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Deaths From Police Shootings Outstrip Deaths From Terrorists Attacks, Wars

by Derek Gilna

Frank Walton, a writer for the Daily Kos, asserts that data compiled and reported by The Guardian newspaper show that since 9/11, deaths from police shootings exceed deaths from terrorist attacks on Americans. According to Walton, “(w)ith an average of 1,900 people killed annually since 2001, that would be 32,200 Americans who’ve died at the hands of police during that period. That is more than five times the combined number of soldiers (6,687) we’ve lost both in the Iraq war (4,491) and the war in Afghanistan (2,396).”

The Guardian reports that “research on police killings in 2015 and 2016 ... using open source news reports shows the chance of being killed by police per million citizens is 10.13 for Native Americans, 6.66 for African Americans, 3.23 for Latinos, 2.9 for Caucasians, and 1.17 for Asians. This means Native Americans are five times more likely to be killed by police, and African Americans more than twice as likely to be killed.”

Although the U.S. has spent billions of dollars for overseas military operations and set up an extensive domestic security apparatus headed by the Department of Homeland Security, few resources have been devoted to reducing the rising death toll of Americans at the hands of police or holding the police accountable for many of these attacks.

Little expense was spared to learn from the 9/11 attacks, and American intelligence agencies have constantly adapted their security apparatus to minimize the threats to Americans from both foreign and domestic threats, but the many instances of excessive and often deadly force by some law enforcement officers, who often have long histories of abuse and disciplinary problems, have largely gone unpunished.

There was no indictment returned for the killing of 12-year-old Tamir Rice, “even though that officer had been deemed ‘unfit for duty’ in his previous police job,” Walton observed. “The officer who killed Eric Garner wasn’t indicted even though the medical examiner ruled it a homicide and he had numerous previous complaints of abuse and disciplinary action,” he added. There was also no indictment for police officers who fired at John Crawford, who was handling a toy pellet gun at a Walmart in Ohio, nor for the killer of Michael Brown.

There was also no indictment against officers who shot an unarmed Darren Hunt in the back, for holding a wooden sword. The officer who shot Walter Scott in the back falsified evidence and even submitted a false police report. He was fired from a previous police job, yet he still escaped justice after a mistrial was declared. The cases against the Baltimore police officers who broke Freddie Grey’s neck all failed and were dismissed. It is rare when charges are brought against an officer involved in a fatal shooting of an unarmed suspect, and unfortunately, a conviction is even rarer.

Although police officers typically justify their use of deadly force as a matter of self-defense while working in an ultra-dangerous profession, statistics show that being a police officer is not even in the top 10 on the list of most dangerous jobs in America. On average, there are 19 fatalities per 100,000 police officers annually. To put that in perspective, the rate for logging workers is 116 per 100,000, and for farmers and ranchers, the rate is 41 per 100,000. 

This is not to suggest that being a police officer is not a dangerous job. The data reveal an urgent need for more resources for officer training as well as more accountability for those officers with a documented history of abusive behavior and official misconduct who eventually fatally shoot unarmed individuals. 


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