Mapping fatal police violence across U.S. metropolitan areas: Overall rates and racial/ethnic inequities, 2013-2017
Recent social movements have highlighted fatal police violence as an enduring public health problem in the United States. To solve it, the public requires basic information, such as understanding where rates of fatal police violence are particularly high, and for which groups. Existing mapping efforts, though critically important, often use inappropriate statistical methods and can produce misleading, unstable rates when denominators are small. To fill this gap, we use inverse-variance-weighted
... e-variance-weighted multilevel models to estimate overall and race-stratified rates of fatal police violence for all Metropolitan Statistical Areas (MSAs) in the U.S. (2013-2017), as well as racial inequities in these rates. We analyzed the most recent, reliable data from Fatal Encounters, a citizen science initiative that aggregates and verifies media reports. Rates of police-related fatalities varied dramatically, with the deadliest MSAs exhibiting rates nine times those of the least deadly. Overall rates in Southwestern MSAs were highest, with lower rates in the northern Midwest and Northeast. Yet this pattern was reversed for Black-White inequities, with Northeast and Midwest MSAs exhibiting the highest inequities nationwide. Our main results excluded deaths that could be considered accidents (e.g., vehicular collisions), but sensitivity analyses demonstrated that doing so may underestimate the rate of fatal police violence in some MSAs by 60%. Black-White and Latinx-White inequities were slightly underestimated nationally by excluding reportedly 'accidental' deaths, but MSA-specific inequities were sometimes severely under- or over-estimated. Preventing fatal police violence in different areas of the country will likely require unique solutions. Estimates of the severity of these problems (overall rates, racial inequities, specific causes of death) in any given MSA are quite sensitive to which types of deaths are analyzed, and whether race and cause of death are attributed correctly. Monitoring and mapping these rates using appropriate methods is critical for government accountability and successful prevention.