Federal Study: US Gov Killing apprx. 1,000 of its Own People Per Year

The federal Bureau of Justice Statistics reports that, on average, US police piled up the bodies of 928 US citizens per year between 2003-2009 and 2011.

And Tom Hall notes: “A list compiled on the website Killed by Police of every police killing mentioned in the American media includes more than 2,000 deaths since May 2013.”

Killings by police in the US “reached a record high last year [461 was the number thought to be a record before the new study was published], while the number of officers killed in the line of duty fell to its lowest level in decades [27].”  (By comparison, police in the UK, Germany, Japan, and Australia killed under ten people each, and some years kill none.)

As reported by the National Law Enforcement Officers Memorial Fund, 2013 was the least lethal year for police in six decades.  Most police deaths “occurred accidentally rather than feloniously … in routine traffic accidents”.  The Bureau of Labor Statistics reports that policing is not one of the top ten most dangerous jobs in the US.

It is also important to note how police brutality is protested elsewhere: In China, protesters expressing opposition to the recent police killing of an unarmed woman overwhelmed officers and killed four of them, also destroying their cars as they stood by, unable to respond. (In 2014, Chinese police killed 12 people.)


The question clearly becomes how to reduce police brutality before an eruption like the one in China occurs here, which, given the extreme militarization of domestic forces in the US and already-existing willingness of these forces to dispatch US citizens as if they were trash, could well result in a Tienanmen type event, which itself could then escalate.

3/12/15 update:

Two police officers were just “ambushed” and shot in Ferguson, Missouri, one in the face and one in the shoulder.

Author and UK-based colleague on Twitter

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  • Libertybelle

    The title of this article does not match the text. There is no US government “police”. Not yet any way. The error is best seen in the first sentence. The police in question are state and local officials. I am not quibbling about grammar or writing. I am suggesting it is essential to use precision when talking about so serious matter as this.

    • Robert Barsocchini

      Your inquiry is a good one, and here’s what some people say to it (and why the title of the post is phrased as it is, so please read fully if you want to respond – and sorry for long text blocks):

      US police are under federal structure, influence and funding from federal structure (ACLU reports militarization of US police is carried out “mainly through federal programs”), subject to oversight, approval from federal structure, which can take action at any time as is currently being demonstrated re Ferguson. If abuses are being carried out in the US, as they are, the federal gov must legally stop these abuses in its territory if they are not stopped at individual state level. The fed can say it washes its hands of them but this is an illegal attempt to maintain the status quo, as the fed certainly intervenes when it actually wants to change things.

      “every year, billions of dollars’ worth of military equipment flows from the federal government to state and local police departments. Departments use these wartime weapons in everyday policing, especially to fight the wasteful and failed drug war, which has unfairly targeted people of color.”

      “deliberate militarization of American policing … received a sustained (and ongoing) steroid injection in the form of a still-flowing, post-9/11 federal funding bonanza, all justified in the name of “homeland security” … has resulted in a domestic police force that looks, thinks, and acts more like an invading and occupying military than a community-based force to protect the public. … [federal policies] laid the groundwork for police militarization … [the federal gov] forced police departments to purchase battlefield equipment and other military paraphernalia whether they wanted them or not. … federal and state governments are spending about $75 billion a year on domestic security,” described how local police departments receive so much homeland security money from the U.S. government that they end up forced to buy battlefield equipment they know they do not need: from armored vehicles to Zodiac boats with side-scan sonar. … The trend long pre-dates 9/11 … during the Obama administration, according to Pentagon data, police departments have received tens of thousands of machine guns; nearly 200,000 ammunition magazines; thousands of pieces of camouflage and night-vision equipment; and hundreds of silencers, armored cars and aircraft.” He added: “The equipment has been added to the armories of police departments thatalready look and act like military units.” … St. Paul was the most militarized I have ever seen an American city…with troops of federal, state and local law enforcement agents marching around with riot gear, machine guns, and tear gas cannisters, shouting military chants and marching in military formations … the enormous federal law enforcement apparatus…more than anything else, resembles a standing army which is increasingly directed inward” … American laws, such as the so-called “Program 1033,” specifically designed to re-direct excessive Pentagon property – no longer needed as foreign wars wind down – into American cities. As the Missouri Department of Public Safety proudly explains on its website, “the 1033 Program provides surplus DoD military equipment to state and local civilian law enforcement agencies for use in counter-narcotics and counter-terrorism operations, and to enhance officer safety.” … federal agency that equips police departments with surplus military gear” – boasted that “Fiscal Year 2011 was a record year in property transfers from the US military’s stockpiles to police departments around the nation.” The ACLU report notes: “the Department of Defense operates the 1033 Program through the Defense Logistics Agency’s (DLA) Law Enforcement Support Office (LESO), whose motto is ‘from warfighter to crimefighter.’” The Justice Department has an entire program devoted to “supporting military veterans and the law enforcement agencies that hire them as our veterans seek to transition into careers as law enforcement officers.” – Greenwald report


      • Libertybelle

        Oh yes, I understand completely the usurpation by the feds. The militarization and take over by the feds is by any measure criminal in nature. Thank you for your thoughtful response. I was grateful recently to see the often useless individuals at the ACLU finally find a purpose in life that is truly meaningful to people genuinely interested in liberty.