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California

Are Ferguson protesters accurate on killings by LAPD officers?

LAPD killings
A statement written in chalk on the sidewalk outside LAPD headquarters during the Ferguson protests.
(Ben Welsh, Los Angeles Times)

As hundreds protested Tuesday outside Los Angeles Police Department headquarters, someone wrote a provocative statement in chalk in the sidewalk: “LAPD killed 1 person per week since 2000. 82% were black or brown.”

Have Los Angeles police officers really killed one person per week since 2000?

The statistics have been used before, including a Huffington Post story that referred to a report from the Los Angeles Youth Justice Coalition. The report says that 589 people were killed by law enforcement in Los Angeles County between Jan. 1, 2000, and Aug. 31, 2014.

Note that these numbers refer to the entire county, which is policed by several agencies, not just the LAPD, which patrols the city of Los Angeles. About 3.9 million of the 10 million residents of Los Angeles County live in the city of Los Angeles.

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If there was really one such homicide per week in Los Angeles County since 2000, this would add up to more than 720 killings at the hands of law enforcement. Calling a death a homicide just means the death was caused by the hand of another; it is not a legal judgment of murder.

The 589 law enforcement killings reported by the Youth Justice Coalition is one less than the total gathered by The Times’ Homicide Report database, which relies largely on the Los Angeles County coroner’s records.

The Homicide Report has recorded 590 homicides involving law enforcement officers in all of Los Angeles County between Jan. 1, 2000, and Aug. 31, 2014, and seven more since that date.

So how does the LAPD by itself stack up?

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According to Homicide Report data, roughly 38%, or 228, of the county’s officer-involved homicides involved LAPD officers. This works out to about 0.3 killings per week.

So what about the claim of the chalk statement of 82% being “black or brown?” It’s hard to know whether this refers to only blacks and Latinos, or to all minorities.

Assuming this means black or Latino, 27% of those killed by law enforcement officers in all of Los Angeles County were black, while a little over 50% were Latino. So 77% “black or brown” is in the same general range of the claim made at the demonstration, which protested a grand jury decision not to indict a white police officer who shot and killed Michael Brown, an 18-year old black man, in Ferguson, Mo., this summer. The incident has led to serious questions nationwide about authorities’ use of force when it comes to black men, in particular.

Looking just at the homicides involving LAPD officers, blacks accounted for 32% and Latinos accounted for 49% of all those killed, for a total of 81%.

How does that compare to homicide victims overall? Blacks make up about 34% of all victims of homicides in Los Angeles County. The rate is chronically, disproportionately high number in a county and city where less than 10% of residents are black.

armand.emamdjomeh@latimes.com


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