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Fatal police shootings of civilians, by rurality

NCJ Number
Preventive Medicine Volume: 134 Dated: 2020
Date Published

Since in the United States, firearm homicides disproportionately occur in urban areas, the current study examined whether the same is true for fatal police shootings.


The study used data on fatal police shootings from the Washington Post's “Fatal Force Database” (2015–2017). Using Census population estimates, the study examined rates of fatal police shootings, stratified by race/ethnicity (White, Black, Hispanic), across urban and rural areas using five different classification schemes. Two classification schemes—from the National Center for Health Statistics and the US Department of Agriculture—use counties as the basic unit. Three classification schemes—from the National Center for Education Statistics, the US Census Bureau, and the website “FiveThirtyEight” use zip codes. There were just under 1,000 fatal police shootings per year from 2015 to 2017, a rate of 0.31 per 100,000 population. Black victimization rates were more than twice those for Whites, with Hispanic victimization rates in between. Across all classification schemes there was little difference in rates of fatal police shootings between urban and rural areas, with suburbs having somewhat lower rates. Among Whites, rates of fatal police shooting victimization were higher in rural areas compared to urban areas; and among Blacks, the rates were higher in more urban areas. These results suggest that efforts to reduce police shootings of civilians should include rural and suburban as well as urban areas. (publisher abstract modified)

Date Published: January 1, 2020