US Police Killed More People In Just One Month Than The UK’s Did In An Entire Year (INFOGRAPHIC)

On April Fool’s Day Think Progress reported an astounding 111 police killings in the U.S. for the month of March. Unfortunately, that was no  joke. Shaun King from Daily Kos then checked to see whether police across the pond in the U.K. log in comparable numbers and was amazed: An entry from Wikipedia lists only 69 police killings in the U.K. since 1900.

That Wikipedia entry turned out to have “issues,” but more accurate data from Inquest — a U.K. non profit seeking truth and accountability in policing — hardly paints a flattering picture of the U.S. The true number for police killings in the U.K. is 1,510 from Jan. 1990-March 2016, and just 26 police killings in 2014. Although these numbers only include England and Wales, not Northern Ireland, the U.S. racked up 1,110 police killings in 2014 alone, according to the Killed By Police database…And those are just the police killings that got reported to the FBI.

That’s right: 1,100 police killings for 2014 in the U.S. v.s. just 26 in England and Wales for the same year.

So, of course someone’s going to chime in on how we’ve got way more people here in the U.S. ( 320.5 million) than in the U.K. (64.1 million), so of course we have more police killings. Still, a 26:1,110 ratio in the U.S. vs. England and Wales is insane.

A 2014 article from The Economist sheds light on the excessive use of force by police in the U.S. and points out that Americans are “around 100 times more likely” to get shot at by police than folks in the U.K. The author, D.K., even explains why: Hardly anyone has guns in the U.K.

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.

Alas, here in the U.S., folks arm themselves to the teeth. No wonder police are more fearful and quick to pull the trigger:

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.

Oh, and let’s not forget how we’ve armed our nation’s police forces to the teeth because centuries of slavery, bigotry and discrimination have made us terrified of black people:

Add to that a hyper-militarized 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.

Here’s the infographic with U.S. police killings (111 in March, 2015 alone) v.s. U.K. police killings (just 26 for England and Wales in 2014).

111 U.S. police killings in March, 2015 vs. 26 police killings in the U.K. for 2014, minus Northern Ireland.

Infographic with U.S. police killings v.s. U.K. police killings (England and Wales, but not Northern Ireland): Elisabeth Parker with photos by Jamelle Bouie (cc 2014) and Geograph.Org.

While available data on police killings in Northern Ireland seems peculiarly scarce, the Police Services of Northern Ireland (PSNI) does collect statistics on police use of force and makes it available to the public.  In a Dec. 2014 report on use of force by police in Northern Ireland for April-Sept. 2014  — defined as use of rubber bullets (19), batons (293), pepper spray (197), firearms (drawn or fired — 190), tasers (59), and water cannons (45) — came to a grand total of 719. Northern Ireland’s population, according to NISRA (Northern Ireland Statistics and Research Agency) is 1.83 million people. As a point of reference, the population of Manhattan is 1.63 million, according to U.S. Census data.

CORRECTION NOTICE: the original post claimed that only 69 police killings occurred in the U.K. since 1900, citing faulty data from Wikipedia. Multiple studies have found that Wikipedia has a high rate of accuracy, but “high rate of accuracy” does not mean 100 percent accuracy. This writer regrets the error.


Infographic with U.S. police killings v.s. U.K. (England and Wales) police killings: Elisabeth Parker with photos by Jamelle Bouie (cc 2014) and Geograph.Org.