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Police Use of Force ‘Among Leading Causes of Death’ for Young Black Men

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About one in every 1,000 African-American men in the U.S. can expect to be killed by police, according to a study published in the Proceedings of the National Academy of Sciences.

Deaths caused by police have increased across all U.S. demographic groups, raising the odds of law enforcement-involved fatalities over a life span to one in 2,000 for men and one in 33,000 for women, said the study.

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Researchers used nationwide demographic data to estimate the lifetime and age-specific risks of being killed by police, broken down by race and gender.

The study found that black women and men, and American Indian and Alaska Native women and men are significantly more likely than white women and men to be killed by police. Latino men are also more likely to be killed by police than white men.

For men and women of all racial and ethnic groups, the risk of death at the hands of police peaks between the ages of 20 and 35.

But for young men of color in particular, “police use of force is among the leading causes of death,” the study said.

“The inequality is not surprising,” said study co-author Frank Edwards of the Rutgers University School of Criminal Justice.

“All you have to do is turn on the news to see that people of color are at a much greater risk of police-related harm.”

The study is based on 2013-2017 data from the National Vital Statistics System’s mortality data and from Fatal Encounters, a journalist- run database.

Edwards acknowledged, however, that it is difficult to get a completely accurate estimate of police-related deaths because there is no official database with that information.

“We haven’t really known for sure how often these killings have been happening because the data hasn’t been good enough,” Edwards said.

“If we are going to try and change police practices that aren’t working, we need to track this information better.”

The other study co-authors were Hedwig Lee of Washington University in St. Louis; and Michael Esposito of the Institute for Social Research at the University of Michigan.

The full study is available for purchase here.

Yotam Ponte is a TCR news intern.

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