Compared with other capitalist countries, the U.S. is unquestionably different when it comes to the level of state violence directed against minorities, reports Richard Becker. Using 2011 figures, Becker reports that, on a per capita basis, “the rate of killing by U.S. police was about 100 times that of English cops in 2011.” Similarly, U.S. police were forty times as likely to kill as German police officers, and twenty times as likely to kill as their Canadian counterparts.
This, Becker notes, is probably not the kind of “American exceptionalism” that President Obama had in mind when he addressed graduating West Point cadets in May 2014.
It’s not clear how many people police in the US kill each year, since there is no federal agency that accurately keeps track of such information. The FBI compiles annual statistics for “justified homicides” by police, and all reported police killings are registered as “justified” killings by the FBI. Since participation in reporting homicides to the FBI by police and sheriff’s departments is voluntary, only about 800 police agencies out of 18,000, provide statistics.
According to FBI statistics, there were 461 “justified homicides” by police in 2013, but the website KilledByPolice.net, reported that U.S. police killed around 748 people in just the last eight months of 2013, and 1,100 in 2014. The “KilledByPolice” numbers are compiled using mainstream media sources; because not every police killing is reported, and checking all news sources across the country is virtually impossible, these figures likely underestimate the number of police killings of civilians.
In England, which also happens to be a capitalist country with a long history of racism, police do not carry guns on patrol. Official records indicate that British police only used guns three times while on duty in all of 2013, with zero reported fatalities. In recent months, there has been an outpouring of opposition to police murder in the United States. Hundreds of thousands of people have taken to the streets in hundreds of cities, towns and campuses. “As in all other progressive struggles throughout history,” Becker writes, “it is the movement of the people in the streets, schools and workplaces that is the key to real change.”
Source: Richard Becker, “U.S. Cops Kill at 100 Times Rate of Other Capitalist Countries,” Liberation, January 4, 2015, http://www.liberationnews.org/u-s-cops-kill-100-times-rate-capitalist-countries/.
Student Researcher: Brooks Brorsen (Sonoma State University)
Faculty Evaluator: Peter Phillips (Sonoma State University)
[EDITOR’S NOTE: For more on the this topic, see Peter Phillips, Diana Grant, and Greg Sewell, “Law Enforcement Related Deaths in the US: ‘Justifiable Homicides’ and the Impacts on Families”.]