The Statistic I Cannot Get Through My Head

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One of the refrains from people who don’t like the way the Freddie Gray case has been covered is that all this coverage paints police in an unfair light. A Hartford Courant commenter named John McCommas wrote, in response to one oped: “The clear, unmistakable, indefensible blunt intent of your message on that lousy graffiti rock, ‘Black Lives Matter’, is that the lives of white police officers don’t matter. Not to you anyways.” An email to me from WNPR listener Walter complained that the tone of coverage relating to Gray was accompanied by the message that:  “cops are not ‘real people.’ They are just bigoted murderers.”

I sure don’t feel that way.  I know plenty of cops. They’re real people to me, and I want them to be good at their jobs. Their lives matter to me. I have always assumed that the #blacklivesmatter campaign was a way of saying “We want black lives to matter as much as white lives currently do.”

Anyway, writing back to Walter, I wanted to make the point that we’re not dehumanizing all cops if we acknowledge that there’s a problem in this country with death at the hands of police.

And then I wondered how often it happens per year.

It turns out that record keeping on this subject tends to be a bit makeshift but that 1,000 deaths-by-police is not a crazy number.

1,000. In a year.

I can’t get my mind to ingest that number.

In Great Britain, the usual number, per year, seems to be zero.  Give or take one?

Germany reported 8 deaths by police service weapons in a two-year period.

In Canada, well, I read a  bunch of reports like this one, but I never got a hard number. I think if you said a dozen a year, you wouldn’t get much argument.


I’m in shock. We really have to look at this. To pretend that calling attention to it amounts to some kind of verbal war against police is ridiculous.

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