US & Canada

Race, police and the US - in numbers

Police arrest a demonstrator at a protest over the death of Eric Garner in New York, 4 December Image copyright Getty Images

Black Americans are much more likely to go to prison or be shot by police than whites, statistics show.

The outpouring of anger and concern which followed the death of black men in Missouri and New York this year as they were being arrested by white police officers has again drawn attention to this imbalance.

Prison population

The proportion of black men who end up behind bars is considerably higher than the figure for white men.

Almost 3%

of the black male population of the US is in prison, compared with


of white males

Crime and punishment

African Americans make up just a small fraction of the overall population - but they account for much higher percentages of arrests, deaths related to arrests, and death row inmates.


of the US population is black

  • 28% of suspects arrested in the US in 2010 were black

  • 32% of people killed from 2003 to 2009 in arrest-related incidents were black

  • 42% of inmates on death row in 2012 were black

Unequal policing?

Some of the criticism of US policing in recent months has centred on the fact that white officers dominate forces, even in areas where they make up a minority of the population.

In Ferguson, Missouri, where Michael Brown was shot dead, nearly two-thirds of the population of 21,000 are black. Of the 53 members of the town's police force, just three are black.

The proportion is more balanced in big cities like New York, where Eric Garner died while being restrained, but whites still tend to dominate law and order.


of New York City's residents are white

  • but the average proportion of white police officers for large US cities is 56%