Black women are the most likely to be unarmed when killed by police, according to study
Editor’s Note: April is Black Women’s History Month. Throughout this month, Black Youth Project is celebrating Black women. This month is also National Minority Health Month, Autism Awareness Month, Sexual Assault Awareness Month, Child Abuse Prevention Month. We are interested in publishing works that address these topics and the things surrounding them.
A study from Washington University in St. Louis has highlighted some disturbing truths about police violence towards Black women, namely that they are the most likely group to be unarmed when killed by the police, even more than Black men. In fact, the study found that Black men and white men have roughly the same baseline odds of being unarmed when shot and killed by police, according to nationwide data available at the time of the study.
Perhaps counterintuitively, the risk for being shot by the police goes up in police departments with more non-white officers. This flies in the face of some claims that in order to reduce police violence, more officers of color or officers that more accurately reflect the communities being policed can curb violence.
“Our analysis finds that the ‘hands up, don’t shoot’ slogan of the post-Ferguson movement becomes most relevant when you also ‘say her name,'” lead researcher Odis Johnson says. “Nonetheless, the odds of an unarmed fatality for black Americans as a whole was a staggering 6.6-to-1, more than double the odds found in several other national studies completed in recent decades.”
The study also finds that most of the strategies touted as solutions, such as body cams and diversifying the police force, mostly from white liberals, are largely ineffective in curbing police violence.
As Johnson states: “Agencies with more officers of color had significantly increased odds of committing unarmed fatalities, suggesting that current levels of agency diversity are not capable of achieving change… We recommend caution in interpreting this result since our data does not track the race of the police officers connected to each fatality. Thus, we are unable to say whether the actions of officers of color directly increase the odds of unarmed fatalities for racial/ethnic groups.”
This study was the first in a series titled the Fatal Interaction with Police research project, which includes contributions from public health experts at hospitals and universities including Harvard, New York, and St. Louis Universities. There are two more studies in this series, culminating in a national symposium on April 19-20 at Washington University entitled “The Color of Policing Symposium (COPS): Youth, Education and Activism.”