10. West Virginia (5.18 police killings per 1 million people per year) -
West Virginia ranks number 10 in the US for the number of people killed by police officers. Several factors contribute to this statistic, one of which being an increasing number of violent crimes in the state. Between 2010 and 2011, for example, the rate of gun violence increased by 60%. Additionally, the instance of murders by firearm is roughly 2.86 per 100,000 while the national average is only 2.7. The same is true for assault, 2.36 per 1,000 which is above the national average at 2.32. Many of the residents of West Virginia also live in poverty which has been linked to violent crimes.
9. California (5.22 police killings per 1 million people per year) -
California is number 9 on the list with 5.22 killing per 1 million of the population. Like the previous state, some crimes are more common in California than the rest of the country. This is true of both robbery and assault, which could contribute to the instance of police killings. This number may also be high because, in 2015, the Los Angeles Police Department was actually involved in a greater number of shootings than any other agency in the US.
8. Alaska (5.91 police killings per 1 million people per year) -
In Alaska, nearly all crimes occur at a higher rate than the national average. These crimes include murder, rape, assault, and theft. This state also has the highest rate of gun-related deaths, 60% of households own a gun. Some researchers contribute this violence to rampant alcoholism found throughout the residents, particularly within the Native American and Native Alaskan communities. Additionally, there is a much higher instance of mental illness in Alaska. People with mental illnesses make up just over 25% of national police shootings. All of these factors contribute to a higher likelihood that altercations with the police end fatally.
7. Montana (6.37 police killings per 1 million people per year) -
In Montana, as in most western states, gun ownership is common. Here, no permit is required to buy a handgun. This state also has the 5th highest rate of firearm-related deaths in the country, many of which are suicides. Additionally, Montana ranks high in cases of assault. All of these instance of crime lead to more interactions between civilians and police officers, increasing the risk of police-caused fatalities.
6. Wyoming (6.39 police killings per 1 million people per year) -
Wyoming is high on the list of fatalities caused by police shootings for several reasons. The state seems to suffer from similar issues as other western states and, like those other states also has a high percentage of gun ownership. In addition to having a high rate of gun-related deaths, suicide is also relatively common. In fact, suicides make up approximately 80% of all firearm-related deaths. This high rate suggests an above average occurrence of mental illness which has been linked to police shooting fatalities.
5. Nevada (6.56 police killings per 1 million people per year) -
Nevada is number 5 on the list of police killings. One of the prime reasons for this ranking is its high rate of violent crimes. Crimes like murder, rape, robbery, assault, and burglary occur at higher than the national average. As previously mentioned, higher instances of crime lead to more police-civilian interactions. These interactions increase the chance of being killed by police officers. But, why are violent crimes so common in this state? Part of the reason for this can be attributed to the fact that 15.2% of the population lives at or below the poverty line. Poverty and violent crimes have a positive correlation. With poverty comes the urgent need to fulfill basic needs, even if that means violence.
4. Arizona (6.99 police killings per 1 million people per year) -
Arizona is number 4 on the list with 6.99 police killings per 1 million people of the population. This can partially be explained by its higher-than-the-national-average violent crime rate. Rape, assault, murder, burglary, and theft are all serious problems in this state. Some experts have attributed this rate to the state’s use of SWAT teams to serve drug warrants. These teams are armed with machine guns, which adds to the probability of a fatal shooting. Others attribute it to the 17.4% poverty rate, suggesting this as a reason for increased crime levels.
3. Oklahoma (7.36 police killings per 1 million people per year) -
With a 16.6% poverty rate and one of the highest rates of gun-related deaths in the country, it’s not surprising to find Oklahoma at number 3 on the list. These factors combined with high rates of murder, rape, assault, burglary, and theft make it more likely to be fatally shot by a police officer than in other states. Here, 7.36 police shooting victims per 1 million of the population die every year.
2. District of Columbia (8.48 police killings per 1 million people per year) -
The problem with fatal police shootings in the country does not avoid the nation’s capital. In the early 1990’s, this district was referred to as the murder capital of the US. This nickname suggests the long history this area has had with violent crimes. This continues to be a significant problem, particularly in the Ward 8 neighborhood which has the highest rate of poverty in DC. High incidences of violent crime are more likely to result in armed altercations with the police.
1. New Mexico (9.47 police killings per 1 million people per year) -
Not only does New Mexico have the highest rate of deaths by police shootings, but the state also ranks high in poverty and income inequality. When people have little to no resources and are unable to provide for themselves and their families, they often feel forced to turn to crime. This, in turn, involves more police officer interactions thus increasing the chances of being fatally shot by a police officer. In New Mexico, murder, rape, assault, robbery, and theft all occur at rates higher than the national average.