New Study Names Police Violence As a Leading Cause of Death for Young Black Men

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Watching the news over the past several years, it’s become clear that young black men have different experiences with – and more reasons to fear – interactions with police.

At least, that’s how it seems.

But now, a scientific study is backing up that idea with proof.

According to new research, black men between the ages of 20 and 29 experience the highest mortality rate, with use-of-force by police being the 6th leading cause of death (after accidents, suicide, other homicides, heart disease, and cancer).


Study author Frank Edwards, of the School of Criminal Justice at Rutgers University-Newark, issued a statement about their findings.

“We haven’t really known for sure how often these killings have been happening because the data hasn’t been good enough. But if we are going to try and change police practices that aren’t working, we need to track this information better.”

Lest you think those numbers aren’t striking, they mean that 1 in every 1,000 black men will be killed by police – a 2.5x higher rate than for white men.

They join American Indians and Alaskan Natives in being “significantly more likely” to be killed by police. Even black women are 1.4x more likely than white women to be killed by police.


The data comes from Fatal Encounters, a journalist-led effort to document police-related deaths, which otherwise are lumped in with other crime statistics.

We find that African American men and women, American Indian/Alaskan Native men and women, and Latino men face higher lifetime risk of being killed by police than do their white peers.”

Even though the data includes so-called “justified” killings, the results are nonetheless compelling. Race and police brutality continue to stand in the national spotlight, largely due to the fact that even though black people make up a mere 13% of the population, they encompass 34% of the prison population and 25% of people killed by on-duty police – making them closer to 3x more likely to die that way than their white peers.


While these results can be partially explained by the fact that younger people are more likely to engage in risky behavior, the study authors point out that police in the U.S. kill more people overall than forces in other industrialized democracies, particularly when it comes to people of color.

Hopefully studies like these, combined with thoughtful policies and departments intent on improving relations between officers and those they serve, will help steer America in the right direction.