List of cities and police killings

With the recent killings of Black citizens by police that made national and international headlines, Columbus’ troubling history on this topic has resurfaced. A graphic that originally circulated via social media four years ago after the killings of Henry Green and 13-year-old Ty’re King went viral in the past couple of weeks. On June 10th, The Columbus Dispatch posted an article, “Fact Check: Is Columbus the Most likely place in America for police to kill black people?” Their ruling of the graphic is that the information presented is false, however the analysis in this article is deeply flawed.

Let’s start with the title.

The graphic above shows a list of 10 cities that either had high profile police killings between 2013-2016 or cities that have a reputation in the Black community of brutalizing and terrorizing Black citizens. The title of the Dispatch article misinterprets that the list, ranked 1-10 with Columbus in the number one spot, represented the entire nation. The only thing that renders those rankings as false is an incorrect assumption that this is a “Top Ten” list. However, there are numbers in parentheses next to each city. At the bottom of the graphic, there is an explanation that those numbers denote the national rank for the rate at which police departments kill Black people, putting Columbus at a rank of 16th in the nation at the time. Columbus now ranks 22nd.

Nowhere on the graphic does it state “The Nation’s Top 10” or anything of the sort. So The Dispatch reporter’s assumption of this, coupled with bad math, is what caused them to come to the wrong conclusion regarding the data on this graphic.

Dispatch Article:  Analyzing the group’s database, however, shows that figure does not come close to representing the organization’s findings for the four-year period. Columbus police killed 20 black people in that stretch, a rate of 23.0 per million black Columbus residents.

That’s nowhere near the 91.1 rate claimed for 2013-16. And the actual rate for Columbus is not among the nation’s leaders for that period.”

The Dispatch reporter’s calculated rate of 23 per 1,000,000 Black Columbus residents is way off, since 20 of the 217,694 Black Columbus residents were killed by police.

23 / 1,000,000  ≠  20 / 217,694

How are these rates and ranks calculated?

To level the playing field for cities of different sizes, the graphic displays the rate at which Black people were killed per 1 million Black residents. The table below shows detailed data from the same list of cities included on the graphic, but without data from 2016. Similar data isolating the 2013-2016 time frame is not available for download at this time, but we see only a slight shift (less than 1 point) in the rates and ranks of police killings in those cities from 2015-2016. There’s no denying that the racial disparity is clear when it comes to police killings in Columbus. Between 2013-2015, 20 of the 24 people killed by police were Black.

To calculate the correct rate...


1,000,000 divided by 217,694 (# of Black Residents) = 4.5936


4.5936X 20 (the number of Black people killed) = 91.872 (rounded up to 91.9)

Columbus’ Rate = 91.9 per million, as stated on the graphic below.

What the Dispatch got right to confirm that the Columbus Police Department needs systemic change.

  • Although Black residents make up only 28% of the city’s population, between 49-53% of use-of-force was aimed Black people since 2013, according to the study released in 2019.
  • Columbus police have killed almost half as many black people as their Chicago counterparts, even though Chicago has a black population four times that of Columbus.
  • Since 2015, a third of all black people shot and killed by police in Ohio (19 of 56) have come at the hands of Columbus officers, including three of four so far this year, the Post database shows.

SOURCES:  The Columbus Dispatch, Mapping Police Violence