About 1 in 1,000 black men and boys in America can expect to die at the hands of police, according to a new analysis of deaths involving law enforcement officers. That makes them 2.5 times more likely than white men and boys to die during an encounter with cops.
The analysis also showed that Latino men and boys, black women and girls and Native American men, women and children are also killed by police at higher rates than their white peers. But the vulnerability of black males was particularly striking.
"That 1-in-1,000 number struck us as quite high," said study leader Frank Edwards, a sociologist at Rutgers University. "That's better odds of being killed by police than you have of winning a lot of scratch-off lottery games."
The number-crunching by Edwards and his coauthors also revealed that for all young men, police violence was one of the leading causes of death in the years 2013 to 2018.
The findings, published this month in the Proceedings of the National Academy of Sciences, add hard numbers to a pattern personified by victims like Eric Garner, Tamir Rice and Freddie Gray.
Five years after police in the St. Louis suburb of Ferguson, Mo., fatally shot Michael Brown, protesters and activist groups have focused public attention on the disproportionate use of force against African Americans and other people of color.
Scientists, meanwhile, are increasingly studying police violence as a public health problem whose long-term harms radiate far beyond the original victim.
"It can have these toxic effects on communities, in terms of both their physical and mental health," Edwards said.
A study published in the Lancet last year found that police killings of unarmed black men were associated with an increase in mental health problems such as depression and emotional issues for black people living in the state where the killing took place.
And living in a state of constant fear can lead to chronic stress, Edwards said. He referred to "the talk," a conversation that many African American parents have with their children -- especially boys -- about how to interact with police to avoid being harmed.