People killed by police in 2015 and 2016 had a median age of 35, and they still had an average of about 50 years left to live when they died. It’s this metric—the gap between how long someone lives and how long they were expected to live—that’s the focus of a new study by Anthony Bui, Matthew Coates, and Ellicott Matthay in the Journal of Epidemiology and Community Health.
To find the true toll of police violence, the authors focused on years of life lost. They used data from “The Counted” a Guardian database of people killed by police, to find the races and ages of everyone who died at the hands of police in the United States, then compared them to the average life expectancy for those groups.
Of the 1,146 and 1,092 victims of police violence in 2015 and 2016, respectively, the authors found that 52 percent were white, 26 percent were black, and 17 percent were Hispanic. Together, these individuals lost 57,375 years to police violence in 2015 and 54,754 to police violence in 2016. Young people and people of color were disproportionately affected: 52 percent of all the years of life lost belonged to nonwhite, non-Hispanic ethnic groups. Whites also tended to be killed by police at older ages than African Americans and Hispanics—though this is partly because, in the general population, whites are older on average than the other groups.