Academic Publications

Police shootings, violent crime, race and socio‐economic factors

Howard Henderson | Jennifer Wyatt Bourgeois | Sven Smith | Christopher J. Ferguson | Juan Barthelemy

This study examined the complex relationships between police shootings, violent crime, race, and various socio-economic factors across 100 U.S. municipalities. The research found that police shootings, while rare overall, were more likely to occur in communities with higher rates of violent crime, food insecurity, and mental health issues. Surprisingly, after accounting for these factors, a higher proportion of Black residents in a community was associated with a lower risk of police shootings. The evidence suggests that socioeconomic disadvantages, rather than race itself, are the primary drivers behind both violent crime and police violence in American communities.

Key Takeaways

  • Police shootings were rare (less than 0.2% of arrests) and fatal police shootings were too rare to analyze
  • Higher violent crime rates, food insecurity, and mental health distress were independently associated with more police shootings
  • Socioeconomic factors, not race, were the primary predictors of both violent crime and police shootings
  • Racial disparities in police shootings and crime are intertwined with and likely driven by socioeconomic inequities that disproportionately affect Black communities

Policy Suggestions

  • Addressing systemic inequities through targeted policies and community investment may be key to reducing these issues
  • Policies targeting income inequality, education, school nutrition, and mental health may help reduce violent crime and police violence
  • Comprehensive strategies addressing systemic socioeconomic and racial inequalities are needed to resolve these issues at a community level