police

The odds of winning $5,555 on a $1 Take Five ticket in the New York State Lottery are 1 in 529,200. The odds of black men being killed by police are 1 in 1,000.

That means that a black man is 529.2 times more likely to be killed by a police officer than to win a relatively small sum from the lottery. Unlike being killed by a police officer, race isn’t a deterministic factor in lottery success or failure. Of course, white men and boys are still 211.7 times more likely to be killed by police than to win that Take Five ticket as well.

The number-crunching on police fatalities comes courtesy of a Rutgers University study published this month in the Proceedings of the National Academy of Sciences. The study found that across racial and gender lines, nonwhite Americans were more likely than white Americans to be killed by police. The numbers on black men and boys, though, were particularly stunning.

“We believe these numbers, if anything, are a little bit conservative, maybe a bit too low,” said study lead Frank Edwards. “But we think that these are the best that can be done in terms of just getting a baseline risk estimate out there.”

This quantifies the experiences in communities of color around a litany of fatal police interactions that broke into the mainstream consciousness in recent years. The fact that black men and boys are 2.5 times more likely to be killed by police than their peers has impacted how communities of color raise their children. It has a palpable impact on the overall health of the communities as well.

“It can have these toxic effects on communities, in terms of both their physical and mental health,” Edwards said. “They know that young black men are singled out as being inherently suspect.”

Despite the results also showing an alarming nearly 1-in-2,500 statistic for white men and boys at the hands of police officers as well, other research paints a difference between the deaths by black and white men through police interaction.

By assessing “Years of Life Lost”., medical researchers from UCLA, UCBerkley and Harvard’s medical schools highlighted the difference. Though people of color make up 39% of the U.S. population, the Years of Life Lost by people of color accounted for 52% of all Years of Life Lost in 2015 and 2016. In this study’s sample, just over half of deaths by cop were white.

A Years of Life Lost analysis is often used to compare the burdens placed by a disease on different populations for the purpose of epidemiology — its use here aims to highlight police violence compared to various infectious diseases. Getting killed by police has become a leading cause of death for African Americans in the United States.

Despiite the clear racial bias in these statistics, though, Edwards cautioned of the broader problem as well. That all men are hundreds of times more likely to be killed by a cop than to win $5,555 dollars on a scratch-off is a point of alarm for him.

“I would say that there are a few big takeaways: one, that lifetime risk of fatal police violence, especially for men, is unequal across racial and ethnic groups — people of color are much more likely to be killed by police than white people,” Edwards told Vox. “Of all the men who die between the ages of 20 and 29, police are responsible for more than 1 percent of those deaths.”

He continued: “A lot of the current research has looked at how much of the issue is due to racism, and we think that is the wrong question to be asking. When you look at these inequalities, it is clear that both structural racism and discrimination in the pattern and practice of policing has to be occurring. We don’t see these levels of violence without disparities and distinctions in how communities of color are policed, and a history of segregation and disinvestment in communities of color, especially cities.”

This isn’t to suggest by contrast that the lottery is a good thing for African American communities either — because of how the lottery draws psychologically on poor and minority communities people who can’t afford to lose regularly play and this impacts communities of color disproportionately. The lottery itself also tends to harm education funding in poorer communities and communities of color.

Of course, losing on a scratch-off is hundreds of times less likely to kill you.

(Featured image: Kate Sheets/Wikimedia Commons)

 

Katelyn Kivel is a contributing editor and senior legal reporter for Grit Post in Kalamazoo, Michigan. Follow her on Twitter @KatelynKivel.

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