The Sacramento Bee ran an article that was centered around a new Rutger’s “study.” The headline reads, “Is police violence a public health issue? It’s a leading cause of death among black men…”

That first sentence essentially tells us everything we need to know about the validity of the study. Andrew Sheeler writes,

“Police violence is a leading cause of death among young black men…”

This is factually incorrect. According to the latest CDC report, released in June of 2019, the top 5 causes of death among young, black males between the ages of 15 and 24 are ranked as follows:

  1. Assault (Homicide), Number of deaths: 2,761
  2. Accidents (Unintentional injuries), Number of deaths: 1,328
  3. Intentional self-harm (suicide), Number of deaths: 565
  4. Diseases of heart, Number of deaths: 199
  5. Malignant neoplasms, Number of deaths: 127

The police “violence,” as the article calls it, checks in at #9 for this demographic. The total number of deaths by legal intervention: 36. For those of us keeping count, the total number of deaths is 5,711. Deaths by legal intervention equates to .0063%. This is hardly a leading cause of death.


Legal intervention is defined as involving firearm projectiles, blunt objects, sharp objects, electrical weapons, explosives, gas, physical force and unspecified means, at the hands of law enforcement.

The article then goes on to detail how black men are 2.5 times more likely to be killed by the police than white men, black women at a rate of 1.4 times more than white women.

“The inequality is not surprising,” the study’s author, Franks Edwards said. “All you have to do is turn on the news to see that people of color are at a much greater risk of police-related harm. What we lack in this country are the solid estimates of police related deaths because there is no official database where this information is stored.”

Because of this perceived lack of data, Edwards and his team made “assumptions.” Per the team’s citations:

“To systematically combine multiple years of FE data, we build Bayesian negative binomial regression models of police-involved deaths with year, race, sex and age as predictors. We use these models to predict group-specific risks of being killed by police for a year unobserved in the data. Our prediction for a new year represents our best estimate of underlying police-homicide risk for each demographic group, synthesized from the available data. This approach incorporates temporal variation in risk across the 2013 – 2018 period as a source of uncertainty in our risk estimates. We assume – and confirm, later, via model comparison tests – that police-homicide risk varies jointly by age, sex and race. To appropriately incorporate time, which has a more ambiguous functional relationship with homicide risk, into our models, we first examine how police-homicides vary across years in the observed data.”

Edward’s own research shows that white women die in police custody at a rate of just over 2 times as often compared to black women. White men are dying at a rate of almost 3 times as frequent as black men.


The article concludes that men are at the greatest risk of being killed by the police between the ages between 25-29. Once again, the facts do not support this supposition.

Based on the same CDC statistics, the age demographic would not allow for more than 67 deaths by legal intervention, or .0078% of all deaths in that group. 

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According to the article in the Bee, Edwards argues that his ‘evidence’ shows that police violence is a public health issue. He is calling on the government to create a system to track police-related deaths.

“We need to increase transparency of police use of force if we are going to decrease the number of civilian deaths in this country as a result of these encounters,” Edwards said.  

Once again, the study does not back up the statements made by Edwards and the article. The data shows that the police-involved deaths in the black community have been trending lower and lower for most of the five years that the study covered. Most other racial demographics stayed flat during the same period. The only demographic that increased was white men and women.

Keep in mind, if you point a gun at a cop and get shot, if you try to run over a cop with your car and get shot, it was never about your race or gender or religion or sexual orientation. It was always about the fact that you posed a violent threat to a law enforcement officer or the general public.

We train our police officers. Isn’t it time we start training our communities as well? 


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