Police shootings are very rare, given the number of arrests and confrontations reported in this country. Police shootings of unarmed people are exceedingly rare. This is not to discount the gravity of the shooting of an unarmed citizen. The comment is meant to highlight for my readers that they should not worry that they will be involved in such a shooting.
The vast majority of police shootings involve citizens with a weapon. My information shows me that people can be creative with their weapons. Guns are clearly the favorite, but you will also see plenty of knives, bats, machetes, swords, crossbows, axes, cars, and I even found one person who was using an air conditioner as a weapon.
In 2015 there were 8,551,206 arrests for the major crimes, violent and non-violent, tracked by the FBI Uniform Crime Reporting clearinghouse. That is a lot of arrests! Keep in mind, that list is not complete. There were more arrests, but the FBI does not track everything. The FBI also does not track police shootings. It is my guess that the FBI will start tracking police shootings at some point, soon. Modern connectivity has enabled great communication from locale to locale, so we do have a list of police-related fatalities compiled by the good folks of the Washington Post. See this link for the researchers and writers who compiled the list. And see this link for the actual list.
That list shows that there were about 3,000 fatalities from Jan. 01, 2015 through Jan. 01, 2018 at the hands of the police. Let’s take the year 2015 as an example. The long and short of their data is that there were 995 police-related fatalities in the year 2015. Of those 995 fatalities, 96 (+/- based on my hand count) were unarmed. Extrapolated out, there were more than 8.5 million arrests and 96 of those were unarmed shootings. I do not have statistics for how many of those arrests required officers to draw their weapons and not shoot. That means that .011% of arrests end in a fatality of an unarmed citizen; about one-hundredth of one percent.
Again, please note that I in no way, am trying to diminish the ugliness of an unarmed person being shot. I am only trying to demonstrate to you, my readers, that you should not be worried about being shot by the police. As for racism and statistics for the various colors/races of the folks who did end up shot by the police, I strongly encourage you to look at the statistics yourself before screaming “outrage.” If you suspect racism after reading the data, I encourage you to dig deeper. If you unequivocally see racism based on that data, scream. Scream your head off. There is absolutely no place for racism in this country.
The important thing about pure numbers and statistics is that what they conceal is more important than what they reveal. It would take too much of my time, as someone who is not a sociological researcher, to compile all the data myself. I encourage you to just pick any day or week on the list linked above and just look at a page or two of the data. That will not take much of your time. I am not trying to apologize for or excuse, racist behavior by the police, but I am merely trying to show folks actual numbers so they can make informed decisions about whether shout in outrage. I was actually a little surprised by the numbers I saw.
What to do about Inappropriate Police
So, let’s say you have encountered bad police behavior. You were targeted. Maybe, you were illegally searched. Perhaps you were shot (and survived) or ruffed up. What next? The only thing you can do is keep in mind your priorities: Live. Do not fight these people. They will win a physical confrontation every time. There are more police than you, they are better armed than you, and they are trained in close quarters combat and mental manipulation better than you. If you were treated badly by the police contact a lawyer … later. The Courts punish the police, and the Prosecutor, by throwing out evidence.
In some circumstances, officers can be disciplined, terminated, or in rare circumstances, charged with a crime. In even still more rare, but possible, there are civil lawsuits to place a financial burden on the employing government entity to highlight inappropriate behavior, i.e. suing the government for employing dangerous or racist police. Talk to your advocate, your attorney, after-the-fact. Your main focus should be on staying alive.