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Encounters with police: Assessing the risks

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Ahead of tonight’s Evanston Police Department open house meeting at the Levy Center, here’s some information about the risks faced in encounters between the public and police.

While recent controversial incidents in Evanston haven’t involved police shootings, the fear of being shot has undoubtedly influenced the reactions of some civilians here when stopped by police.

The Washington Post reports 963 people were fatally shot by police nationwide last year, down from 991 in 2015. In other words, roughly three of every one million Americans died after being shot by police last year.

The Guardian, which tracks all killings at the hands of police in the U.S., reported 1,146 deaths in 2015 and a decline to 1,092 deaths last year.

The Guardian’s tally indicates that on a per capita basis Native Americans were most likely to be killed by police — with a rate of 10.13 deaths per million last year. Blacks, at 6.66 deaths per million, had the next highest risk, followed by Hispanics at 3.23 per million, whites at 2.9 per million and Asians at 1.17 per million.

On a per capita basis, The Guardian’s tally said Illinois ranked 39th in the nation in the number of people killed by police.

The number of U.S. police officers killed as the result of a criminal act also has declined in recent years, according to a BBC report based on FBI data. From 100 in 1970, the number fell to 46 in 2015. During that time the number of police offices in American has nearly doubled to more than 720,000. So the police now face an annual risk of death of slightly over seven per 100,000.

That suggests that in a year a police officer faces nearly 25 times the risk of being killed in an encounter with a civilian as a civilian faces of being killed in an encounter with police. Of course police are paid to take on their risk, while civilians are not.

About 10 percent of officer killings in recent years have occurred during traffic stops.

Fatal police shootings in Evanston

Based on the Guardian’s figures, it appears that a town the size of Evanston would typically have an incident in which a person was killed by police roughly once every four years.

A search of Evanston Now’s archives turned up two fatal shooting incidents by Evanston police during the past 10 years.

Tonight’s meeting will be held at 7 p.m. at the Levy Center, 300 Dodge Ave.

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