Nineteen Facts About American Policing That Will Blow Your Mind, by Lee Camp

It’s lunacy that the police—people legally entitled to use the force of the government—are not particularly well-trained, intelligent, or competent. From Lee Camp at

Just a few facts will change everything you think you know about American police, writes Lee Camp, with pictures by Eleanor Goldfield from the streets of downtown Washington.

Standoff in Washington. (Eleanor Goldfield)

With all the protests and anger and violence across the country, a justified discussion about policing has begun on our corporate media airwaves. (I would say the discussion is overdue, but in fact we’ve had it roughly every three years for the past 40 years.) However, despite all the coverage, a deeper debate sits ignored – A debate about why our American police system exists at all, how it works (or doesn’t), and where it came from.

The following 19 facts about American policing will change everything you think you know. First let’s start with the sheer amount of murder.

  1. Police kill roughly 1,000 Americans per year. In 2016 The Guardian found that American police murdered 1,093. That’s three lives extinguished by police every day.
  2. In the UK the average per year is three murders by police. Not 300. Just three. This means American police generally kill more citizens in a week than the UK will kill in a year. In 2018 Denmark & Switzerland’s police killed no one. Zero. They literally let everyone live. (You would think they would kill at least a few just to stay in practice.)
  3. The vast majority of those Americans killed are not “hardened” criminals (whatever that means). The Treatment Advocacy Center finds that one out of every four people killed by U.S. police was severely mentally ill. If you add in simply mentally unstable or cognitively impaired, the number is much higher. Probably well over 50 percent of the time police murder someone, the victim is not of stable and sound mind.
  4. Last year NBC news found that since 2005, only 35 officers had been convicted of any crime after having taken someone’s life. If we assume the U.S. averaged 900 police killings per year (a very low estimate) and that only one officer was involved in each killing (an even lower estimate), this means cops are convicted .28% of the time after killing someone. Less than one percent. But it gets worse.
  5. NBC reports, “Only three officers have been convicted of murder during this period [2005 to 2019] and seen their convictions stand.” That’s a rate of conviction of .024% – For all intents and purposes police officers can murder with impunity.

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