U.S. police kill civilians at much higher rates than other c

There are a million excuses for police corruption -- that they're underpaid, that they suffer stress, that their wives hate them, that they eat too many donuts, that their kids hate them, and that liberals use them as whipping boys. Read the official reports to hear the dreary recitation of why those who administer the laws never seem to obey them.

U.S. police kill civilians at much higher rates than other c

Postby admin » Tue Sep 28, 2021 12:00 am

Not just “a few bad apples”: U.S. police kill civilians at much higher rates than other countries: Police violence is a systemic problem in the U.S., not simply incidental, and it happens on a scale far greater than other wealthy nations.
by Alexi Jones and Wendy Sawyer
Prison Policy Initiative
June 5, 2020

There is no question that the number of police killings of civilians in the U.S. – who are disproportionately Black and other people of color – are the result of policies and practices that enable and even encourage police violence. Compared to police in other wealthy democracies, American police kill civilians at incredibly high rates:

Image
chart comparing the rates of police killings in the U.S. with 9 other wealthy nations. The U.S. rate of 33.5 per 10 million people is over 3 times higher than the next-highest rate, which is 9.8 per 10 million people in Canada

The chart above compares the annual rates of police killings in each country, accounting for differences in population size. This is the most apples-to-apples comparison we can make with this data. But the total number of deaths at the hands of police is also worth seeing in comparison with other countries:

Image
chart comparing the total number of police killings in the U.S. with 9 other wealthy nations. U.S. police killed 1,099 people in 2019, while none of the other 9 countries compared had more than 36 police killings in the most recent year with data

The sources for these charts are listed in the table below. For more statistics on police, arrests, and incarceration in the United States, see these other pages:

Ten key facts about policing
Policing Women: Race and gender disparities in police stops, searches, and use of force
Arrest, Release, Repeat: How police and jails are misused to respond to social problems
Visualizing the racial disparities in mass incarceration
Mass incarceration state profiles


Country / Annual number of law enforcement killings / Total population / Law enforcement killings per 10 million people / Source for number of law enforcement killings / Data year / Source for total population

United States / 1,099 / 328,239,523 / 33.5 / Mapping Police Violence / 2019 / U.S. Census Population Clock (population as of July 1, 2019)

Canada / 36 / 36,708,083 / 9.8 / CBC News, Deadly force: Fatal encounters with police in Canada: 2000-2017 / 2017 / Statistics Canada (population estimate as of July 1, 2017)

Australia / 21 / 24,770,700 / 8.5 / National Deaths in Custody Program, Deaths in custody in Australia 2017-18. This includes deaths that occurred in police custody and custody-related operations (i.e. motor vehicle pursuit deaths). / 2017-2018 (1 year of data) / Australian Demographic Statistics December 2017 (Year-end 2017 population estimate)

The Netherlands / 4 / 17,282,163 / 2.3 / Public Prosecution Service, (translated from Dutch by Google here) / 2019 / Statistics Netherlands (CBS) Population key figures (2019 population estimate)

New Zealand / 1 / 4,840,600 / 2.1 / NZ Police Tactical Options Research Report, 2018 / 2018 / New Zealand Government Statistics (Year-end 2018 estimate)

Germany / 11 / 82,905,782 / 1.3 / DPA news agency, as cited by Deutsche Welle in German police kill sword-wielding man in front of his mother (2019) / 2018 / The World Bank, population data (2018 population estimate)

England and Wales / 3 / 59,439,840 / 0.5 / INQUEST, Fatal police shootings / 2019 / UK Office for National Statistics, Estimates of the population for the UK, England and Wales, Scotland and Northern Ireland (see link to Excel file; we used mid-2019 population estimate for England and Wales only)

Japan / 2 / 126,529,100 / 0.2 / Axios, Police kill far more people in the U.S. than in most rich countries (2020) / 2018 / The World Bank, population data (2018 population estimate)

Iceland / 0 / 352,721 / 0 / NBC News, Iceland is a gun-loving country with no shooting murders since 2007 (2018) / Every year except 2013, when the police shot and killed someone for the first and only time. / The World Bank, population data (2018 population estimate)

Norway / 0 / 5,311,916 / 0 / Norwegian Bureau for the Investigation of Police Affairs, Annual Report 2018 (reporting no fatal shootings that year) / 2018 / The World Bank, population data (2018 population estimate)

Footnotes

The data here reflect the number of police killings of civilians reported in each country. They do not account for the manner of death, as that data was not available for every country. The rates account for population only; they do not reflect differences in police-public contact rates nor the rate of gun ownership in each country, nor any other point of comparison that might partially explain these differences. The statistics presented here can only illuminate the vast differences between policing in the U.S. and in other wealthy nations, not explain them.


Alexi Jones was a Policy Analyst at the Prison Policy Initiative. Wendy Sawyer is the Prison Policy Initiative Research Director.
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