Friday, May 1, 2015

Police Killings - Comparing the United States and the United Kingdom

Over the past few months, police forces in America have taken a public opinion beating in the mainstream and less high profile media, particularly when it comes to killing civilians.  In this posting, I want to look at a few statistics comparing the use of force in American policing and compare them to those of the United Kingdom.  Please note that the killings in the United States include all types of civilian deaths where police are involved (i.e. shootings, traffic accidents etcetera) that are covered by the nation's media.

Let's start by looking at the number of civilians killed by American police forces so far in 2015 by month according to ThinkProgress and Killed By Police 2015:

January 2015: 91
February 2015: 85
March 2015: 115
April 2015: 96

The Killed By Police website provides a link to the media coverage of each civilian death in case you are interested in more detail.

Let's go back to look at how many American civilians were killed by police during all of 2014 in graphic form:

In 2014, American police killed a total of 1100 civilians or an average of 91.7 civilians each month with a range from 63 to 109 civilians per month over the full year timeframe.  The ages of the people killed by police in 2014 range from Matthew McCloskey, a ten year-old boy from New Jersey who was struck by a fast-moving police car that did not have his lights or siren activated to John Laco, an 84 year-old man from Lake Station, Indiana who was shot by police after he pointed a shotgun at them.  The majority of the civilians that die at the hands of police in the United States tend to range from 20 to 40 years of age.

It is interesting to see how many America civilians are killed by American police over a full year.  It is quite apparent that only high profile killings receive significant nationwide media coverage.

Now, let's look at the number of civilians killed by police in the United Kingdom, keeping in mind that the population of the U.K. is about one-fifth of the United States and that the U.K. government breaks down deaths where police are involved by the type of death.  In the United Kingdom, the Independent Police Complaints Commission (IPCC) tracks civilian deaths that occur during or following police contact.  The Commission members must not have worked for the police in any capacity prior to their appointment, ensuring that the Commission retains its independence and that it retains the confidence of the public.  The Commission also reports annually to the House of Commons.    

Let's start by looking at the number of civilian fatalities that occurred between 2004 and 2014 because of road traffic incidents with police involvement:

Of the 309 civilians killed by police vehicles over the 10 year period, 166 were pursuit-related and 31 were emergency response related (i.e. police were responding to an emergency situation).

Here is a table showing the number of fatal shootings of civilians by police between 2004 and 2014:

Note that there have been no police shootings of civilians that have lead to death over the past two years.  Over the ten year period, 23 U.K. civilians were fatally shot by police, all of them being male except one.  Of the total, 17 were white and only 5 were black.  All but one were between the ages of 21 and 60.

Here is a table showing the number of deaths that occurred in the United Kingdom while a civilian was being arrested or being held in police detention between 2004 and 2014:

Of the 207 civilian deaths while being arrested or held in custody, 183 were males and 181 were white with only 12 being black and 6 being Asian.

Here is a table showing the number of suicides of civilians that took place following police custody between 2004 and 2014:

Of the 506 civilian suicides, 463 were male and 453 were white with only 12 being black and 17 being Asian.

Lastly, lets look at the number of "other deaths" of civilians in the United Kingdom that followed police contact:

Of the 354 civilian deaths following contact with U.K. police, 226 were male and 277 were white with only 29 being black and 23 being Asian.

If we add up the total deaths of civilians that occur during or following contact with the many police forces of the United Kingdom for the financial year 2013/2014, 130 civilians were killed.  If we multiply this number by five to get a population-equivalent number, United Kingdom police were responsible for only 59.1 percent of the deaths related to civilian-police contact in the United States.  That is quite a significant difference.

When we see police acting like these officers in Michigan...'s no wonder that the American public is rapidly losing any confidence that they had the integrity of its police forces.


  1. If you use the average number of unarmed people from the Maryland findings of 60% Roughly 650ish people each year are killed by police that didnt have to be killed. Either way this is an issue. Maybe less meat heads and more social worker types should be police. That would help the situation greatly.

  2. What # of police are injured or killed in confrontations w/ civilians?

    Yes, it is a fraction of civilians injured or killed. ( FBI & LE stats)

    The police are not receiving training or instruction to utilize non lethal means of restraint. There must be a reason that throughout the US and our 'territories' ( Puerto Rico ) that police are increasingly using lethal force in non violent situations.

    1. They definitely do receive not lethal training...just not enough. They receive training on the use of OC (pepper spray) and the T.A.S.E.R.

  3. The President can moan all he wants about police being too heavy handed towards blacks and minorities, but he shares a great deal of the responsibility. Over the last six years while Obama has been in office the unrelentless trend to add a military component to police forces across the nation has continued to ramp up. Many people see this as the governments way to extend control and power over the masses in case of a civil uprising in the future.

    More and more we see those paid with our tax dollars driving aggressive macho vehicles and strutting around in black uniforms with a swagger of intimidation. Moving control of police forces from the people and local governments is not the answer. The article below delves deeper into this ugly trend and the issue of who holds this power.

  4. It would be great if the U.S. detailed the deaths the way the UK does. It would help to know how many of the deaths in the U.
    S. involved civilians with guns. I would be surprised if a significant percentage of the U.S. deaths did not involve people with guns. The U.S. definitely has a lot of guns out there. What can be done about it? It is easy to say "punish" the criminals but the justice system can be everywhere at once. Yet the second amendment is clear.