The Police Departments That Kill the Most People

Philando Castille. Breonna Taylor. George Floyd. Tyre Nichols. These are just four of the better-known Black American victims of police violence out of many mostly forgotten names who have been killed by members of U.S. law enforcement over the decades.

The May 25, 2020, murder of George Floyd under the knee of former officer Derek Chauvin, now serving 22.5 years for his crime, elicited Black Lives Matter protests nationwide, some of which became chaotic, but were mostly peaceful.

Police in some of the largest cities exhibited the very problem underscored by the BLM movement: they aggressively overreacted to the protests. Some officers were ordered to launch tear gas and dangerous “non-lethal” projectiles into crowds and hemming protesters into small areas, a potentially dangerous tactic known as “kettling.” Outside investigators blamed a lack of proper training for these incidents. (These are the most militarized local police departments in America.)

Police use of excessive force can lead to injury and death. To determine the police departments with the most killings, 24/7 Wall St. reviewed data from Mapping Police Violence, a research collaborative that collects data on police killings across the nation from the country’s three largest comprehensive and impartial crowdsourced databases. Data was accessed on Feb. 22, 2023, and includes all police department killings from 2013 through the end of 2022. 

Over the most recent decade, at least 1,994 people have been reported killed by U.S. law enforcement in the 30 deadliest police agencies in America, including Los Angeles and its surrounding county, Phoenix, New York City, Houston, and Chicago. (New York City has far and away the largest police department in the U.S.)

In some cases, the killed suspects were armed or were involved in criminal activity that led officers to believe they, their fellow officers, or others were in danger – an understandable situation in a nation awash with over 400 million civilian firearms.

But in all too many cases, these police-shooting victims were unarmed, were not involved in criminal activity, were committing nonviolent misdemeanors, or were suffering mental breakdowns in states that have underfunded mental health care – a problem that the Harvard Political Review said in 2020 has turned correctional facilities into “de facto mental health hospitals.” Many victims of police shootings have been minors. Disproportionately, they have been Black or Hispanic.

Some of the highest profile killings of Black Americans, like Ahmad Arbery, Breonna Taylor, and George Floyd, were committed by officers of police agencies that are not among the country’s deadliest, suggesting just how systemic the use of unjustified deadly police force is being used against people of color, particularly Black Americans, even in police agencies with better overall records. Most police face little or no administrative repercussions for these killings. In cases that do go to trial, juries tend to give police officers the benefit of the doubt.

Though most police never fire their weapons, shooting is only one method by which suspects are killed. The use of so-called lateral vascular neck restraint (aka a chokehold, usually as the suspect is lying face down on the ground) is a common way that suspects die during police encounters. In numerous instances of police killings, the suspect is heard on body cam footage pleading “I can’t breathe” moments before they die, which has turned the phrase into a BLM slogan against police violence.

Here are the deadliest US police departments.

Click here to see our detailed methodology.

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