As protests continue over the senseless killing of George Floyd by a Minneapolis police officer, some activists claim that police brutality against blacks is both systemic and pervasive. How much do you know about the use of excessive force by police officers? Can you identify which of the following statements is not true?
A. While killings of unarmed civilians by police are never acceptable, black Americans are more likely to be killed by other civilians than by police.
B. A small percentage of police officers commit a large percentage of misconduct infractions.
C. The number of police shootings have increased in recent decades.
Let’s take these statements one at a time:
A. Truth. Police killed nine unarmed black people in 2019. Although this is unquestionably nine too many, the Wall Street Journal estimates that the number of unarmed black people killed by police is approximately 0.1% of the number of Blacks (7,407 in 2018, the most recent year for which date is available) killed by other civilians.
B. Truth. There is no comprehensive national database of excessive force by police. However, an independent analysis by USA Today found that police misconduct investigations typically involve fewer than 10 percent of police officers in most departments. Many of these investigations do not involve the use of excessive force. And many of the investigations involve the same officers over and over again.
C. Lie! Although all unwarranted police shootings are unfortunate, it is important to note that shootings of civilians by police officers have dropped dramatically in recent decades, including in big cities. In New York, for example, police officers shot more than 300 people a year during the 1970s. By 2019, that number had fallen to 34.