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Fatal Police Encounters

By on August 25, 2014

The epidemic of fatal police shooting is larger than previous estimates, and it’s not just happening in Ferguson. From coast to coast to Ohio and Ferguson, MO, four Black males have  all died under disputed circumstances involving law enforcement.

The numbers of unarmed Black and other minority men killed by police is growing and demanding federal attention.

Black men have been killed by police at a rate some nine to 10 times higher than that for white men dating back to the 1960’s. In fact, this epidemic dates back to the health disparities also afflicting minority men. Between 1960 and 1968, police killed 1,188 Black males and 1,253 white males in a population in which about 10% are Black.

Proportionately more Blacks are killed by police is no surprise to most people, certainly not to any police officials; And certainly not to the family and friends of the slain. Consider the top 5 urban centers of New York City, Los Angeles, Chicago, Houston, and Philadelphia are also among the most segregated according to recent census data and also among the highest in racially-related police shootings.

According to a 2007 report by the Bureau of Justice Statistics (which is part of the U.S. Department of Justice), from 2003 through 2005 at least 2,002 people died during their arrests by state and local law enforcement officers. The Bureau of Justice Statistics report also shows that those who are killed by police are primarily young Black and Latino men.


More than half of the victims were Black or Latino, even though Black and Latino people make up only 27% of the U.S. population. Over 50% of those killed were under 35 years old. And almost half of those killed—by the cops’ own admission—were not committing a violent offense.

Ten Reminders to Survive Police Encounters:

  1. If you are alone in a moving vehicle and stopped by law enforcement, pull over slowly and park in a “very public” area that is in view of others and is well lighted. Do not speed or gesture outside the window in any threatening manner.
  2. Use your mobile phone to quickly alert someone what is happening. Even calling an answering machine and letting it record what is happening is a good way of documenting the events.
  3. Turn your car off and place your hands on the wheel. Open your window slightly…enough to talk to the cop and hand him your license  and registration. This will stop him from poking his head in the car claiming he smells or sees something. Please note that if an officer requests you to roll your window down you should likely comply.
  4. If you are in a car with other passengers and are stopped by police, let your passengers know that you will do all of the talking. 
  5. If not told to you, politely ask why you are being pulled over before he starts questioning you.
  6. Never confess you broke the law by telling him/her you were speeding or didn’t see a traffic sign.
  7. Know that you do not have to consent to a search and practice saying, “I do not consent to a search” (this includes subway train searches as well, although places such as the airport, border checkpoints, and some arenas are the exception).
  8. It is all right to answer a question with a question to determine if you are free to go such as “Officer am I free to go?”
  9. If you are arrested, you have the right to speak to an attorney. It is your right to say “Officer I have nothing more to say to you until I speak to my attorney.”
  10. NEVER run from the police! NEVER. NEVER. NEVER. If you run from the police they have probable cause to arrest you and they may shoot you.




“Arrest Related Deaths in the Unites States 2003-2005,” Bureau of Justice Statistics Special Report, October 2007

Paul Takagi was at the time of publication an Associate Professor at the School of Criminology, University of California, Berkeley. The study was originally conducted by Philip Buell and Paul Takagi in the summer of 1971, entitled “Code 984: Death by Police Intervention.”


Images for illustration purposes only. This 2011 article is being re-posted.


  1. Hero

    November 29, 2014 at 6:24 pm

    Well, the problem is, one time, I saw a cop wait until AFTER the black man got out of his vehicle, then the cop approached him. The situation didn’t end well at all for the black guy.

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    September 3, 2011 at 9:54 am

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  5. Asad

    September 2, 2011 at 3:02 pm

    SHouts out for a very relevant and practical article. Originially caught this over at FreshXpress and thought I would stop by to leave you props in person. Will definitely give you some link love over at http://unitedblackamerica.com

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