National Institute on Aging

The Racial Disparity in Fatal Police Shootings Has Not Improved in Five Years

Over the past five years, there has been no reduction in the racial disparity in fatal police shooting victims despite increased use of body cameras and closer media scrutiny, according to a new report by researchers at Yale University and the University of Pennsylvania.

The researchers found that victims of police shootings identifying as Black, whether armed or unarmed, had significantly higher death rates compared with Whites. And those numbers remained relatively unchanged from 2015 to May 2020.

There were 5,367 fatal police shootings during that five-year period. The analysis showed that Black people were killed at 2.6 times the rate of White people. Among unarmed victims, Black people were killed at three times the rate for Whites.

The researchers said that their findings indicate that systemic changes are needed. Elle Lett, the report’s lead author from the University of Pennsylvania, said: “What has been done at the local level — such as body cameras and independent investigations — has been insufficient. We need to raise it to the state and national level, and to codify it into law.”

Lett is a M.D./Ph.D. student at the Perelman School of Medicine of the Univerity of Pennsylvania. Lett holds a bachelor’s degree in molecular and cellular biology from Harvard College and a master’s degree in biostatistics from Duke University.

The full study, “Racial inequity in fatal US police shootings, 2015–2020, was published in the Journal of Epidemiology and Public Health. It may be accessed here.


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