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Deaths of civilians at the hands of on-duty police are in the national spotlight as never before. How many killings by police occur annually? What circumstances provoke police to shoot to kill? Who dies? The lack of answers to these basic questions points to a crisis in American government that urgently requires the attention of policy experts. When Police Kill is a groundbreaking analysis of the use of lethal force by police in the United States and how its death toll can be reduced.
Franklin Zimring compiles data from federal records, crowdsourced research, and investigative journalism to provide a comprehensive, fact-based picture of how, when, where, and why police resort to deadly force. Of the 1,100 killings by police in the United States in 2015, he shows, 85 percent were fatal shootings and 95 percent of victims were male. The death rates for African Americans and Native Americans are twice their share of the population.
Civilian deaths from shootings and other police actions are vastly higher in the United States than in other developed nations, but American police also confront an unusually high risk of fatal assault. Zimring offers policy prescriptions for how federal, state, and local governments can reduce killings by police without risking the lives of officers. Criminal prosecution of police officers involved in killings is rare and only necessary in extreme cases. But clear administrative rules could save hundreds of lives without endangering police officers.
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Franklin E. Zimring is William G. Simon Professor of Law at the University of California, Berkeley.Review:
“When Police Kill is the most comprehensive, data-driven study of the use of lethal force by police I have read. Professor Zimring's objective examination provides valuable guideposts for a way forward for both police and communities.”―Ray Kelly, former NYC Police Commissioner, and Vice Chairman of K2 Intelligence
“This is a superb book, and an urgently needed one. Frank Zimring carefully demonstrates what is known and inexcusably unknown about fatal shooting by American police officers. Even better, he tells us how to fix the problem. This is a book full of sharp insight and wise counsel. It should be read by anyone concerned about the problem of police violence.”―David Alan Sklansky, Stanford Law School
“Rarely has a public policy book been as necessary as When Police Kill. There is virtually no current literature on the public policy issues of police shootings and this book will fill that void.”―Philip Matthew Stinson, Bowling Green State University
“Timely...Zimring’s book, When Police Kill, is essentially a 300-page riff on a single statistic: Roughly 1,000 Americans die each year at the hands of the police...The civilian body count does not seem to be declining, even though violent crime generally and the on-duty deaths of police officers are down sharply...Police kill African-Americans at more than double their share of the population, a phenomenon Zimring painstakingly demonstrates is not explained by higher crime rates in black neighborhoods...The average number of those 1,000 deaths per year that result in felony convictions of a police officer: one. Zimring’s most explosive assertion―which leaps out of a work that is mostly policy-wonk nuance―is that police leaders don’t care...To paraphrase the French philosopher Joseph de Maistre, every country gets the police it deserves.”―Bill Keller, New York Times
“A remarkable piece of research...Zimring is no stranger to the field of gun violence research, having produced formative efforts in this field for more than forty years. And if you think for one second that the issue of cop killings doesn’t go to the heart of the debate about gun violence, think again. Because what Zimring shows is that not only are most fatalities which occur at the hands of police the result of cops using guns, but the number of such deaths each year is undercounted by more than half!...[A]valuable and important book...It needs to be read.”―Mike Weisser, Huffington Post
“Meticulously researched.”―Richard Thompson Ford, San Francisco Chronicle
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