New Study Calls Attention to Inequities in Police Violence in U.S. Metropolitan Areas

An article, authored by FXB Center Doctoral Student Cohort Members Gabriel L. Schwartz and Jaquelyn L. Jahn, reveals the stark inequities in fatal police violence between Black and White populations in U.S. metropolitan areas.

The article, published in PLOS ONE, estimates rates of fatal police violence for every metropolitan area in the country, as well as racial inequities in those rates. The authors analyzed the most recent, complete data—from 2013 to 2017—from Fatal Encounters, a citizen science initiative that tracks and verifies incidents of fatal police violence from media reports and public records.

Rates of fatal police violence varied dramatically across metropolitan areas, with the deadliest metropolitan areas exhibiting rates nine times those of the least deadly. On average, one’s chance of being killed by the police tended to be higher in Southwestern metropolitan areas and lower in the northern Midwest and Northeast. But this pattern was reversed for Black-White inequities, with Northeast and Midwest metropoles experiencing the highest Black-White inequities nationwide.

“Fatal police violence is a public health crisis that is preventable. Movement organizing has already made this issue impossible for elected officials to ignore. Our study identifies the cities with the highest rates of police violence overall and against Black people. These cities have the most work to do and should be held accountable.” said Jahn.

“Protests are holding powerful decision makers accountable to making a healthier world, where people are not killed by police,” said Schwartz, “but our government has not even accurately tracked how often police kill people or how much more often police kill BIPOC. We are trying to put that information in the public’s hands, city by city.”

Several individual metropoles stood out. The Anniston-Oxford-Jacksonville metropolitan area, in Alabama, had the highest rate of fatal police violence in the nation, as well as ranked highest among White people. Oklahoma City, OK, was in the top 10 overall and had the highest rate in the nation for Black people and the sixth highest in the nation for Latinx people. Pueblo, CO, had the fifth highest rate in the nation overall as well as the highest rates nationwide for Latinx people. Other cities that generally pride themselves for liberal politics ranked high for some race/ethnicities—such as the San Francisco-Oakland-Hayward area, where Black people faced the second highest rate of fatal police violence in the country.

Over the last decade—and in the last several weeks, in the wake of the murders of George Floyd, Breonna Taylor, Tony McDade, Rayshard Brooks, and many others—the Black Lives Matter movement has drawn renewed attention to fatal police violence in the U.S. as an urgent public health and racial justice problem. To solve it, the authors believe the public requires basic information, such as where rates of fatal police violence are particularly high, and for which groups. The authors hope this information will be used to advocate for structural changes to prevent police violence as cities debate policy interventions like demilitarization, re-routing funding to support community health initiatives like affordable housing and economic opportunity, firearms regulations, or more targeted interventions at the law enforcement agency level.

To read the article in full, click here.