Police in America fatally shoot around 1,000 people every year. For young men, in particular, that makes police shootings one of the leading causes of death in the United States—and for Black men, the risks are even higher. One in 1,000 can expect to be killed by police.

A succession of high-profile police killings—from Michael Brown in Ferguson, Missouri, in 2014 to George Floyd in Minneapolis, Minnesota, in 2020—has prompted some departments and communities to seek change. But data is sparse, and research is thin. As a recent RAND study noted, “It is hard to intervene in a problem when our overall understanding of the problem is limited.”

Melissa Labriola helped lead that study. She and fellow researchers Meagan Cahill and Jirka Taylor assessed what we know and don't know about police killings and developed a road map for future research that could move the field forward. They used the phrase “police killings” as the most neutral and accurate description, without the implications of guilt or innocence that other terms can convey.

Labriola has spent her career studying the criminal justice system—especially how alternative programs like drug courts or police diversion can reduce crime and improve outcomes for people involved.

What were you hoping your study would add to the national conversation?

We've seen a lot of momentum on this issue in recent years, and both law enforcement and communities have started to focus on what reforms need to happen. But there is just a dearth of research that could guide them. There are policymakers out there who want to make changes, but they're left to select strategies, tactics, training based on hearing from someone that it might work. We wanted to be on the front line of these changes and provide a systematic research agenda that could help guide them.

Read the full article about police violence at RAND Corporation.