Relative risk of being shot vs shooting someone for the police (in the US)

I’d really like some data to inform how I’m thinking about police-related violence in the US. Particularly, I’d like to know how likely a police officer is to be shot in a given year, vs how likely a police officer is to shoot a member of the general public. I’m not having any luck googling such statistics. Any ideas on finding that information, or finding the component parts? The Washington Post is doing a pretty good job of tracking the number police shootings of the general public, but where can I find the number of police officers in the US and the of times police officers were shot during a given year?

Wikipedia maintains a list of all police officers killed in the line of duty, just count up the ones that died due to assault … “List of American police officers killed in the line of duty”

Finding the number of cops shot and killed is pretty easy (last year less than 50). But I’m having no luck so far finding numbers of cops wounded.

I have no idea on finding your desired stats. I share your political concerns but I wonder if those numbers are really the relevant ones.

e.g. As a citizen I care about my chances of getting shot. Which are (presumably) proportional to how often I interact with the police. A policeman cares about his chances of getting shot. Which are (presumably) proportional to how often he interacts with the public.

So how do we correct for the fact that a typical middle-class citizen interacts with the police maybe once annually whereas a typical cop in a middle-class area interacts with a dozen (?) citizens per shift times 220 (?) shifts per year = 2600ish encounters per year?

For a citizen living in poorer more crime-ridden sections of the country and for a policeman working there both numbers will be bigger, and (I think) disproportionately bigger for the citizen. At the very outside the 2600:1 ratio would reduce to 100:1, and that assumes your typical “bad part of town” citizen interacts with the police every two weeks instead of just once annually.

Last of all, a nationwide statistic is effectively meaningless as it’s inherently averaging prosperous rural areas, depressed rural areas, fat-cat suburbs, middle class suburbs, working class areas, and abject slums. I think it’s pretty obvious that the shooting statistics (going both ways) will be quite different in each of those various demographics.
Still and all I applaud the effort to try to inject some actual factual data into what’s now a noisy public shouting match.

Here’s the closest I’ve come.

In 2014, 48,315 officers were non-fatally assaulted in the course of their duties. 28% of these assaults resulted in injury to the officer. 4% of the assaults were committed using firearms. So, IF 4% of the 28% were wounded by gunfire, that would be approximately 550 officers wounded per year. But the statistics as presented don’t support a definite number. Perhaps there is some underlying data which would provide something more definitive.

There are a whole bunch of tables listed on this FBI page saying that the number of** Law Enforcement Officers Assaulted and Injured with Firearms or Knives/Other Cutting Instruments ** in 2014 is 88, which is WAY lower than my previous guestimate. I haven’t found a table yet that separates out firearms from knives. Good luck.

All quite true. Another complication is that a lot of crime is committed by a small percentage of repeat offenders (cite, pdf). So even in high-crime areas a few citizens are going to have many more interactions with police.

Also true.


What about the other part of the OP’s question: How many people have been shot by police? It hard to compare the two without knowing both sides.

edited to add: Found link to number of fatal shootings by police. Last year, it was 1000 civilians.

Thanks, Boyo Jim. That’s helpful.

LSLGuy, this would obviously be a pretty crude analysis. Lots of control variables would be necessary. But, we have lots of qualitative data points about what’s going on and very little quantitative data. I’d like to see some.

This calculation assumes that assaults with firearms are just as likely to cause injury as other assaults. I’d think assaults with firearms are much more likely to cause injury. In fact, unless they count shooting and missing as an assault (and they well might), I’d think virtually every assault with a firearm would cause injury. That would make the number of firearm injuries closer to 1933.

True. Although I expect the concerns of the citizens in those high-crime areas are more concentrated on “Will I, a innocent albeit poor person be confused for one of those notorious repeat offenders and be treated, like them, to a perhaps gratuitous bullet.” Couple that with “stop and frisk” programs and you have a recipe for very corrosive and tense police/citizen relations.

To be sure that’s somewhat offset by the instant community outrage when somebody is shot during a traffic stop. Then only later does it emerge that they were stopped while fleeing from the armed robbery they had just committed.

Yes, certainly - innocent civilians in high-crime areas are going to get stopped by, or otherwise have negative interactions with police, more than in the white-bread suburbs.


No. I found another table saying that a firearm assault was much less likely to result in an injury than other types of assaults. It’s among the tables on the other page I linked to.

And those tables claim that firearms assaults to cops in 2014 resulted in fewer than 88 injuries.

Which supports the contention that shooting and missing constitutes assault at least for those stats. Which also aligns with my layman’s understanding of the legal term “assault” in most common-law countries.

Yes, only 28% of assaults against officers resulted in injuries to them, according to the FBI, and 80% of the assaults were physical confrontations involving pushing, picking, punching, etc.