African Americans Killed By Cops Are Twice As Likely to Have Been Unarmed As Whites

By Ian Reifowitz 

This is a complicated piece of data, but it reveals something relatively simple. An unarmed black or brown person in America is much more likely to be killed by a police officer than an unarmed white person.

Research conducted by The Guardian found that, from January through the end of May 2015, 15 percent of the white Americans killed by police were unarmed, compared to 25 percent of the Latinos and 32 percent of the African Americans killed. In terms of overall numbers, Latinos represented 14 percent of all Americans killed by police (slightly lower than their overall percentage of the population), while 29 percent were black (about 13 percent of the population), and 50 percent were white (about 64 percent of the population).

There exists, as yet, no official federal data on police killings, something the co-chair of President Obama’s Task Force on 21st Century Policing, Laurie Robinson, called”troubling.” As for the disparities found by The Guardian, Amnesty International USA’s Executive Director, Steven Hawkins, characterized them as “startling,” and added: “The disparity speaks to something that needs to be examined, to get to the bottom of why you’re twice as likely to be shot if you’re an unarmed black male.”

Finally, here’s a comment from a person devastated by the kind of police abuse this disparity represents:

Giving this kind of data to the public is a big thing, said Erica Garner, whose father’s killing by police in New York City last year led to international protests. “Other incidents like murders and robberies are counted, so why not police-involved killings? With better records, we can look at what is happening and what might need to change.

Why not, indeed?

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