If you’re a young man in America today — and especially a young black man — you might want to give law enforcement a wide berth. A new study found that shootings, chokeholds, and other uses of force by police officers, whether warranted or not, are now the sixth-highest cause of death for males between the ages of 25 and 29.
The study, conducted by researchers at Rutgers University-Newark and published in the Proceedings of the National Academy of Sciences, also found that black black men are two-and-a-half times more likely to be killed by law enforcement over their lifetime than white men, and that African-American women, American Indian/Alaska native men and women, and Latino men also face higher odds of dying at police hands. The risk of death for each group is highest between the ages of 20 and 35 and declines with age.
The police-related deaths in recent years of black men and boys like Eric Garner, Michael Brown, Trayvon Martin, and Tamir Rice have galvanized public opinion and led to the founding of the Black Lives Matter movement.
While African-Americans are particularly at risk, the grim statistics apply to any American man in his mid- to late-20s. The study’s data, compiled from the National Vital Statistic System’s mortality files and by Fatal Encounters, a journalist-run database documenting police-involved deaths through public records and news coverage, placed police use-of-force behind only cancer, heart disease, homicide, suicide, and accidents (including drug overdoses, traffic accidents, and other accidental deaths) — in descending order — for that age group.
Life expectancy in the United States has fallen for two straight years, the first time this has occurred in more than half a century. Hundreds of thousands of Americans die prematurely every year. These are the states with the most premature deaths.
The study recommends the creation of more social welfare and public health programs, adequate funding of community-based services, and restrictions on the use of armed officers as first responders in the kinds of crisis situations where police killings have occurred.
“What we lack in this country,” said the study’s lead author, Frank Edwards, an assistant professor at the university’s School of Criminal Justice, in a Rutgers press release, “are the solid estimates of police related deaths because there is no official database where this information is stored.”
About 1 million police officers in the country enforce local or federal laws. But some cities need more cops than others. Police departments vary greatly in the number of officers employed by each city. These are the U.S. cities with the most and fewest police officers.