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“Epidemic of Police Violence”

Updated: Jun 17

Police use of force is statistically rare, and most Americans will never witness, let alone experience, "police violence."


In fact, according to their 2018 survey, the Department of Justice found that 75% of white residents and 80% of black residents not only hadn't experienced force, they actually had no official contact with the police that year. Instead, only about 0.4% of U.S. residents experienced a use of force or even just a threat of force in 2018. That means 99.6% did not.


It is important to remember that, even though 0.4% is an extraordinarily low percentage, that number only represents the number of people who experienced police use of force. Instances of excessive force, or even complaints of excessive force, are far lower.


Even so, with tens of millions of police encounters each year, there will always be dozens of examples of clearly excessive force. Equally obvious is that, for every example of a cop getting it wrong, there are hundreds of thousands of examples where officers are getting it right--often with extraordinary skill, restraint, and at great risk to themselves.


Anyone still claiming that there is an “epidemic of police violence” or "systemic police brutality" will find little support in the research:


"The one consistent finding across every prior study of police use of force is that force of any type is a rare phenomenon. Regardless of the samples, measures, or analyses used, uses of force are rare among all residents, among all police-public contacts, and occur in only a small proportion of incidents where residents are arrested."


Progress toward national estimates of police use of force (2018)





[1] See Garner JH, Hickman MJ, Malega RW, Maxwell CD (2018), Progress toward national estimates of police use of force. PLoS ONE 13(2): e0192932. https://doi.org/10.1371/journal. pone.0192932; Police Public Contact Survey (PPCS) by the Bureau of Justice Statistics (BJS) (supplement to the National Crime Victimization Survey); Justice Quarterly, Alpert G, MacDonald J., Police use of force: An analysis of organizational characteristics; Henriquez M., IACP national database project on police use of force; Office of Justice Programs, Use of force by police: Overview of national and local data. Washington, D.C. (1999); International Association of Chiefs of Police, Police use of force in America, Arlington, VA (2001).

[2] Erika Harrell, Ph.D., and Elizabeth Davis (2020, December. Contacts Between Police and the Public, 2018 – Statistical Tables. Retrieved January 20, 2020, from https://www.bjs.gov/content/pub/pdf/cbpp18st.pdf.

[3] For purposes of the DOJ report, statistics included residents 16 years and older.

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