73 J. Crim. L. & Criminology 707 (1982)
Blind Justice: Police Shootings in Memphis

handle is hein.journals/jclc73 and id is 719 raw text is: 0091-4169/82/7302-707
THEJOURNAL OF CRIMINAL LAW & CRIMINOLOGY                            Vol. 73, No. 2
Copyright @ 1982 by Northwestern University School of Law         Prinfedin 1.S.A.
BLIND JUSTICE: POLICE SHOOTINGS
IN MEMPHIS*
JAMES J. FYFE**
The literature on police use of deadly force' has produced two
major findings. First, researchers report extreme variation in rates of
police shooting among American jurisdictions.2 Second, regardless of its
geographic scope, the research invariably reports that the percentage of
police shootings involving black victims far exceeds the percentage of
blacks in the population.3 This paper examines factors affecting both of
these findings.
I.  INTERJURISDICTIONAL VARIATIONS
Attempts to identify sources of interjurisdictional shooting rate va-
riation have produced mixed results. Milton suggests that differences
among shooting rates are associated with differences in levels of commu-
nity violence and risk to officers.4 Kania and Mackey, in an attempt to
test two related hypotheses, report strong associations between fatal po-
lice shooting rates and public homicide and arrest rates over the 50
* An earlier version of this article was presented to the annual meeting of the Academy of
Criminal Justice Sciences, Philadelphia, March 1981.
** Associate Professor, College of Public and International Affairs, School of Justice, The
American University; Senior Fellow, Police Foundation; M.A., Ph.D. School of Cririminal Jus-
tice, State University of New York at Albany, 1978; B.S. John Jay College of Criminal Jus-
tice, City University of New York.
I Deadly Force generally is defined as force likely to kill or capable of killing. Since
police deadly force most often occurs when police point and fire their guns at other human
beings, and since such actions do not always result in death, police deadly force will be
defined in this paper to include all police shootings at others.
2 See C. MILTON, POLICE USE OF DEADLY FORCE (1977); Kania & Mackey, Police Violence
as a Function of Community Characteristics, 15 CRIMINOLOGY 27 (1977); Kiernan, Shooting by Po-
licemen in District Declines, Wash. Star, Sept. 2, 1979,  B, at 1, col. 2; Sherman & Langworthy,
Measuring Homicide by Police Ojfcers, 70 J. CRIM. L. & C. 546 (1979).
3 See C. MILTON, supra note 2, at 22; Fyfe, Race andExtreme Police-Citizen Violence, in RACE,
CRIME, AND CRIMINAL JUSTICE 89 (C.E. Pope & R. McNeely eds. 1981); Harding & Fahey,
Killings by Chicago Police, 1969-70. An Empirical Study, 46 S. CAL. L. REv. 284 (1973); Kobler,
Police Homicide in a Democracy, 31 J. Soc. ISSUES 163 (1975); Meyer, Police Shootings at Minorites:
The Case of Los Angeles, in 452 ANNALS 98 (1980); Takagi, A Garrison State in Democratic
Society, in POLICE-COMMUNrrY RELATIONS 357-71 (A. Cohn & E. Viano eds. 1976).
4 C. MILTON, suzra note 2, at 144.

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