Oklahoma police most deadly of all 50 states study shows

by Mike Creef, Staff Writer
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A peer-reviewed study produced by The Lancet, one of the world’s oldest and most renowned medical journals, found that Oklahoma has the highest mortality rate of police violence of all 50 states from 1980 through 2018. Oklahoma also lead in the highest rate of underreporting the killings out of all 50 states.

Official government reports misclassified or unreported about 84% of police killings in the state from 1980 to 2018, according to the study.

Back in June, the Oklahoma Advisory Committee to the U.S. Commission on Civil Rights issued an Advisory Memorandum on police practices in the state. The Committee issued the memorandum after a series of public hearings and with testimony provided by researchers, law enforcement officials, community advocates, and government officials.

Study estimates more than half of all police killings nationwide go underreported

The Lancet’s recent study involved more than 90 collaborators. It compared data from the U.S. National Vital Statistics System (NVSS), an inter-governmental system that collates all death certificates, to three open-source databases, Fatal Encounters, Mapping Police Violence, and The Counted, which collect information on fatal police violence from news reports and public record requests.

The study estimated that nationwide, more than 55% of deaths from police violence from 1980 through 2018 were misclassified or unreported. 

Additionally, Oklahoma also had the highest rate of police violence against Black people from 1980 through 2018.

Oklahoma continues to have one of the top three highest incarceration rates of any state in the U.S., according to the memorandum. In 2018, the Human Rights Watch did an in-depth investigation of policing and racial inequality in Tulsa, Oklahoma’s second-largest city; they found that Black residents are three times more likely to be arrested than White residents. The disparities persist with youth as well. Tulsa Police Department arrests Black youths at three times the rate of their White counterparts.

Brian Burghart, who runs Fatal Encounters said the researchers’ finding that most police killings are not included in official government data was “nothing very surprising.”

“I’ve seen many studies that have come to the same conclusion,” Burghart said. “In my opinion, much of the social unrest the U.S. has seen in the last few years comes as a result of not having meaningful government data regarding police violence.”

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