According to recent data, the number of fatal police shootings in the United States has remained at close to 1,000 for the last 4 years. In 2018, U.S. police shot and killed 998 people. That is 11 more fatal shootings than what was reported in 2017.
The frequency of these crimes along with heightened public awareness led to police reform and more officer training in cities throughout the country, though the latest data suggests that this has had little to no effect on the annual number of police shootings that result in death.
However, mathematicians say probability theory can explain why fatal police shootings aren’t decreasing. According to probability theory, the quantity of rare events in huge populations tends to remain stable without major societal changes. Because a substantial shift in police culture and restrictions on the use of lethal force is very unlikely, the issue will persist.
Sir David Spiegelhalter, a professor and statistician at the University of Cambridge, says, “Just as vast numbers of randomly moving molecules, when put together, produce completely predictable behavior in a gas, so do vast numbers of human possibilities, each totally unpredictable in itself, when aggregated, produce an amazing predictability.”
An investigation from the Washington Post revealed that the FBI’s tracking system of police shootings undercounted fatal police shootings by nearly 50%. The discrepancy is due to the fact that police departments can choose whether or not they want to report. Unfortunately, many departments choose not to report police shootings. Although the FBI said it would improve its tracking methods, the system in place is still voluntary.
Here’s how the demographics for fatal police shootings breakdown over the past 4 years, according to the Post:
- White Men: 45%
- Black Men: 23%
- Hispanic Men: 16%
- Women: 5%
- Mentally Disabled: 25%
54% of the people killed in police shootings were armed, while 4% were unarmed.
According to Geoffrey Alpert, a criminologist at the University of South Carolina, “We’ve looked at this data in so many ways, including whether race, geography, violent crime, gun ownership or police training can explain it, but none of those factors alone can explain how consistent this number appears to be.”
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