Regional & Nationals News

STUDY: POLICE KILLINGS IN U.S. ARE GROSSLY UNDERCOUNTED

Originally published in the Autumn 2021 edition of the Virginia Defender, issue 66, printed October 25. Reproduced here for accessibility and archival purposes. For other stories in this issue or to see the full PDF, see the Autumn 2021 post here. For the full web catalog, see our Full Issues page.

The number of people killed by police in the United States has been grossly undercounted, according to a new study by a group of public health researchers.

Among the findings: More than 17,000 deaths caused by police since 1980 have been misclassified, and Black people die in such encounters 3.5 times as often as whites.

The researchers maintain that death certificates issued by medical examiners systematically under-record deaths due to police violence. That data is then compiled by the National Vital Statistics System, which issues the official figures for police killings.

“The burden of fatal police violence is an urgent public health crisis in the USA,” the researchers state in their report. “Mounting evidence shows that deaths at the hands of the police disproportionately impact people of certain races and ethnicities, pointing to systemic racism in policing.”

Further, “The Global Burden of Diseases, Injuries, and Risk Factors Study (GBD) in 2019 found that police conflict and executions accounted for 293,000 global deaths … from 1980 to 2019. In 2019, the USA accounted for 13.2% …of the 8,770 global deaths … due to police conflict while only accounting for 4% of the global population.”

The study was reported in The Lancet, a peer-reviewed medical journal.

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