I think I’ve managed to merge two of the most comprehensive databases of killings by police: Fatal Encounters  and Killed By Police. I believe the result might be the most extensive collection of information to date on fatal police encounters which occurred in 2014. The data is far from perfect, but the trends are interesting nonetheless, so I would like to present some preliminary results. A few points to consider:

  • Fatal Encounters and Killed By Police both aggregate information from local media stories and as such only provide a baseline minimum estimate for the number of people killed by police in 2014
  • Both databases just record instances of people dying in encounters with police, they do not make judgments about justified vs. unjustified
  • Fatal Encounters and Killed By Police do not seem to have the same criteria for determining that which qualifies as a fatal encounter. For example, there are some instances of people getting killed in high speed chases, or getting struck by someone who was being pursued that I found in FE which were not in KBP. Such instances represent a very small minority but I kept them whenever I found them.
  • FE had some cases where an officer committed suicide, either all alone or in a murder-suicide. I kept the murders but not the self-inflicted cop suicides.
  • There were some instances where police maintained that a person committed suicide while that individual was also being engaged with police fire. Those were kept.
  • Cadets or ex-cops were not kept when FE had them.
  • The deaths include accidental deaths, like a police officer getting in a car wreck and killing someone, as well as deaths involving off-duty officers or deaths where an officer was operating outside of an official capacity.
  • Deaths can include those which happened while the person was in the custody of police even though there may not be information as to what caused the death.
  • FE is more detailed in its categorization of the information so some of the graphs below are largely drawn from FE.
  • Any time the word “unknown” is used it does not necessarily mean the information is not out there, but that usually the databases themselves are incomplete and need more work
  • I did not vet all of the information, I trusted what was in the databases, although I did closely scrutinize the FE rows which weren’t already in KBP. I am a daily follower of KBP on Facebook and every article I’ve ever clicked on has been legit. Also merging the two databases forced me to click on a lot of the links to ensure I was dealing with the same instance, especially when KBP might not have the name of the person killed. The worst thing I’ve come across is a broken link.
  • I found twenty-four duplicates within FE which I tossed out and two within KBP (KBP has since corrected, I still need to contact FE)
  • If you would like to download the raw excel file click here

 

Now for some results:

Total people killed by police in 2014 – at least 1,126. To put some perspective on that, police make up ~0.28% of the population (900,000 sworn officers out of 316 million people). In comparison, the FBI reported that in 2012 there were 12,765 murders and 310 justifiable homicides for a total of 13,075 killings committed by private individuals. The 1,126 figure also includes accidental killings, or killings when police are acting outside of official duty. A random sampling done by FiveThirtyEight estimated that those incidents comprise 7% of the 1,098 (1,098 being the current KBP number absent the extra FE instances). Using the same estimate on the total would place the non-accidental killings by police at 1,047 for 2014. That means police comprise roughly 8% of the killings and ~0.28% of the population. Individuals in the US ages 15 – 64 comprise roughly 66% of the population and are also in general those most likely to commit a homicide. 66% of 316 million is 208,560,000. I’ll use the 208 .56 million figure for private individuals as well as the 1,047 estimate for non-accidental killings by police. That would mean the kill rate for private individuals is roughly 6.3 killings per 100,000 people, whereas the kill rate for police is approximately 116.3 killings per 100,000 cops. That would mean police are 18 times deadlier than private individuals in America. If private individuals in America killed at the same rate there would be roughly 242,625 homicides per year. Now let’s take a look at some of the trends for killings by police in 2014.

By Day:

KBP - By Day

 

By Date: Deadliest day was August 11th with 10 deaths.

 

By Month/Season:

KBP - By Month

 

By gender:

KBP - By Gender

 

By race:

KBP - By Race

 

20 Deadliest States per capita (deaths per 100,000):

KBP - By State

 

By police agency:

KBP - By Agency

 

By cause:

KBP - By Cause

 

By mental illness (yes/no) or intoxication (drug/alcohol use):

KBP - By Mental

 

The really interesting statistic to get would be to see how many were justified and how many were not. Obviously libertarians would have a different set of criteria than most for “justified,” but even then such a number would be impossible to come by. The fundamental problem is that most of these stories rely on local media regurgitating police testimony as if it’s immutable fact. People who read these stories almost always immediately accept as fact whatever is written. Yet in no other circumstance in society would anyone think it appropriate to let the employer of a person who just killed someone be the organization to fully control the crime scene, evidence gathering, and investigation. Even if we had independent citizen review boards the crime scene is crucial to ascertaining what might have happened. Unless we also plan on having citizen crime scene investigators ready at any time to show up when a police shooting happens then the issue remains. Police investigating themselves is obviously a blatant conflict of interest which can’t really ever be fully dealt with as long as there are police agencies. How many do they have to kill before people start asking fundamental questions? 2014 was the year Americans finally woke up to the police state problem, perhaps 2015 will be the year the option of eliminating the extortionist government middlemen and of privatizing any worthwhile police functions will become an option which is openly considered in mainstream circles. In a free society, we can at least have the discussion, right?