2 Black men per week are killed by a cop in America

Howard University students join the Hands Up Don't Shoot movement in memory of Michael Brown

Howard University students join the Hands Up Don’t Shoot movement in memory of Michael Brown (Debra Sweet via Flickr)

By George E. Curry
NNPA Columnist

Occasionally, police officers behave in such as dastardly manner that it captures international attention. There was the 1997 famous video of four White LAPD officers taking turns clubbing and kicking Rodney King nearly beyond recognition after a high-speed automobile chase. In 1999, on the opposite coast, an unarmed, 23-year-old Amadou Diallo was killed after four policemen fired 41 times into his Bronx, N.Y. apartment, striking him 19 times.

In New Orleans, Robert Davis, a retired elementary school teacher, was returning to his hometown after Hurricane Katrina in 2005 to inspect the damaged family home. He went to the French Quarters to purchase some cigarettes. Four White officers, who suspected him of public drunkenness, accused Davis of resisting arrest and began beating him. An Associated Press producer filmed a video that showed no indication of resistance.

Timothy Thomas, 19, was shot to death in Cincinnati in 2001 by Patrolman Stephen Roach. The officer said he thought Thomas was armed – he wasn’t. The shooting touched off the largest urban unrest in the U.S. since the L.A. uprising a decade earlier.

And the list doesn’t stop there: Sean Bell, Oscar Grant, Frank Jude, Jonathan Ferrell, Kathryn Johnson, Kendrec McDade, Timothy Standsbury, Jr., Kenneth Chamberlain and so many more.

Three more names were added to the list in the past month: Eric Garner of Staten Island, N.Y.; Ezell Ford of Los Angeles, and now Michael Brown, the 18-year-old unarmed victim in Ferguson, Mo.

Police kill African Americans more frequently than you may realize.

According to stats compiled by the U.S. Department of Justice, an unarmed African American died at the hands of an armed White police officer at the rate of nearly two per week from 2005 to 2012. Over that 8-year-period, 400 police killings were reported per year. White officers killed a Black person, on average, 96 times per year.

Of those, 18 percent of the African Americans killed were under the age of 21, compared to 8.7 percent of Whites.

As bad as those figures are, they grossly understate the problem. The FBI statistics are based on the voluntary reporting of local law enforcement jurisdictions. Currently, approximately 750 of 17,000 law enforcement agencies regularly report their figures to the FBI. That means if the ratio holds true for all 17,000 agencies, the annual 96 Black deaths at the hands of White cops could be as high 2,170 a year or almost 42 (41.73) per week – nearly six per day (5.94).

To be conservative, let’s presume that the death rate for the non-reporting law enforcement agencies is only half of those now reporting. That would still be approximately three Blacks killed by a White police officer every day.

According to Officer Down Memorial Page, which catalogues the deaths of all law enforcement officials, 416 cops were deliberately killed in the line of duty from 2005 to 2012, an average of 52 a year from 2005 to 2012.

Using the most conservative data, Blacks are almost twice as likely to be killed by police as cops are likely to be murdered in the line of duty.

In most of the high-profile cases of police killing unarmed Blacks, there was no justification for the use of deadly force.

One case, Tennessee v. Garner, grew out of an incident in Memphis where a Black 8th grader was shot fleeing from a home burglary after stealing a purse. The judges said cops couldn’t shoot someone simply because they were escaping.

In another case, Graham vs Connor, the judges said police have the duty to protect the public. Therefore, it’s okay to use force in apprehending violent offenders. But in the Memphis case, police would not be allowed to shoot at a non-violent offender even following the commission of a crime.

Of course, personal prejudice enters the picture long before an officer pulls his or her gun.

“When we ask police officers directly, ‘Who looks criminal?,’ they choose more Black faces than White faces. The more stereotypically Black a face appears, the more likely officers are to report that the face looks criminal,” according a study in Stanford’s Journal of Personality and Social Psychology.

In addition, the U.S. Commission on Civil Rights found that, “most white officers (95 percent) do not believe police are more likely to use physical force against blacks and other minorities than against whites in similar situations. The majority of black and other minority officers (69.5 percent) believe persons who look like them are more likely to receive physical force from police.”
But Blacks are treated differently from Whites – even when they are part of the law enforcement hierarchy.

As Attorney General Eric Holder recounted before the NAACP last year, “I was stopped by a police officer while simply running to catch a movie, at night in Georgetown, in Washington, D.C. I was at the time of that last incident a federal prosecutor.”

If that can happen to Eric Holder in Washington, you know what can happen to Michael Brown in Ferguson, Mo.

George E. Curry, former editor-in-chief of Emerge magazine, is editor-in-chief of the National Newspaper Publishers Association News Service (NNPA.) He is a keynote speaker, moderator, and media coach. Curry can be reached through his Web site, www.georgecurry.com. You can also follow him at www.twitter.com/currygeorge and George E. Curry Fan Page on Facebook.


  1. anonymous says:

    Curry does a good job of introducing information that is not normally brought up. And although the facts need little explaining, huge numbers of U.S. citizens do not want to accept them. Many maintain that the black folk who get murdered usually caused the whole thing and are therefore to be blamed for anything that went wrong. Therefore, in their minds – this issue is not news worthy.

  2. How many black men are killed by black men per week? Race-baiting article that does not give percentages. Do an article on why no one talks when yhe role is reversed. But I am sure that would not fit your narrative!

  3. When will the killing stop??

  4. NDG Staff says:

    Good question — hopefully people will demand and receive action.

  5. NDG Staff says:

    So being insulting is likely not the best route to go. However, a quick trip to Google will provide quite a bit of info on what is commonly referred to as Black on Black crime. Including:

    http://www.businessweek.com/articles/2014-08-20/the-stark-statistics-on-young-black-men-and-gun-violence Businweek’s article from yesterday

    This interesting infographic from the NYPD: http://assets.nydailynews.com/polopoly_fs/1.1522939!/img/httpImage/image.jpg_gen/derivatives/article_970/graphic-crime20-1119.jpg

    Now what I did find interesting when I searched, How often do police shoot white men — in one article it spotlights that less than half the police depts. self report crime stats. in this digital age we do not have a database of this key info.

  6. Ben Johnson says:

    This needs to stop. That’s more than 100 per year. We need to privatize the police.

  7. NDG Staff says:

    Why do you think that woukd help?

  8. NDG Staff says:

    So just because there are not two riots every week, there are not two black men killed by cops?

  9. We have been hearing all these stats for decades now since 1964; yet, today, blacks are less likely to vote or run for office than they were 20 years ago. I a democratic society, your vote makes a lot of difference, and our children are not exercising these rights our grandparents died for. We have to go back to pre-1964 days, pick up where the MLKs left off, and make our children aware that nothing has really changed, they just took a different form.

    If we continue to march and sing “old Negro songs’ we will forever remain slaves, because while white and Hispanic America are adopting new methods to lord it over us, blacks are still being led by Jesse Jackson and Al Sharpton.

  10. NDG Staff says:

    I really feel like if folks listen to Al — it is not the same old message.

    However, I am sure they would welcome new voices – so who is going to step up?

  11. Felix;
    On part of your comment… “blacks are still being led by Jesse Jackson and Al Sharpton”…Jessie Jackson and Al Sharpton are only two individuals that have managed to get the attention of the major media as black “leaders”. They may get more attention than most black “leaders” but all black communities have always had numerous “leaders”. I would disagree that all blacks are led by Al and Jessie and this does not mean that I condemn or disagree with these two. Also, emphasizing the point made by NDG staff; I doubt if either of these two individuals would fight against young folk who tried to join their organization and lead in other directions. This does not mean that I think they would quickly give up the spotlight to new young folk who joined their organization.

  12. Lewis Kincade says:

    First–Rodney King was beaten in 1991, not 1997. I’m concerned that Mr Curry should know that basic fact. Otherwise, the truth has to get out.

  13. NDG Staff says:

    Interesting blog – thanks for sharing!

  14. worth a read by all interested parties!

  15. I wonder why there are no studies cited for these numbers. I mean to get empirical data, you have to do a study. These number have to be verified by others to gain merit.

    Where are the statistical science journals that comport this information?

  16. NDG Staff says:

    This is the info shared in the article: “According to stats compiled by the U.S. Department of Justice, an unarmed African American died at the hands of an armed White police officer at the rate of nearly two per week from 2005 to 2012.”

    However, I agree that in 2015 it makes no sense that the government does not have a database of ALL police involved shootings. This would lend itself to scientific studies.

  17. Two blacks killed every week by cops would equate to 112 per year and while it’s true that twice as many blacks are killed every year than cops are killed, let’s not forget that there are less than one million cops in America who are always in dangerous situations, while there are 40 times as many blacks. Let’s get all the facts out there.

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