Racial Inequality in America: 2015 Police Shootings by the Numbers

Racial Inequality in America: 2015 Police Shootings by the Numbers

Rachel CohenThursday,31 December 2015

Hey, hey 2016 is just around the corner, so congrats! You are not one of the 965 people fatally shot by police in 2015.

Now, I am no math major, and of course, I am guilty of thinking while female, but I believe that is an average of 2.64 people killed. Everyday. In America. By police. (And this number was as of December 24th so there’s still time to meet that quota!)

Luckily, The Washington Post has an excellent database that has been tracking this year in death-by-military-grade-firearms, and so while the numbers are staggering, there are some qualifications.

For instance, 719 of the total police shootings were the result of some sort of criminal behavior, so, see? We can rest easy that only 246 people not directly involved in a violent criminal act were killed by police. Less than one person a day!

However, the most important feature of this database is that it no longer allows ANYONE to ignore the fact that there are some key demographics at play. The database allows for filtering on age, sex, race, and other factors, so we can get a clear picture of who the real domestic thugs (and Shkrelis) are.

Killed while unarmed

36 unarmed black individuals were killed by police in 2015, as opposed to 31 unarmed white individuals. Wow, the numbers are close! From that statistic, you might just think that there are the same amount of black and white people in America! In which case, stop being a total Shkreli, because you know that only 13.2% of Americans identify as black, while just upwards of 50% identify as white. When there are 3 times as many unarmed white people walking around, one might think there would be 3 times as many unarmed casualties, but spoiler alert: that doesn’t happen. 14% of all black people killed by cops were unarmed, whereas only 6% of all white people were unarmed.

Killed while mentally ill

Mental illness is a huge problem in this country, albeit one that we prefer to ignore if that’s okay. However, we’ve definitely gotten into a routine where a certain demographic of criminal is “misunderstood” or “mentally ill even if he doesn’t want to be,” whereas another demographic is a bunch of thugs, regardless of reality.

Shall we look at these numbers?

Of the 249 black individuals killed, 38 of them were determined to be “mentally ill” on record, a whopping 15% of the total. This despite that fact that research suggests African Americans are almost 20% more likely to have a mental illness. On the other hand, 152 of the 479 white Americans killed (31%, by the way) were declared to be mentally ill. As with the unarmed shooting victims above, the numbers simply don’t make a lot of sense.

Killed while young

One of the biggest discrepancies between races when examining the numbers is that black Americans are killed by police when they are young at a much higher rate. 117 black individuals between the ages of 18 and 29 were killed by police, as opposed to — oh weird, 117 white individuals in the same age range.

If the two ethnic groups had the same population sizes, these numbers might make more sense (although they would still be very sad), but it is abundantly clear that in 2015 one group suffered death at the hands of police at a significantly higher rate.

Look, I’m not saying there’s racial inequality in this country, or that we have real problem with police brutality, I AM YELLING IT. It’s time to get our heads out of our asses and admit that this is a serious problem.


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Image Credit: scottlum on Flickr

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