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Mailbag: Database should prove useful tool

Mailbag: Database should prove useful tool


A recent letter to the GT claimed that 36 people (20 whites, 10 blacks and 6 Latinos) were “unarmed and killed” by police in the U.S. in 2019.

The author suggested people should do more research before concluding that America is racist, and states “Google Washington Post.”

The Washington Post maintains the only online query-able database of fatal shootings by on-duty police officers in the U.S. (from 2015 to present). Query shows in 2019, 1,002 Americans were killed by police shootings. Of these, 404 were white, 250 were black (25%), 163 were Hispanic and 185 were “other” or unknown. Wikipedia indicates that in 2019, 13.4% of the U.S. population identified as black.

It appears that proportionately to population, at least twice as many black U.S. citizens were fatally shot by police last year. My by-state analysis shows some rates three times higher than expected if there were no racial bias.

WAPO reporters gather information from many sources to verify and fill in gaps for each case. These include whether/how the deceased was armed, his/her age group, whether running from police when shot, and if there were known mental health issues. As it stands, it makes clear that there is significant racial bias in shooting deaths.

Although the WAPO database does not include non-gun police-perpetrated deaths such as the recent shocking case of George Floyd, I hope it will prove useful as a tool for educating the public and for developing improvements in public/police interactions.

Janet Smoker



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