The latest numbers on police killings show the problem may be worse than we thought

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At least 1,152 people were killed by police between January 1 and December 15, according to data from Mapping Police Violence, a new endeavor headed by activist and organizer DeRay Mckesson.

Nearly a quarter of those deaths, or 249, occurred in America’s 60 largest police departments, whose jurisdictions amount to 17% of the U.S. population.


Bakersfield, California, had the highest rate of police-involved killings in 2015, according to the report, at about 13 per million residents. Of the city's five victims, three were Hispanic and two were white. (The city is 8.2% black and 45.5% Latino.) Other cities with high alleged rates of police-involved killings include Oklahoma City, Oakland, Indianapolis Metropolitan, Long Beach, New Orleans, St. Louis, and San Francisco.

Some places are much more dangerous for civilians than others, the report stresses. For example, “your risk of being killed by your city's police department [was] 7x higher if you lived in St. Louis compared to Philadelphia this year,” according to a preview of the full report.

The data collection project caps a year of increased awareness of America’s problem with police violence. A similar counting project by the Guardian counted fewer killings to date, and concentrates on race and whether or not the victim was armed. There is no comprehensive federal database on police killings, although the FBI recently announced plans to overhaul its counting system. Mapping Police Violence pulled its numbers from three crowdsourced online databases of police killings and added original research.


One key finding: police-involved deaths have no direct correlation to violence within urban communities.

For example, Anaheim, California’s violent crime rate is among the lowest of America’s 60 largest police departments, according to the report—about 3 violent crimes per 1,000 residents. But its rate of police killings is among the highest per capita. Anaheim saw three deaths by police last year, according to the report, for a rate of about 8 police killings per million people. Two of the three victims were black. Detroit, on the other hand, has a high violent crime rate of about 20 crimes per 1,000 residents, and a relatively low police killing rate just under 1.5 people per million.


The report highlights this data to debunk the myth that “black on black” crime within communities somehow justifies increased use of violence by police.


“We plan to follow up this release with a deeper analysis of the use of force policies in these police departments to investigate why these numbers look the way they do,” Samuel Sinyangwe, a data analyst with Mapping Police Violence, wrote in an email to Fusion. The research, Sinyangwe explained, will help the organizers inform policy changes to end police violence.

The city with the highest number police-involved killings was Los Angeles, California. The report counts 22 deaths to date in the city, for a rate of 5.6 per million people. Of the 60 largest American police departments Mapping Police Violence looked at, only Riverside, California did not have a police-involved death.


Mapping Police Violence is the third project released by the collective of activists the face of which is DeRay Mckesson, a prominent voice for social justice on social media. Their others include: We the Protestors and Campaign Zero, which offers policy solutions to ending police violence.

Collier Meyerson is a reporter at Fusion with a focus on race and politics. She lives in Brooklyn.

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