Countries Where Law Enforcement Has Killed The Most People

By Ellen Kershner on June 19 2020 in Society

A sign held at a march against police brutality, Image Source: Shutterstock/Rena Schild
A sign held at a march against police brutality, Image Source: Shutterstock/Rena Schild
  • In 2020, police brutality is not just a news story; it is on its way to becoming one of the biggest issues of our generation.
  • The killing of George Floyd on May 25, 2020 in Minneapolis ignited public outrage worldwide, and led to protests and violence.
  • Developing and poor countries can also be hotbeds for police brutality, where vulnerable populations are at the mercy of corrupt, violent police officers and governments.
  • Brazil is the highest-populated country in South America, and ranks first on the number of citizens killed by law enforcement officers from 2018 to 2019.
  • There has been an increase in hardline policies in Latin America countries like Venezuela and Brazil, in recent years which has led to more police raids operating outside the law.

In 2020, police brutality is not just a news story; it is on its way to becoming one of the biggest issues of our generation. The killing of George Floyd on May 25, 2020, in Minneapolis ignited public outrage worldwide and led to protests and violence. As things settle down and become more organized, there is the possibility for some real changes that may pave the way towards racial justice and equality.

Police brutality occurs in different forms other than murder: Brittanica.com defines it as “unwarranted or excessive and often illegal use of force against civilians by police officers.” It also includes intimidation, harassment, verbal abuse, beatings, assaults, and torture. Many organizations provide statistics on police brutality, but much of it also goes unreported.

Global Police Brutality

Police brutality is not exclusive to the United States, and anti-black violence is also a problem in countries such as the UK. Recently, a disturbing video showing Manchester police tasering a Black man was circulating. The man was in front of a gas station, with his child.

Developing and poor countries can also be hotbeds for police brutality, where vulnerable populations are at the mercy of corrupt, violent police officers and governments. In Kenya, it is not uncommon for police officers to falsely accuse, imprison, or kill innocent people who are not able to pay them bribes. Police brutality in Africa is an ongoing problem; another tragedy happened in Nigeria when a 20-year old boy was shot dead by a police officer who was trying to enforce lockdown rules this past April.

1. Brazil - 6,160 citizens killed

On May 18, 2020, three Brazilian police officers entered a home where six cousins had gathered. None were armed. The officers, who were supposedly pursuing suspects, opened fire, hitting a 14-year old in the back. He later died at the hospital. Only three days later, volunteers gathered to hand out food packages to the needy when police arrived, claiming that they were responding to “gunfire from unidentified suspects.” A 19-year old was killed when the police opened fire on the crowd.

Brazil is the highest populated country in South America and ranks first on the number of citizens killed by law enforcement officers from 2018 to 2019. During this time, 6,160 were killed, or a rate of 293.2 for every 10 million people (Brazil’s population is 210,085,000.)

During the first four months of 2020 in the throes of the coronavirus pandemic, police in Rio reported that they had killed 606 people. Even though crimes had decreased due to lockdowns, police were killing approximately six people per day. This was a 43 percent increase from the previous year. If U.S. police were killing people at a similar pace, this would amount to more than 36,000 deaths per year.

Over the past 10 years, Brazilian police have killed more than 33,000 people; out of these, 9,000 were black men. Though there have been protests, the wheels of change have not begun to turn in Brazil.

2. Venezuela - 5,287 citizens killed

Also located in South America, Venezuela is number two on the list of high police brutality rates. The number of citizens killed by law enforcement officers here from 2018 to 2019 was 5,287, a rate of 1830.2 for every 10 million people (Venezuela's population is 28,887,118.) Opendemocracy.net described the situation as an “on-going slaughter” after a 2018 United Nations High Commissioner for Human Rights report showed some sobering numbers. The report indicated that the Venezuelan government had reported 5,287 young working-class Venezuelans deaths caused by the state security forces. This number was an increase compared to previous years.

There has been an increase in hardline policies in Latin American countries like Venezuela and Brazil, in recent years which has led to more police raids operating outside the law. They have been targeting vulnerable ethnic minorities and operating in ways similar to military operations. Internal security has become militarized, causing more deaths of citizens by security forces.

3. Philippines - 3,451 citizens killed

In April during the lockdown, a Manila man was told that police were at his home, waiting for him. A helper who was working there was not wearing a face mask. When the man arrived and began arguing with the officers, he was physically assaulted and almost arrested. By the end of April, more than 30,000 people there had been arrested for quarantine violations. Many other instances of police abuse were recorded after Philippine President Rodrigo Duterte instructed law enforcement officials who confronted anyone “who creates trouble” to “shoot them dead.”

These recent incidents are only a small insight into the police brutality that happens in the Philippines. The number of citizens killed by law enforcement officers here from 2018 to 2019 was 3,451, a rate of 322.4 for every 10 million people (population: 109,581,078). In 2018, the Human Rights Watch organization sent a letter to Philippine National Police Director General Oscar Albayalde, urging him to “address police involvement in drug war killings and other abuses.” The Philippine government had confirmed 4,279 deaths during police operations from July 2016 to May 2018.

4. United States - 1,536 citizens killed 

From 2018 to 2019, 1,536 U.S. Citizens were killed by law enforcement officers. This is a rate of 46.6 for every 10 million people (population: more than 328.2 million). According to The Economist, police in the United States kill approximately 1,000 people each year. In 2019, Statista reported 1,004; in 2018 there were 996. Here is a breakdown by race:

  • 2018
    • White:                399
    • Black:                 209
    • Hispanic:            148
  • 2019
    • White:                370
    • Black:                 235
    • Hispanic:            158

Unfortunately, these trends are increasing, with 429 civilians being shot in the U.S. as of June 5, 2020.

Countries Where Law Enforcement Has Killed The Most People

RankCountryCitizens killed by law enforcementRate per 10 million people
1Brazil6,160293.2
2Venezuela5,2871830.2
3Philippines3,451322.4
4United States1,53646.6
5Syria1,497831.6
6Nigeria84144
7El Salvador609954.5
8Afghanistan606170.5
9Pakistan49525.2
10Bangladesh46628.3
11South Africa43676.9
12Democratic Republic of the Congo38947.8
13Mexico37130
14Nicaragua325522.7
15Iran304+36.6
16Kenya22243.5
17Egypt21221.2
18Iraq176+45.1
19Colombia16934.1
20Dominican Republic142131.8
21Sudan138+32.1
22Jamaica137472.7
23India1351
24Burkina Faso11660.4
25Angola100+34.7
26Argentina9521.6
27Indonesia77+2.9
28Mali60+32.3
29Trinidad and Tobago46339.7
30Burundi3953.9
31Rwanda37+31
32Honduras3740.4
33Canada369.7
34Central African Republic30+64.4
35France263.8
36Uruguay2263.4
37Lesotho1963.8
38Guyana12+152.5
39Bahamas11275.7
40Germany111.3
41Nepal5+1.7
42Netherlands42.3
43Australia41.7
44Swaziland3+22.1
45United Kingdom30.5
46Saint Vincent and the Grenadines2181.8
47Taiwan20.8
48Poland20.5
49Japan20.2
50Saint Lucia156.2
51Malta120
52Luxembourg116.9
53New Zealand12.1
54Norway11.9
55Finland11.8
56Hong Kong11.3
57Portugal11
58Sweden11

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