In 47 out of 50 states, American police officers have killed at least one person so far this year. In some, the number of officer-involved homicides dwarfs numbers from entire countries.
The map below, based on statistics the research collaborative Mapping Police Violence provided to Mic, shows all 605 deaths from police violence in the United States from Jan. 1 through July 10. As is evident, there's a clear correlation between population size and the number of slayings, but certain states still stand out with particularly large numbers.
Just three states (Rhode Island, South Dakota and Vermont) avoided any killings at all. Meanwhile, California reached a shocking 95 police killings, Texas clocked 64 and Florida was not far behind with 43. Arizona and Oklahoma are runners-up at 28 and 26, respectively.
Keep in mind the year is only halfway over. Even the 605 killings that Mapping Police Violence tracked through July 10 alone would make the U.S. an outlier among comparable democracies.
This doesn't happen in other developed countries: Policing in the U.S. is controlled largely at the state and local levels, meaning that training, equipment and use-of-force standards vary wildly. But compared to many other countries, American police enjoy relatively lax guidelines on when and how they can use lethal force.
According to the Washington Post, in Britain, Iceland, Ireland, New Zealand and Norway, most police tend not to carry firearms at all while on duty. German police are extensively trained to understand that drawing and firing their weapons is a very serious matter of last resort.
On the other hand, an Amnesty International analysis found laws regulating when and why police are allowed to kill someone in each of the 50 U.S. states fall far short of international standards. In a statement on Amnesty's website, executive director Steven W. Hawkins said, "The fact that absolutely no U.S. state laws conform to this standard is deeply disturbing and raises serious human rights concerns. Reform is needed and it is needed immediately. Lives are at stake."
According to Vocativ, at current rates, U.S. police are on track to shoot dead more people per capita than the combined gun homicide rates of 19 out of 34 member countries of the Organization for Economic Cooperation and Development, a group which encompasses most of the world's richest countries.
It's also pretty racist: The weight of all these killings falls disproportionately on the poor and especially racial and ethnic minorities, who experience significantly higher arrest rates.
A 2014 USA Today analysis using FBI statistics found white officers kill black suspects at the rate of about two a week — although the actual total is likely much higher. The New York Police Department, for example, shoots black and Hispanic suspects at many times the rate they do white ones.
Socioeconomic disparities no doubt account for part of this, but plain old institutional racism likely plays a huge role in these deaths.
In almost all of these cases, however, victims face little recourse even when the circumstances seem to show officers were out of line. University of South Carolina criminologist Geoff Alpert told USA Today 98.9% of police homicides are ultimately ruled justifiable, and even those few charges of misconduct that go to court rarely result in conviction, let alone serious punishment like jail time.
Correction: July 18, 2015