Another Look at Police Shootings of Unarmed Civilians

Facts matter: Sign up for the free Mother Jones Daily newsletter. Support our nonprofit reporting. Subscribe to our print magazine.


I got some flak yesterday for posting a chart showing the number of police shootings of unarmed blacks and whites without taking into account crime rates. It’s harder to do that than you’d think, since the Department of Justice no longer produces crime statistics by race, but we can get a rough idea.

First, we’ll use the National Crime Victimization Survey. This is a telephone survey and isn’t based on arrest rates, so it doesn’t have problems of possible police bias in who they decide to arrest. Second, we’ll use the 2008 numbers for violent crimes (Tables 40 and 46 here), since that’s the last year we have data by race. Obviously this isn’t ideal, but I don’t imagine that violent crime rates by race have changed dramatically since then. We’ll compare this to the number of police shootings collected by the Washington Post for 2015.

The result is on the right. Don’t take it too seriously, but it probably provides a decent rough idea of the disparity in police shootings of unarmed civilians when you account for crime rates. Unarmed whites are shot about 15 times per million violent offenses. Unarmed blacks are shot about 28 times per million violent offenses.

POSTSCRIPT: Needless to say, I’m under no illusion that this will stop the flak. I’m sure plenty of people on both sides of the debate have plenty of adjustments they want to make to the raw data in order to make their own side look better.

REAL QUICK, REAL URGENT

Minority rule, corruption, disinformation, attacks on those who dare tell the truth: There is a direct line from what's happening in Russia and Ukraine to what's happening here at home. And that's what MoJo's Monika Bauerlein writes about in "Their Fight Is Our Fight" to unpack the information war we find ourselves in and share a few examples to show why the power of independent, reader-supported journalism is such a threat to authoritarians.

Corrupt leaders the world over can (and will) try to shut down the truth, but when the truth has millions of people on its side, you can't keep it down for good. And there's no more powerful or urgent argument for your support of Mother Jones' journalism right now than that. We need to raise about $450,000 to hit our online fundraising budget in these next few months, so please read more from Monika and pitch in if you can.

payment methods

REAL QUICK, REAL URGENT

Minority rule, corruption, disinformation, attacks on those who dare tell the truth: There is a direct line from what's happening in Russia and Ukraine to what's happening here at home. And that's what MoJo's Monika Bauerlein writes about in "Their Fight Is Our Fight" to unpack the information war we find ourselves in and share a few examples to show why the power of independent, reader-supported journalism is such a threat to authoritarians.

Corrupt leaders the world over can (and will) try to shut down the truth, but when the truth has millions of people on its side, you can't keep it down for good. And there's no more powerful or urgent argument for your support of Mother Jones' journalism right now than that. We need to raise about $450,000 to hit our online fundraising budget in these next few months, so please read more from Monika and pitch in if you can.

payment methods

We Recommend

Latest

Sign up for our free newsletter

Subscribe to the Mother Jones Daily to have our top stories delivered directly to your inbox.

Get our award-winning magazine

Save big on a full year of investigations, ideas, and insights.

Subscribe

Support our journalism

Help Mother Jones' reporters dig deep with a tax-deductible donation.

Donate