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Death By Cop, Are We As Bad As The USA?

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Last updated on July 21st, 2023 at 09:27 pm

Reading Time: 3 minutes

Inspired by an article relating to deaths in America resulting from contact with the Police, and egged on by at least one former colleague, I decided to accept the challenge and have a look at what the picture looks like in England and Wales.

There’s any number of categories, but I decided to concentrate on 2 main areas; Death by Shooting, and what is loosely termed Death in Custody.

It’s totally fair to state that Policing in the UK and that in the USA follow two very different models, and there are a huge number more firearms held both lawfully and unlawfully in the USA than there ever will be here.

So, I looked at the data and some very inconvenient, pesky facts soon began staring at me from the screen.  I can only repeat that the numbers are far, far smaller than the equivalent numbers for America, but a pattern is a pattern surely?  The first thing to look at was Fatal Police Shootings.

Death By Cop
Fatal Police Shootings England & Wales 2004/05 to 2018/19 by Ethnicity
Death By Cop
Fatal Police Shootings England & Wales 2004/05 to 2018/19 by Age Group

I don’t really have to say much about these do I?  Numerically, the largest number of persons shot dead by Police were White, and the Under 21 sector doesn’t feature at all.  The facts would appear to indicate that young black men are not being shot dead in disproportionate numbers by Police. Only one of the above persons was female.

Moving on, Deaths in Custody, what does that look like?

Death By Cop
Deaths in Police Custody, England & Wales, 2004/05 to 2018/19 by Ethnicity
Death By Cop
Deaths in Police Custody, England & Wales, 2004/05 to 2018/19 by Age Group

My inescapable conclusion is pretty much the same as it is for Shootings, numerically the largest ethnic group is Whites, and the Youth are nowhere near as highly affected as the Middle Aged.  Males outnumbered Females by approx 7:1.  However, how do these figures stack up against the Population as a whole.  Unfortunately the numbers for shootings are so low that they probably are not worth comparing but the chart looks very similar to the Death in Custody figures, so maybe the percentages are not too different.  I could not find a dataset that exactly matched the IOPC data above, and they do not appear to publish that info, but I did find a relevant set of data elsewhere which should give us a reasonable idea as to whether there is any disproportionality at large.

Death By Cop

So there you have it Ladies and Gentlemen, White folk are the biggest group here, 85% of Deaths in Custody and 86% of the population, as proportionate as you could possibly get.   The Black population do seem to be slightly over-represented, but not the crazy figures I have heard elsewhere.


Numerically you are far more likely to die after contact with Police or shot by Police if you are white.   The figures is the figures, the Black population are at a slightly raised risk but this is a complex subject and the reasons for that could be many and various.  My best suggestion is that an Armchair Academic with too much time on their hands does a proper, comprehensive study and publish the results without fearing what they might show.

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