According to Mapping Police Violence’s 2022 tracking, American police killed more people than they have in almost a decade. The organisation found that 1,176 people died in encounters with the police last year, the highest number they have ever recorded. Statistics show that police killed the equivalent of 3.2 people per day and there were only 12 days in the entire year where police killing was not reported. The figures include anyone killed by police, whether that be shooting or other means.
However, a dismal trend emerges when you look into how these killings occurred. Of all the deaths recorded, more than a third of those killed by police encountered authorities as a result of a non-violent offence, mental health and welfare check or a traffic stop. These causes for police stops have been targeted for reform in several states, while Philadelphia became the first major city to ban low-level traffic stops in March. Also, the city of Aurora has trialled sending unarmed, trained mental health professionals to respond to mental health emergencies rather than the police in an attempt to de-escalate and provide adequate support.
As has been the case with the previous nine years of Mapping Police Violence’s data, in 2022, a disproportionate number of those killed were Black people – who accounted for 24% of deaths, despite only making up 13% of the population. One in three people killed by the police were fleeing enforcement when they were killed. Black, Hispanic, Native Americans, and Pacific Islanders are at least 5-8% more likely to be killed whilst running or driving away than white people.
While we saw the high-profile conviction of Derek Chauvin in 2021, a vast majority of officers go unpunished, facing absolutely no legal repercussions after taking a life. According to the data, 98.1% of police officers involved in the killing of a citizen between 2013 and 2022 faced no charges – with less than 0.3% of officers actually convicted.
The police department responsible for the most killings was Los Angeles, with 15 deadly encounters taking place last year. This was followed by Houston (14), New York (13), Albuquerque (11) and Phoenix (10).
Unfortunately, data shows that police killings have been on the rise over the past three years, with 36 more deaths at the hands of authorities this year than in 2021. Clearly, the issue is not being addressed with the crucial intervention it so sorely needs. And until we see officers being held accountable for these unavoidable, senseless killings, the numbers will likely continue to rise.