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Racial inequity in fatal US police shootings, 2015–2020
  1. Elle Lett1,2,3,
  2. Emmanuella Ngozi Asabor4,5,
  3. Theodore Corbin6,
  4. Dowin Boatright7
  1. 1 Biostatistics, Epidemiology, and Informatics, University of Pennsylvania, Philadelphia, Pennsylvania, USA
  2. 2 Leonard Davis Institute of Health Economics, University of Pennsylvania, Philadelphia, PA, USA
  3. 3 Perelman School of Medicine, University of Pennsylvania, Philadelphia, PA, USA
  4. 4 Yale University School of Medicine, New Haven, Connecticut, USA
  5. 5 Department of Epidemiology of Microbial Diseases, Yale School of Public Health, New Haven, CT, USA
  6. 6 Department of Emergency Medicine, Drexel University College of Medicine, Philadelphia, Pennsylvania, USA
  7. 7 Department of Emergency Medicine, Yale University School of Medicine, New Haven, CT, USA
  1. Correspondence to Elle Lett, Department of Biostatistics, Epidemiology, and Informatics, 423 Guardian Drive, Philadelphia, PA 19104, USA; lanair.lett{at}


Introduction Violent encounters with police represent a significant cause of morbidity and mortality in the USA, especially among Black, Indigenous, and People of Colour (BIPOC). This study characterises trends in fatal police shootings overall and by armed status and quantifies inequities in mortality burden and years of life lost (YLL) across racial/ethnic groups.

Methods Longitudinal study of Washington Post data on fatal police shootings in the USA using generalised linear-mixed models to capture trends with time and relative rates.

Results This study shows that the rate of fatal police shootings for Black, Indigenous, and People of Colour (BIPOC) is constant from 2015 to 2020. Further, BIPOC have significantly higher death rates compared with Whites in the overall victim pool (Native American RR=3.06, Black RR=2.62, Hispanic RR=1.29) and among unarmed victims (Black RR=3.18, Hispanic RR=1.45). Native American (RR=3.95), Black (overall RR=3.29, unarmed RR=3.49) and Hispanic (RR=1.55, unarmed RR=1.55), victims had similarly high rates of YLL relative to Whites.

Conclusion Fatal police shootings are a public health emergency that contribute to poor health for BIPOC. Urgent attention from health professionals is needed to help drive policy efforts that reduce this unjust burden and move us towards achieving health equity in the US.

  • Violence
  • inequalities
  • ethnicity
  • longitudinal studies

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  • Twitter Elle Lett @madblqscientist, Emmanuella Asabor @EmmanuellaMDPhD and Theodore Corbin @teddycorbin

  • Acknowledgements EL would like to thank the Penn Medicine Center for Health Equity Advancement and Office of Inclusion and Diversity for their support. EL and ENA would like to thank the Black Health Scholars Network for their support of this work. ENA would like to thank the Robert Wood Johnson Foundation for their support.

  • Contributors EL, ENA and DB conceptualised the study. EL conducted the statistical analyses. EL and ENA drafted the manuscript. EL, ENA, TC and DB interpreted the results and revised the manuscript.

  • Funding The authors have not declared a specific grant for this research from any funding agency in the public, commercial or not-for-profit sectors.

  • Competing interests None declared.

  • Patient consent for publication Not required.

  • Provenance and peer review Not commissioned; externally peer reviewed.