U.S. Cops Kill more People on an Average Day than U.K. Police do in a Year
The difference between law enforcement in the United States and in Britain is startling when it comes to the number of fatal police shootings.
A recent investigation by The Washington Post found that American police shot and killed an average of more than two people a day so far in 2015. The average was based on 385 fatal shootings by cops in the first five months of this year.
By contrast, British police fatally shot less than one person a year. In fact, British police have used firearms to kill only two people in the past three years.
Police officers in the United Kingdom, known as bobbies, operate in a much different climate and culture than do police in America, the Post’s Griffe Witte noted. Britain has banned handguns and assault rifles among its populace, whereas U.S. citizens are generally able to purchase a wide variety of pistols and rifles legally.
Unlike American cops, most British police officers patrol their streets armed with no more than batons and pepper spray. The elite police who do carry guns, as the study shows, almost never use them.
“But there are also enough similarities that the British model carries special relevance,” Witte wrote. “Like the United States, Britain is large, urbanized, democratic and diverse. Police have to reckon with gang violence, organized crime and Islamist extremists, all amid persistent allegations that they unfairly target minority communities.”
And while “few here would argue that the United States should adopt Britain’s nearly firearms-free approach,” Witte added, British officers and commanders “say they hope that some of their strategies and practices can be translated across the Atlantic” to the U.S.
One example: Bobbies are trained “to back away from any situation that might otherwise escalate and to not feel that they have to ‘win’ every confrontation with suspects.”
“It’s very controlled,” Greater Manchester Police Chief Sir Peter Fahy told the Post. “There’s a huge emphasis on human rights, a huge emphasis on proportionality, a huge emphasis on considering every other option. I constantly remind our officers that their best weapon is their mouth. Your first consideration is, ‘Can you talk this through? Can you buy yourself time?’ ”
In Britain, police view themselves as working for the public, not the state, said former British police chief Sir Denis O’Connor. They also “tend to fear getting it wrong and being criticized by a judge,” he told the Post. “Cops in the U.S. fear getting shot. Those are two very different worlds.”
-Noel Brinkerhoff, Danny Biederman
To Learn More:
Do Britain’s Gunless Bobbies Provide Answers For America’s Police? (by Griffe Witte, Washington Post)
Killed by Police 2015 (killedbypolice.net)
Fatal Police Shootings In 2015 Approaching 400 Nationwide (by Kimberly Kindy, Julie Tate, Jennifer Jenkins, Steven Rich, Keith L. Alexander and Wesley Lowery, Washington Post)
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