Jun 1, 2020 - World

Police kill far more people in the U.S. than in most rich countries

A police line in Glasgow, Scotland, during a commemoration of Bloody Sunday. Photo: Jeff J Mitchell/Getty Images

1,004 people were shot and killed by police last year in the United States, according to the Washington Post’s database.

Breaking it down: That’s not the highest rate in the world. Authorities in Brazil, the Philippines and Venezuela, for example, kill significantly more people as a proportion of their populations. But America’s rate is far higher than those of most other wealthy countries.

By the numbers: In England and Wales, three people were shot and killed by police last year. Roughly as many (22) were killed over the past decade there as are killed by police in the U.S. in an average week (19).

  • The U.K. is not an exception. Police in Australia shot and killed between 1 and 11 people each year from 1991 to 2017, according to a government report.
  • Killings by police in Japan are exceptionally rare (two were recorded in 2018), and many smaller European countries like Denmark can go years without a single such incident.
  • America also sees more police officers shot and killed in the line of duty (44 in 2019) than most other countries.

One differentiating factor is that in the U.S., most police officers and many civilians carry guns. Tactics also differ widely.

  • Flashback: In 2015, the NY Times documented a visit of U.S. police leaders to Scotland, where just 2% of officers carry guns, to be trained to defuse situations without weapons.
  • The officers were astonished to hear that not only had Scottish police only shot two civilians in the previous decade, no officers had been killed in the line of duty since 1994. Go deeper

Worth noting: The data referenced above only includes shootings, not other causes of death in police custody.

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