ASPPH logo


Member Research & Reports

Member Research & Reports

Black Males Nearly 3 Times as Likely to Die Due to Police Action, Drexel Study Finds

A new Drexel University study found that black males are nearly three times as likely to be killed by police action as white males, while Hispanic males are more than one-and-a-half times as likely to fall victim.

Dr. James Buehler, professor of Health Management and Policy in Drexel’s Dornsife School of Public Health, conducted his study, which took a population-level perspective, in response to widespread interpretations of a study released in the summer by Roland G. Fryer. Many interpreted Fryer’s study, which looked at situations in which lethal force might be used, as finding that there was no racial difference in “legal intervention deaths” as a result of police encounters.

“I undertook this brief investigation into ‘legal intervention deaths’ — that is, deaths that resulted from the actions of law enforcement officers — because I felt that the investigation by Fryer, even though it represented an in-depth assessment of police encounters, was interpreted in a way that left out an important part of the whole picture,” Dr. Buehler explained.

For his study, “Racial/Ethnic Disparities in the Use of Lethal Force by US Police, 2010-2014,” published in the American Journal of Public Health, Dr. Buehler used national death records from the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC)’s Wide-Ranging Online Data for Epidemiology Research (WONDER) database from 2010-2014. What he found was that, of the 2,285 deaths attributed to law enforcement action over that five-year period (1.5 deaths per million in U.S. population per year), 96 percent occurred among males 10 years or older.

Black males are 2.8 times as likely to die due to law enforcement action as white males, with Hispanic males 1.7 times as likely. Rates for Asian and Pacific Islander males were lower than rates for white males.

Although American Indians and Alaska Natives accounted for just about 2 percent of legal intervention deaths per year, their death rate was comparable to the rate seen among African-Americans.

Dr. Buehler’s results differ from Fryer’s because his analysis reflects the full sequence of events that might result in a legal intervention death, starting with whether a person is stopped by police and including arrest, use of lethal force, and survival of lethal force if used.