I was watching a video by conservative political commentator Ben Shapiro. He talks about Nike's ad featuring Colin Kaepernick. There is a claim he makes that black people are not being disproportionately shot by police.

The question is "Are you believing the right things?" Colin Kaepernick is not. He hasn't provided a shred of data to support his assertions that black people in the United States are being disproportionately shot by police, because in fact they are not.
Link to quote in video

This is the claim I would like to know is true or not, even though Shapiro further says that cops aren't "out there" shooting Black people but largely protecting Black people "that's why they're policing the inner city" and earlier he says that the disproportionality is a [thus] a "statistical anomaly".

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    You'd need to define "disproportionate". Are you asking whether it's not proportionate to population ("black people are 50% of the population, but make up 70% of people shot by police"), not proportionate to population within a certain socio-economic group ("for people with household incomes less than $20,000, black people are 60% of the population, but make up 70% of people shot"), or proportionate to people with a criminal record ("55% of convicted criminals are black, but 70% of people shot by police are black"). This is especially important with respect to your word "unjustifiably".
    – AndyT
    Commented Sep 24, 2018 at 14:28
  • @AndyT: I've dropped the word "unjustifiable" as it wasn't claimed. The definition of "disproportionate" should ideally come from the claimant (perhaps elsewhere) or failing that, be taken generously for the claimant. The answerer should explain the definition they are using.
    – Oddthinking
    Commented Sep 24, 2018 at 14:34
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    @Oddthinking The reason I used "justifiably" is because I want to get to the bottom of whether there is a race problem. If it so happens for example that more black people are involved in crime, and also shot more often, then the overrepresentation of black people shot might just be a mere reflection of police shooting criminals. I didn't know how else phrase it.
    – Zebrafish
    Commented Sep 24, 2018 at 14:41
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    With the massive edit, I don't think this question is salvageable. Any answer is not going to answer what OP is actually curious about.
    – pipe
    Commented Sep 24, 2018 at 14:55
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    @Oddthinking I've looked at the other question and it says that indeed blacks are disproportionately shot, however states that black people are more likely to be involved in crime. Also the evidence given in these answers show the disproportionality of black deaths by police. The claim made by Shapiro as it stands on its own seems false. But if we accept that black people commit more crimes along with being shot more often by police, then this wouldn't necessarily suggest a racial motive. I believe both answers here and in the other question answer my query, should this become a duplicate?
    – Zebrafish
    Commented Sep 24, 2018 at 15:33

2 Answers 2


According the Washington Post database:

People fatally shot by police were:

19% Blacks in 2018 through August 30th

23% Blacks in 2017

24% Blacks in 2016

26% Blacks in 2015

14% of the US population reported that they were Black in the most recent census.

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    I don’t think this is a sufficient argument because right-wing commentators then simply turn around and say that black people are more likely to be criminals, and thus get into more altercations with police. The figures get a lot more muddy when considering frequency of police interactions and their causes. Unfortunately it’s really quite impossible to tackle this question without tackling the question of crime rates. Commented Sep 24, 2018 at 15:44
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    @KonradRudolph it's not an argument at all, just data
    – DavePhD
    Commented Sep 24, 2018 at 15:48
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    These numbers are quite a bit lower than the violent crime rate for blacks, so is it fair to say then that they are fatally shot disproportionately less than other groups?
    – helrich
    Commented Sep 24, 2018 at 15:59
  • @helrich You could, but only if you add that the disproportion is relative to the number of criminals to clearly state what you mean and then one maybe could say that some crimes are minor and should not really be connected to being shot at all, say shoplifting or smuggling for example. Commented Sep 25, 2018 at 13:09
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    The question is about the proportion, not the reasons. This answer gives the proportion. It's perfect. Commented Jan 27, 2021 at 22:31

In 2015, Vox reported an analysis of 2012 FBI data by Dara Lind:

US police kill black people at disproportionate rates: Black people accounted for 31 percent of police killing victims in 2012, even though they made up just 13 percent of the US population.

In particular, when considering people who were killed when not attacking the police, black people suffer disproportionately:

Chart of percentages kill by police

A Washington Post article in May 2018, argued, with limited data, that there had been a declining trend in both police killings and racial bias in police killings:

Criminologists said the downturn in the number of cases and their analysis of the data indicate that evidence of racial bias by police who shoot and kill unarmed blacks has also declined but not disappeared.


Goff and others say that the numbers of unarmed shootings are so small that any interpretations amount to guesswork.

“When you’re looking at racial disparities, you’re on super-shaky ground,” said Goff, who said he hoped the public would not interpret the data to mean bias is no longer present.

Looking at this years figures in the Washington Database of police killings, it looks at first glance like that trend for fewer deaths hasn't been maintained in the months since.

Chart of deaths by date per year

[Note: Care should be taken with Ben Shapiro's argument to ensure it is not a strawman. After a moderately brief search, I was unable to find a quote from Colin Kaepernick making precisely the claim being dismissed by Shapiro.]

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    DavePhD's figures from the Washington Post database certainly show that the numbers of blacks fatally shot has slowly decreased over the past few years. They are 26%, 24%, 23% for years 2015, 2016, 2017 respectively. I wonder if this is because of the BLM movement(began 2012) and police retraining.
    – Zebrafish
    Commented Sep 24, 2018 at 15:13
  • Re your note, does it actually count as a strawman if X attributes to Y a statement that Y never made but which is actually true? Commented Sep 24, 2018 at 15:14
  • Any idea why it makes the distinction "not killed with rifle or shotgun"? Commented Sep 24, 2018 at 15:17
  • @iamnotmaynard probably beaten or run over Commented Sep 24, 2018 at 15:25
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    @JosephPernerstorfer notably absent from that list is handgun,
    – stannius
    Commented Sep 24, 2018 at 15:57

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