It is undeniable that police in the US often contend with much more violent situations and more heavily armed individuals than police in other developed democratic societies. Still, looking at our data for the US against admittedly less reliable information on police killings elsewhere paints a dramatic portrait, and one that resonates with protests that have gone global since a killing last year in Ferguson, Missouri: the US is not just some outlier in terms of police violence when compared with countries of similar economic and political standing.
America is the outlier – and this is what a crisis looks like.
Fact: In the first 24 days of 2015, police in the US fatally shot more people than police did in England and Wales, combined, over the past 24 years.
Behind the numbers: According to The Counted, the Guardian’s special project to track every police killing this year, there were 59 fatal police shootings in the US for the days between 1 January and 24 January.
According to data collected by the UK advocacy group Inquest, there have been 55 fatal police shootings – total – in England and Wales from 1990 to 2014.
The US population is roughly six times that of England and Wales. According to the World Bank, the US has a per capita intentional homicide rate five times that of the UK.
Fact: There has been just one fatal shooting by Icelandic police in the country’s 71-year history. The city of Stockton, California – with 25,000 fewer residents than all of Iceland combined – had three fatal encounters in the first five months of 2015.
Behind the numbers: A 2013 police shooting in Iceland drew international attention because it was the first of its kind; there had literally never been a fatal police shooting recorded there before two years ago.
In Stockton, Patrick Wetter, Matautu Nuu and Carl Lao were all fatally shot by police in the 64-day span between 6 January and 4 March. According to US census data from 2013, Stockton has a population of 298,118; World Bank data puts Iceland’s population at 323,764 for the same year.
Iceland’s official intentional homicide rate is so low that it does not register in World Bank data on intentional homicides per 100,000 people. For the US, the rate is five per 100,000.
Fact: Police in the US have shot and killed more people – in every week this year – than are reportedly shot and killed by German police in an entire year.
Behind the numbers: The Counted database shows that the first week of 2015 had the fewest fatal police shootings of any this year, with 13.
According to the German data and the Guardian’s count, more unarmed black men (19) have been fatally shot by US police in 2015 than citizens of any race, armed or unarmed, fatally shot in Germany during all of 2010 and 2011 (15).
The US population is roughly four times that of Germany, and according to the World Bank, the US has a per capita intentional homicide rate five times that of Germany.
Fact: Police in the US fatally shot more people in one month this year than police in Australia officially reported during a span of 19 years.
Behind the numbers: The Counted database shows that police in the US fatally shot 97 people in March 2015, the highest one-month total recorded by the Guardian.
In Australia, as opposed to the US, all police shootings are subject to national monitoring by law. The US population is nearly 14 times that of Australia, and the US has a per capita intentional homicide rate five times that of Australia.
Fact: Police in Canada average 25 fatal shooting a year. In California, a state just 10% more populous than Canada, police in 2015 have fatally shot nearly three times as many people in just five months.
Behind the numbers: So far in 2015, police in California have fatally shot 72 people, according to the Guardian’s database – the most thorough accounting for officer-involved fatalities ever built in the US.
In Canada, reliable nationwide numbers on police shootings don’t yet exist.
The US has an intentional homicide rate two and a half times that of Canada, according to the World Bank.
Fact: Police fired 17 bullets at Antonio Zambrano-Montes, who was “armed” with a rock. That’s nearly three times what police in Finland are reported to have fired during all of 2013.
Behind the numbers: Zambrano-Montes was killed in February by officers responding to reports that he was throwing rocks at cars. The incident was caught on video, with 17 shots fired; according to police, “five or six” struck Zambrano-Montes.