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Statistics from the Federal Bureau of Investigation show that 89 U.S. law enforcement officials were killed on the job in 2019, 48 of them stemming from criminal acts.
Also in 2019, police killed 999 Americans, according to a database from the Washington Post. Black Americans were more than twice as likely to be shot and killed by police than their white counterparts
- If 48 police officers were killed, and 999 deaths occured at the hands of police, that puts Larson’s claim on track.
Widespread condemnation of police brutality has picked up once again after Kenosha police shot Jacob Blake, a 29-year-old Black man, seven times at close range as he attempted to get into his SUV late in the afternoon of Aug. 23, 2020.
As Blake remained at a Milwaukee hospital, where his family’s attorneys say he is paralyzed from the waist down, protests developed in Kenosha and across the state.
Politicians from both sides of the aisle have weighed in, including state Sen. Chris Larson, D-Milwaukee, who wrote this in an Aug. 24, 2020, Facebook post:
"In 2019, 89 officers died in the line of duty. While every death is tragic, almost half (41) were accidental. That same year, officers shot and killed 999 people. Police are 20.8 times more likely to kill than be killed by a criminal. We must drastically reduce the use of deadly force in this country."
Is he correct that in 2019, police were "20.8 times more likely to kill than be killed by a criminal."
Is he correct?
This post was flagged as part of Facebook’s efforts to combat false news and misinformation on its News Feed. (Read more about our partnership with Facebook).
Let’s break down the numbers.
Police officer deaths vs. deaths caused by police, by the numbers
To back up his claim, Larson’s office cited statistics from the Federal Bureau of Investigation on the number of law enforcement officers who died in the line of duty during 2019.
According to those statistics, 89 officers were killed in such incidents last year. Forty-one of those officers were killed accidentally, the FBI says, most often in car accidents.
That leaves 48 of what the FBI calls "felonious" deaths, which are deaths caused by criminal acts.
Turning to the number of people killed by police last year, Larson’s office pointed to the Washington Post’s "Fatal Force" database, which since 2015 has been logging fatal shootings by on-duty police officers throughout the U.S. The Post tracks such cases by following local news, law enforcement websites and social media, submitting open records requests and verifying incidents with the police department in question.
In 2019, 999 people were shot and killed by police, according to the database.
In his Facebook post, Larson does the math: If criminal acts led to 48 officer deaths in 2019, and officers killed 999 people in the same year, that would make police approximately 20.8 times more likely to kill someone than be killed in a criminal act.
The Post database breaks down another important data point: Black Americans are more likely to be shot and killed by police than white Americans. Black people account for less than 13% of the U.S. population but are killed by police at more than double the rate of white people
Black people are killed by police at a rate of 32 deaths per million people, Hispanic people at a rate of 24 per million, and white people at a rate of 13 per million, according to the database.
Larson said police are "20.8 times more likely to kill than be killed by a criminal."
FBI statistics and a national database show that checks out: In 2019, police killed 999 people, and 48 officers were killed by a criminal act in the line of duty.
We rate Larson’s claim True.
Milwaukee Journal Sentinel, "A Black man shot in the back, a viral video and civil unrest: Kenosha and the rest of the country are on edge after latest police shooting," Aug. 24, 2020
Milwaukee Journal Sentinel, 'He was not treated like a human that day': Family of Jacob Blake, now paralyzed, speaks out on police shooting," Aug. 26, 2020
Sen. Chris Larson, Facebook post, Aug. 24, 2020
Federal Bureau of Investigation, "FBI releases 2019 statistics on law enforcement officers killed in the line of duty," May 4, 2020
Washington Post, "Fatal Force: 1,019 people have been shot and killed by police in the past year," Aug. 25, 2020
Washington Post, "How The Washington Post is examining police shootings in the United States," July 7, 2016
Washington Post, "999 people were shot and killed by police in 2019," updated Aug. 10, 2020
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