DOI: 10.2105/ajph.2023.307560 ISSN: 0090-0036

National Burden of Injury and Deaths From Shootings by Police in the United States, 2015‒2020

Julie A. Ward, Javier Cepeda, Dylan B. Jackson, Odis Johnson, Daniel W. Webster, Cassandra K. Crifasi
  • Public Health, Environmental and Occupational Health

Objectives. To describe all-outcome injurious shootings by police and compare characteristics of fatal versus nonfatal injurious shootings nationally.

Methods. From July 2021 to April 2023, we manually reviewed publicly available records on all 2015–2020 injurious shootings by US police, identified from Gun Violence Archive. We estimated injury frequency, case fatality rates, and relative odds of death by incident and victim characteristics.

Results. A total of 1769 people were injured annually in shootings by police, 55% fatally. When a shooting injury occurred, odds of fatality were 46% higher following dispatched responses than police-initiated responses. Injuries associated with physically threatening or threat-making behaviors, behavioral health needs, and well-being checks were most frequently fatal. Relative to White victims, Black victims were overrepresented but had 35% lower odds of fatal injury when shot.

Conclusions. This first multiyear, nationwide analysis of injurious shootings by US police suggests that injury disparities are underestimated by fatal shootings alone. Nonpolicing responses to social needs may prevent future injuries.

Public Health Implications. We call for enhanced reporting systems, comprehensive evaluation of emerging reforms, and targeted investment in social services for equitable injury prevention. ( Am J Public Health. 2024;114(4):387–397. )

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