The numbers: police lethal force in MN

The shooting of an unarmed black teenager by a police officer in Ferguson, Missouri nearly two weeks ago has sparked larger conversations about how often police use lethal force and when it is necessary. 

A report published earlier this year by the Bureau of Criminal Apprehension shows how often law enforcement officers used their guns in the line of duty in 2013.  The report also tallies the number of times officers were assaulted and injured last year.

  • In 2013, there were 169 shots fired by law enforcement officials in 29 incidents.

  • 9 people were shot and killed by officers.

  • 396 officers were assaulted and/or injured in 2013 - including 118 Minneapolis police officers. More than half of those incidents in Minneapolis involved injuries to the officers

  • No officers were killed in the line of duty and no police dogs were injured or killed in 2013

There has also been a lot of discussion lately about racial disparities between white and black Americans when it comes to how each group is treated by police officers.  The BCA report includes a racial breakdown of people arrested for narcotics in 2013.  By my calculation, African-Americans were four times more likely to be arrested for narcotics offenses than white Minnesotans.

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Here's my math:

According to the BCA, 14,057 whites were arrested for narcotics offenses last year. I divided that number by the total number of white Minnesotans -- which according to a Census Bureau estimate of 2013 is 4,661,526 -- multiplied by 10,000 = an arrest rate of 30/10,000.

4,009 African-Americans arrested/population 308,961 x 10,000 = 129/10,000.

The African-American arrest rate is 4.3 times higher

Of course, these numbers do not tell the whole story.  The racial data in the report are not broken down by age group and by the locations of the arrests.