Officer-involved shootings of civilians in Texas have not only increased over the past four years, but survival rates of victims dropped below 50 percent, according to a data analysis by the Texas Justice Initiative (TJI).
Clear racial trends were also shown in the data. Despite state-wide numbers showing more white people are shot by police in Texas overall, in the states’ five most populous counties, black people were shot at a disproportionate rate between 2016-2019.
The data was released as Texas faces a surge of calls for police reform, including defunding. Several notorious use-of-force incidents in Texas have made national headlines, including the fatal 2019 shooting of 26-year-old Botham Jean, an African-American accountant, in his Dallas apartment by a police officer who mistook his apartment for hers. The white officer, Amber Guyger, was convicted of murder.
One example of the disproportionality is Harris County, which includes the city of Houston and is the third most populous county in the U.S. African Americans in Harris County account for just 18.5 percent of the county population, yet represent 48.5 percent of those shot.
In 2019, Hispanic civilians were shot more often overall, as well as more often fatally.
The shooting figures suggest a downward trend. While there was a 14.4 percent increase in civilians shot during officer-involved shootings in 2019 compared to 2018, there was a 25.9 percent increase between 2017 and 2018.
The civilian survival rate, on the other hand, decreased from 52.8 percent in 2016 to 41.6 percent in 2019, despite a less-than-one-percent increase from 2018 to 2019.
The data was based on statistics compiled by the Texas Office of the Attorney General, as well as figures from the U.S. Census Bureau and the Texas Department of State Health Services.
Other findings from TGI’s analysis include the fact that officers had a pretty consistent almost-doubled survival rate of such instances throughout the four years analysed.
White people were also not shot the most in officer-involved shootings statewide every year. In 2019, Hispanic civilians were shot more often overall, as well as more often fatally.
Of those shot by law enforcement in the most-populated counties of Texas, women accounted for only 7 percent.
When looking at male civilian deaths in officer-involved shootings in the five most populated counties compared to mortality data, there was an overrepresentation of nonwhite people.
One example: In Bexar County, Hispanics accounted for 45.1 percent of deaths in the general population, but 70.6 percent of civilians killed in officer-involved shootings.”
Another population overrepresented when comparing people who lost their lives in officer-involved shootings is young Black men, more specifically, those aged 15 through 24. They were found to be overrepresented at the rate of 2.96.
“This disparity disappears in the older categories (e.g., ages 45-54 and 55-64),” the study said.
The authors of the report said that deeper statistical information from participating agencies would help point the way to remedies.
“For example, details on the type of incident that led to the shooting and the weapons used by civilians who are labeled as “armed,” would be helpful in determining why civilians are being confronted by law enforcement in the first place, and why law enforcement officers choose to discharge their weapons over other options including de-escalation tactics,” they wrote.
The full study and related tables can be downloaded here.
Laura Bowen is a TCR news reporting intern.