Tuesday, November 25, 2014

Police Killings in America Compared to Other Countries

With all the police shootings in America (including the terribly tragic shooting of Tamir Rice, a 12-year-old African-American boy, in Cleveland this past week),
Tamir Rice, 12-year-old Killed by a Cleveland Police Officer

I have begun to wonder how we compare to the other prosperous countries of the world. Below is a report from a British magazine, The Economist. Most British police are not armed. In a single year there might not be a single police killing in all of Great Britain. In the entire country, police may pull guns only a few times.

From the Economist: http://www.economist.com/blogs/democracyinamerica/2014/08/armed-police

The shooting of Michael Brown, an 18-year-old African-American, by a police officer in Ferguson, Missouri, is a reminder that civilians—innocent or guilty—are far more likely to be shot by police in America than in any other rich country. In 2012, according to data compiled by the FBI, 410 Americans were “justifiably” killed by police—409 with guns. That figure may well be an underestimate. Not only is it limited to the number of people who were shot while committing a crime, but also, amazingly, reporting the data is voluntary.
Last year, in total, British police officers actually fired their weapons three times. The number of people fatally shot was zero. In 2012 the figure was just one. Even after adjusting for the smaller size of Britain’s population, British citizens are around 100 times less likely to be shot by a police officer than Americans. Between 2010 and 2014 the police force of one small American city, Albuquerque in New Mexico, shot and killed 23 civilians; seven times more than the number of Brits killed by all of England and Wales’s 43 forces during the same period.
The explanation for this gap is simple. In Britain, guns are rare. Only specialist firearms officers carry them; and criminals rarely have access to them. The last time a British police officer was killed by a firearm on duty was in 2012, in a brutal case in Manchester. The annual number of murders by shooting is typically less than 50. Police shootings are enormously controversial. The shooting of Mark Duggan, a known gangster, which in 2011 started riots across London, led to a fiercely debated inquest. Last month, a police officer was charged with murder over a shooting in 2005. The reputation of the Metropolitan Police’s armed officers is still barely recovering from the fatal shooting of Jean Charles de Menezes, an innocent Brazilian, in the wake of the 7/7 terrorist bombings in London.
In America, by contrast, it is hardly surprising that cops resort to their weapons more frequently. In 2013, 30 cops were shot and killed—just a fraction of the 9,000 or so murders using guns that happen each year. Add to that a hyper-militarised police culture and a deep history of racial strife and you have the reason why so many civilians are shot by police officers. Unless America can either reduce its colossal gun ownership rates or fix its deep social problems, shootings of civilians by police—justified or not—seem sure to continue.

This next piece is from Business Insider:

The FBI reports that in 2011, cops in America killed 404 suspects in acts of "justifiable homicide." Astonishingly, though, as FiveThirtyEight reports, this number likely doesn't include every civilian fatality that year since it relies on voluntary reporting and doesn't include police homicides that aren't justifiable.

Still, 404 is a large number. By comparison, just six people were killed by police in Australia over the same period. Police in England and Wales killed only two people, and German police killed six.

Gun control groups see the issue as an arms race between law enforcement and civilians.

Last year, police in England did not record a single shooting fatality, with officers across the country only firing weapons on three occasions.

Cops on the street in England do not carry firearms.

In Australia, where police do carry handguns, gun control is relatively tight. Police in some states receive special training for dealing with mentally ill suspects.

There are some theories about why cops in America kill more people. Ladd Everitt from the Washington-based advocacy organization, the Coalition to Stop Gun Violence, told Business Insider, "We see this as a product of the continuing arms race between law enforcement and civilians that has been going on for decades."

Everitt said the increasingly sophisticated weaponry being sold to U.S. civilians is forcing police to keep up, with both sides purchasing ever more powerful weapons.

The arms race means "police officers have legitimate fears about the nature of the firepower they are confronting on a daily basis," he said.

The Coalition to Stop Gun Violence told us they thought it would take "courageous politicians with the decency and courage to stand up to the National Rifle Association" to end the high number of deaths.

Business Insider contacted the NRA for comment but did not receive an immediate response.

Read more: http://www.businessinsider.com/why-do-us-police-kill-so-many-people-2014-8#ixzz3K6eDRZo2

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