Dispelling the Myths Surrounding Police Use of Lethal Force

Over the last three years there has been growing concern in the public discourse about the use of force, especially lethal force, by the police in the United States. This concern spawned the creation of the Black Lives Matter organization and motivated President Obama to organize a commission on policing in the 21st century. Concerns over several highly publicized and politicized deaths of African-American men by police use of force have produced numerous public protests in almost every city, town, and university in the nation. Most of these protests have been peaceful, but many have not, especially the protest in Dallas on July 7 that resulted in eleven officers being shot, five of them fatally. This was followed on July 17 by the ambush of officers in Baton Rouge, with 6 officers shot, 3 of them fatally.

In the public discussion around the topic of police use of force, many disturbing claims have been made by civil rights groups, the news media, and even government leaders. However, as President Obama stated in his October 27, 2015 address to the International Association of Chiefs of Police, “too often law enforcement gets scapegoated for broader failures of our society.”1 The purpose of this report, therefore, is to fact check these various claims and, with the aid of scientific research and other credible sources, try to determine if these claims are indeed true. The reader is encouraged to access and explore the many references cited in this report so that the reader can assess the facts and make up his or her own mind. 

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