STUDY: Police Kill Unarmed Black Civilians at Higher Rates Than White

By Yessenia Funes Feb 09, 2017

A new study released online yesterday (February 8) reports an unsurprising fact: Police are more than twice as likely to kill an unarmed Black civilian than a White one.

The study, published in the January 2017 edition of “Criminology and Public Policy,” analyzed the 990 police killings logged in The Washington Post’s 2015 police killings database. Researchers Justin Nix and Bradley A. Campbell of University of Louisville, among others, tested for variables like mental illness and crime rates in communities, but implicit bias stood out as the main perpetrator, Nix told Wired.

In addition, White civilians were more than twice as likely to have attacked officers or other civilians when police killed them. To that fact, the study responds: “…civilians of other races/ethnicities were significantly more likely than Whites to have been fatally shot because of an apparent threat perception failure.”

The researchers go further to suggest several solutions including intergroup contact, procedural justice training for police officers and more body-worn cameras. The study also calls for a more robust, government-run database to keep track not only of fatal use-of-force incidents but, all use-of-force incidents.

“If we had data on all shootings, not just fatal shootings, then we could speak to the likelihood of using deadly force,” Nix said to Wired. “Now, we’re working with less than half of all the puzzle pieces.”

Some of the latest people of color to die at the hands of police in 2016 were Jamal Rollins (21), Alfonso Lopez (41) and Zhongua Li (48), according to The Washington Post.