Health

State report: Black Minnesotans killed at disproportionate rate in police encounters

A demonstrator raises their hands
The Minnesota Department of Health released a report Friday saying Black Minnesotans are only 7 percent of the population but were 27 percent of the deaths by use of force. Most of the deaths by force overall were due to gunshot wounds.
John Minchillo | AP

Black people are much more likely than white people to die from use of force by law enforcement, according to a new study by the Minnesota Department of Health.

The report released Friday says Black Minnesotans are only 7 percent of the population but were 27 percent of the deaths by use of force. Most of the deaths by force overall were due to gunshot wounds.

The report also noted that “6 percent of those who died were American Indian or Alaskan Native, though only 1 percent of all Minnesotans are American Indian or Alaska Native.”

The report looked at data from 2016 to 2021 and included deaths by suicide and accidental causes.

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The total deaths as a result of interactions with law enforcement was 177; all but one were civilians. Of those, 45 percent were by force, 31 percent by suicide, 22 percent by accidents and 3 percent were classified undetermined. Almost all were men and around the age of 35.

White Minnesotans were more likely to die by suicide, or 76 percent of the 54 deaths in confrontations with law enforcement.

The health department created a data set using death certificates, datasets from the BCA and the Minnesota National Violent Death Reporting System. The interactions included arrests, in custody, as well as situations where law enforcement were responding in a crowd control, general public safety capacity.

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In statements, the outgoing commissioners of health and public safety said the report could help steer public discussions of police reform and mental health responses.

“This report is a start for exploring the challenges and opportunities we face to find upstream solutions for reducing the health and safety consequences of these events and to potentially prevent loss of life among civilians and officers,” said Jan Malcolm, Minnesota’s health commissioner.

Public Safety Commissioner John Harrington said law enforcement must deal with “societal issues, including persons in drug induced crisis, people living with mental illness and other disabilities.”

“It would be helpful to expand data collection to further understand these occurrences. Minnesota Department of Corrections Officer Joseph Gomm, Red Lake Nation Officer Ryan Bialke, and Minnesota Department of Natural Resources Conservation Officer Sarah Grell are among the lives we have lost in the line of duty and among the events that deserve remembrance and examination,” Harrington said.

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