Law Enforcement–Related Deaths in the US

by Project Censored
Published: Last Updated on

“Justified Homicides” and Their Impacts on Victims’ Families

This is the full study on Law Enforcement Related Deaths. This chapter was originally published in Censored 2015: Inspiring We the People.

Peter Phillips, Diana Grant, and Greg Sewell

For over a decade and a half, Project Censored researchers at Sonoma State University have been monitoring law enforcement–related deaths in the United States. In the most recent phase of this research, we interviewed members of fourteen families who had lost a loved one in a law enforcement incident. In this study, we let the families tell their stories in their own voices, and we report the commonalities in their trauma and mistreatment by law enforcement and the corpo- rate media after the death of their loved ones.

Law enforcement agencies in the United States have been involved in excess of 600 deaths annually for at least the past fifteen years. In addition to the people dying on the street or in their homes through law enforcement–related activities, research shows that several hun- dred people a year die in local jails. In 2011, according to the Office of Justice Programs, 885 inmates died in the custody of local jails. Thirty-nine percent died within the first week of being jailed.1 This number, combined with deaths on the outside, allows us to estimate that more than 1,500 people die annually in law enforcement–related circumstances, whether in custody or in the course of law enforce- ment actions in the victims’ communities. It is reasonable to assume that some portion of these deaths is attributable to officer mistakes, overreactions, or deliberate acts that result in death.

Read this entire piece which is the 8th chapter of Project Censored 2015 here: Law Enforcement Related Deaths.