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54 Am. Crim. L. Rev. 189 (2017)
Blue on Black: An Empirical Assessment of Police Shootings

handle is hein.journals/amcrimlr54 and id is 194 raw text is: 






   BLUE ON BLACK: AN EMPIRICAL ASSESSMENT OF POLICE
                                    SHOOTINGS



Nirej Sekhon*

                                    INTRODUCTION

   Michael   Brown's 2014 death in Ferguson, Missouri, thrust police-officer-
involved   homicides into the popular consciousness. A series of subsequent
officer-involved   homicides   has  kept  the  issue politically  and  legally  salient.
Popular  media  have  consistently covered  the issue, and many  efforts are under way
to  systematically  document police killings.' Even though statistically rare in
comparison   to officer-civilian encounters,  officer-involved  homicides'  salience is
justified. Absent a state of emergency,   police officers are the only public  officials
authorized  to kill extrajudicially. Their victims inordinately are poor and minority.2
Black  persons  are dramatically  overrepresented   among   victims  in comparison   to
their share of the general population.3  This fact serves as an exclamation   point for
their greater  vulnerability  to police  coercion  generally.  Thus,  officer-involved
shootings  can quickly  become   symbols  of everything that is wrong  with policing in
a particular minority  community. The sustained protests in Ferguson are but one
recent example   of this long-standing dynamic   in the United  States.4
   For all their salience, official data sources regarding officer-involved homicides
and  shootings  are thin and unreliable. Even  in the smartphone   age, it is rare that a
third-party witness  is able to capture  the moment   when   shots are fired. The  data
gap  has  been  a central refrain in scholarly  criticism of, and popular   furor over,


  * Associate Professor of Law, Georgia State University College of Law. Thanks to Russ Covey, Rachel
Harmon, Andrew Kim, Cynthia Lee, Kate Levine, Eric Miller, Caren Morrison, Lauren Ouziel, Lauren Sudeall
Lucas, Jonathan Todres, Deepa Varadaraj an, and workshop participants in the CrimFest 2015 Annual Meeting for
comments on an earlier draft. Special thanks to Pamela Brannon for meticulous editing and data collection.
© 2016, Nirej Sekhon.
  1. See, e.g., Kimberly Kindy et al., Fatal Police Shootings in 2015 Approaching 400 Nationwide, WASH. POST
(May  30, 2015), https://www.washingtonpost.com/national/fatal-police-shootings-in-2015-approaching-400-
nationwide/2015/05/30/d322256a-058e-11e5-a428-c984eb077d4e.story.html; D. Brian Burghart, What I've
Learned from Two Years Collecting Data on Police Killings, GAWKER (Aug. 22, 2014), http://gawker.com/what-
ive-learned-from-two-years-collecting-data-on-poli-1625472836; THE GUARDIAN, THE COUNTED: PEOPLE KILLED
BY POLICE IN THE US, http://www.theguardian.com/us-news/ng-interactive/2015/jun/01/the-counted-police-killings-
us-database# (last visited June 1, 2015). There are regional efforts as well. See Max Blau, Unanswered: CL's
Metro Atlanta Officer-Involved Shooting Database, CREATIVE LOAFING (June 11, 2015), http://clatl.com/atlanta/
unanswered-cls-metro-atlanta-officer-involved-shooting-database/Content?oid= 14487806.
  2. See infra Figures 1-3 and discussion.
  3. See infra Figures 1-3 and discussion.
  4. Compare NAT'L ADVISORY COMM'N ON CIVIL DISORDERS, THE KERNER REPORT 38, 42, 53, 111 (Pantheon
Books 1988) (1968) [hereinafter KERNER REPORT] (describing how instances of police violence precipitated urban
unrest in the 1960s), with U.S. DEP'T OF JUSTICE, CIVIL RIGHTS Div., INVESTIGATION OF THE FERGUSON POLICE
DEPARTMENT 79-80 (2014) [hereinafter FERGUSON REPORT].


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