victims, two-thirds of whom were black or Hispanic. Overall, blacks were killed at three times the rate of whites or other minorities when adjusting by the population of the census tracts where the shootings occurred.” A Guardian study adds this detail: “Black Americans are more than twice as likely to be unarmed when killed during encounters with police as white people.”
According to The Guardian, a recent Bureau of Justice report found that over the last eight years an average of 928 Americans have died annually at the hands of the police. (FBI figures: only 383.) In other words in those years, there were 7,427 police homicides, the equivalent of more than two 9/11s. Compared to other developed countries, these figures are staggering. There were, for instance, more fatal police shootings in the United States in the month of March 2015 than Australia had between 1992 and 2011. Similarly, there have been almost three times as many police shootings in California alone in 2015 as Canada experiences annually.
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