Racial inequity in fatal US police shootings, 2015-2020

J Epidemiol Community Health. 2020 Oct 27;jech-2020-215097. doi: 10.1136/jech-2020-215097. Online ahead of print.


Introduction: Violent encounters with police represent a significant cause of morbidity and mortality in the USA, especially among Black, Indigenous, and People of Colour (BIPOC). This study characterises trends in fatal police shootings overall and by armed status and quantifies inequities in mortality burden and years of life lost (YLL) across racial/ethnic groups.

Methods: Longitudinal study of Washington Post data on fatal police shootings in the USA using generalised linear-mixed models to capture trends with time and relative rates.

Results: This study shows that the rate of fatal police shootings for Black, Indigenous, and People of Colour (BIPOC) is constant from 2015 to 2020. Further, BIPOC have significantly higher death rates compared with Whites in the overall victim pool (Native American RR=3.06, Black RR=2.62, Hispanic RR=1.29) and among unarmed victims (Black RR=3.18, Hispanic RR=1.45). Native American (RR=3.95), Black (overall RR=3.29, unarmed RR=3.49) and Hispanic (RR=1.55, unarmed RR=1.55), victims had similarly high rates of YLL relative to Whites.

Conclusion: Fatal police shootings are a public health emergency that contribute to poor health for BIPOC. Urgent attention from health professionals is needed to help drive policy efforts that reduce this unjust burden and move us towards achieving health equity in the US.

Keywords: Violence; ethnicity; inequalities; longitudinal studies.