Improving the estimate of US police killings


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I hate to say it, but in light of weekly, sometimes daily, reports of police conducted murder, violence and general despotism, gun lobby arguments for an armed civil population in the U.S. are starting to not seem all that crazy anymore.
By now it´s far from unimaginable for American citizens to have to defend themselves against arbitrary police violence with more than ineffective legal recourse.
Of course, the whole calamity came to be because of the American culture of arms and violence which led to this kind of police militarization and radicalization in the first place i.m.o. But now that it´s here, I´m not sure if a state monopoly of armament is in the population´s best interest anymore.

Just my 2¢, as a non-US-citizen.

Not to mention the world-wide rise of Fascist movements, including countries with few guns. And American right wing blogs are always full of people fantasizing about forming right wing death squads and killing the neighbors. Considering the mentality of some of our law enforcement people, it’s easy to imagine some of them going that route. When a guy a camera bag is targeted by a platoon of assault rifles, I think we can guess what these guys are talking about when they’ve had a few beers.


In a way, this study is not very useful. Suppose it said police in a certain state killed 100 unarmed people a year. Is the argument for reform now any stronger? The underestimate was already intolerable. Even one is too many.

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I would have thought this was a very strong argument against the gun lobby. Police are likely to want to shoot first. In countries where ordinary people do not carry guns on the street, the police do not expect to be shot in confrontations.
In the UK in 2013-14 there were:
• 12 road traffic fatalities
• no fatal police shootings
• 11 deaths in or following police custody
• 68 apparent suicides following police custody
• 39 other deaths following police contact
The US has about 5 times the population of the UK, so even if you assume that the 50 deaths following police contact otherwise unanalysed would have been the result of shooting in the US, that is still 4 times fewer per head of population. If you compare like to like, no fatal shootings versus around 1000 a year is a bit of a mismatch.
In fact there have been so few fatal police shootings in the UK that they average around 2 a year. That is approx. 1/100 of the US rate per head of population.

If Americans started shooting the police, the result would be de facto civil warfare and would make around 1000 deaths a year look trivial compared to what would happen.


Louder, I hope.

This is helpful if only because it adds to the weight of wrongness. Every story of police violence, every statistic that can be published, every wrongful death, every --everything, needs to keep getting put out there in the public eye. Over and over again. I believe this crap won’t stop without massive public protests beyond anything this country has ever seen.


I fully agree, but as I wrote in my initial post, I think for what you´re describing, the ship has sailed for the U.S. The population already is armed and the police already is militarized and prone to unprovoked violence.

The U.S. gun lobby argument is that citizens have to be able to defend themselves against the state by force of arms if neccessary, and in the case of the U.S., I think they may be right by now.

You think they have a chance against the biggest military in the world? Those Tea Partiers waving their semi-automatic rifles would not stand much chance when the M1A1s start to roll.


Not in direct face-to-face conflict. But that would be a poor ting to do, exactly because of that.

Insurgency/guerrilla tactics, however, have pretty good success rate even agains a way better equipped adversary.

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They probably wouldn´t. But there´s a difference between protecting yourself against an out of control militarized police force and having full blown war waged against you by your own state. The latter likely won´t happen anytime soon, while the former is pretty much reality.
Also, the biggest military in the world has been beaten or at least significantly affected by small, much less well equipped forces through guerilla tactics multiple times.

Edit: I just realized that shaddack wrote the same thing just one post above mine -_-

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And you have a US army which has been spending the last 15 years working out how to deal with guerilla warfare and insurgency.

3600 people were killed in the Troubles in Northern Ireland, about 2000 of them civilians. Over the years the police and the army adopted tactics of infiltration, use of helicopters, surveillance and armored vehicles. The two sides in NI still hate one another but the level of violence has reduced - in part because the godfathers of the gangs have got older, in part because of better gun controls, in part because the collapse of the Soviet Union led to cooperation between arms suppliers and the UK government.
The people who would die in an anti-government uprising in the US would be mainly civilians. Some of those people would imagine that their guns would protect them, but in reality they would just be more of a target - for theft or because a policeman saw the gun and decided to fire before finding out the intentions of the owner - just as is happening to black men in the US right now.
Perhaps it will take an uprising and the inevitable results to persuade the US that widespread gun ownership does not make people safer.


And still, the most important thing to end (mostly) the conflict was negotiation. You cannot negotiate when you are unarmed; you don’t have arguments of enough caliber if the arguments cannot be propelled out of a barrel. The negotiation is the means to the end, the guns are the means to get the negotiation.

Insurgents have one major advantage.
An army, to win, must win.
Insurgents, to win, must not lose.

Especially because the main actors got older, I’d reckon.

Who else, when quite some of the civilians are the combatants?

The question is if it is better or worse than getting unarmed and having no choice but to obediently roll over.

Given that the US was born from such an uprising, I wouldn’t bet much on it.

Conversely, the gun-under-every-bed can be a quite decent deterrence against major crackdowns, or even invasions. I heard somewhere that Japanese shelved the plans for land invasion of the US in the early phase of the war because the high level of armed resistance that could be expected.

And then there’s the issue of how much of the US military would desert, or even change sides, if they’d have to go against their own.

…please, no another gun control thread, these were rehashed many times and with no tangible results. The WW1 trench war where the battle front line virtually did not move, despite all the skirmishes, is dynamic and unpredictable in comparison.

The antigoverment forces in the US are right wing paramilitary forces. They overlap quite a bit with law enforcement. They also pull in a lot of Iraq veterans who are easily spellbound by Lyndon LaRouche style conspiracy theories. Under a Fascist regime, they would happily go all Brownshirt if they were allowed to kill the Muslims, atheists, and homosexuals. Through our election laws we are seeing what amounts to a new version the “Bankers Coup” that allegedly tried to replace Roosevelt with a Fascist cabal.


That’s true, but I still have enough faith in economics as well as humanity that if the US began to deploy the military against its own cities and citizens, there would be a huge number of defectors - including officers, suppliers, contractors, and allies.

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I was not aware that it was ever even considered as a possibility. The Japanese had enough trouble keeping and holding Manchuria despite the almost total lack of Chinese military capability. The idea that they could launch an invasion force across the Pacific and successfully invade the Continental United States would be the purest fantasy.

The question whether the presence of an armed populace is a factor in police overreaction is surely legitimate. It can’t be discarded just because you don’t want it raised. On the other hand, better statistics are needed to find out if there are differences between States, where the police killings are concentrated, and who is being killed. Concealed and open carry will then be potential inputs to the analysis along with factors like ethnic makeup of the police forces and the victims, economic factors, whether police commissioners and prosecutors are elected, and so on.

On an historical quibble I perhaps ought to point out that the leadership of the SA (Brownshirts) had a significant number of homosexuals and would be more likely to side with Muslims than against them - note the close links between Germany and Turkey.
But yes, un-American values would provide a broad banner for a Fascist grouping. And, after what happened in 30s Germany, I am not so sure that the optimists who think that the citizens would rise against them are right.

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The Brownshirts main activity was crushing trade unions and the Jews. We are substituting the Muslims for the Jews. The Brownshirts were unemployed veterans, ex-cons, and poolroom hoodlums. The Nazi party however was extremely puritanical about sex in working to gain the support of the very conservative, religious, rural Christian population. And in the ranks of the party, people jockeyed for power by accusing each other of sexual misdeeds, which could result in dismissal or death. I think some people are miselad by the history of accusations of sexual misdeed and think “where there’s smoke there’s fire” when it was really people playing office politics and trying to gain Hitler’s favor. There’s a good bit about this in “The Rise And Fall Of The Third Reich.”

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I have a copy, but it isn’t the latest in historical research on the subject.
It’s true that the Nazis used allegations to get rid of people they disliked, many of them in the senior ranks of the Army, but the SA was the sort of organisation which would be exploited by homosexuals to gain access to young men. Look at the problems the Boy Scouts have had in the past.
Despite equality legislation, a repressive legislature and police force could still garner a lot of community support by an attack on gays.

I think this is a significant rewriting of history. The American Revolution was not a simple popular uprising against an oppressive government; it was a very complex event. Gun owners at the time were a small minority - guns were very expensive and it cost a lot in powder to learn to shoot accurately - but the British Government was unable to place a large army in the Americas, which was a considerable counterbalance. The Revolution was more like a coup - unlike the events in the Middle East where disparate groups rise up against governments and then return to shooting one another, the American revolutionaries were organised and reasonably united. They were, in fact, more of a State actor. And once they did come to power they decided they wanted well regulated militias. What happened to that, exactly?

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Most abusers are straight.

I’m not sure where to begin to address the issue here. From what I’ve heard, abusers’ orientation doesn’t determine who they abuse, although vulnerability, and who they can force to keep quiet does.

Blaming gay men is a nasty deflection tactic.

Blaming gay boys is a nasty silencing and victim-blaming tactic.

I think you are missing a very significant point.
It’s 2015, the British Army wins awards from gay organisations for its inclusiveness and has at least one transsexual officer. Even so only a fraction of gay soldiers are out, but at least it’s progress. There is no real need for, say, a gay general to conceal his orientation, whereas during WW2 while Gen. Montgomery’s proclivities were well known his position of power ensured that they were hushed up.

It’s the 1930s: in Germany homosexuality is a criminal offense. But there are gay men,and men sociologically classified as “men who have sex with men” in the various armed forces and paramilitary groups. Some of them use their power to have sex with men, just as many others in positions of power use their power to have sex with women.

The majority of abusers are, as you say, hetero. I wasn’t suggesting that gay men are any more likely to be abusers than hetero men; I was replying to a specific suggestion about the truth behind the SA purges. I’m not “blaming” anybody; I am suggesting that a danger of paramilitaries and uncontrolled policing is that they may simultaneously curry favor with religious fundamentalists by an anti-gay stance while actually themselves harboring abusers. This is hardly news.

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