Pattern of law enforcement–related injuries in the United States

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Abstract

BACKGROUND

The pattern of law enforcement–related injuries of police and civilians in the United States is unknown.

METHODS

Data were aggregated from the Federal Bureau of Investigations, the Bureau of Justice Statistics, the Centers for Disease Control (CDC) Web-based Injury Statistics Query and Reporting System, and the Nationwide Inpatient Sample (NIS) from 2003 to 2011. Law enforcement–related injuries in the CDC Web-based Injury Statistics Query and Reporting System and the NIS were identified using E-codes 970–976, which are meant to identify “injuries inflicted by the police or other law-enforcing agents, including military on duty, in the course of arresting or attempting to arrest lawbreakers, suppressing disturbances, maintaining order, and other legal action.”

RESULTS

The CDC reported a total of 715,118 nonfatal injuries and 3,156 fatal injuries from 2003 to 2011. In contrast, for the same period, the NIS identified a total of 3,958 patients, ranging from 348 to 572 per year. Among the injured, 1,548 (48.0%) were white, 866 were black (26.8%), and 605 were Hispanic (18.8%); 1,011 patients (25.5%) were injured by firearms, while 2,304 (58.2%) experienced blows or manhandling. Firearm-injured hospitalized patients are more likely to be male, black or Hispanics, and in the age group of 18 years to 39 years.

CONCLUSION

The majority of law enforcement–related injuries are among white or black young men. Hispanic patients are more likely to be injured by a firearm than struck. When injured by firearm, white and black patients are more likely to die compared with Hispanic patients. Unfortunately, data about these injuries are scattered across multiple data systems. A uniform national system to aggregate these data sources is needed to better understand the scope of the problem, for both law enforcement personnel and civilians.

LEVEL OF EVIDENCE

Epidemiologic study, level III.

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