The Potluck

Minnesota averages 30 deaths per year during law enforcement encounters

By: - January 3, 2023 1:29 pm

A Minnesota Department of Health report found about 30 fatalities occur annually during law enforcement service calls and encounters in Minnesota. Photo by Chad Davis

A new Minnesota Department of Health report found 177 fatalities occurred during law enforcement service calls and encounters from 2016 to 2021 — an average of 30 deaths per year.

Forty-five percent were due to use of force, 31% were suicides, 22% were accidents and the remaining 3% were undetermined.

Of the deaths, 120 resulted from gunshot wounds and 44 from car crashes. The remaining 13 deaths included two drownings, two restraints, two falls, one stabbing and six medical emergencies. 

The analysis also found racial disparities: Though most encounters (109) involved white Minnesotans, Black people were about 4.5 times as likely as white people to be involved in a fatal encounter. American Indians were 5.7 times as likely.

The health department created the report by combining data from the Bureau of Criminal Apprehension’s Use of Force Data, death certificates, the National Violent Death Reporting System, and the online Fatal Encounters database. The study did not include deaths occurring in prisons or jails.

“When a death occurs during an encounter with law enforcement, we know there are effects for the person who lost their life, others involved, families, and communities,” outgoing Minnesota Commissioner of Health Jan Malcolm said in a press release. 

The report is a starting point for finding solutions to prevent deaths among civilians and officers, Malcolm said.

MDH wants to take a public health approach to the issue, including convening a committee of stakeholders and experts who would meet to use public health tools to identify patterns and make recommendations to prevent future deaths. 

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Deena Winter
Deena Winter

Deena Winter has covered local and state government in four states over the past three decades, with stints at the Bismarck Tribune in North Dakota, as a correspondent for the Denver Post, city hall reporter in Lincoln, Nebraska, and regional editor for Southwest News in the western Minneapolis suburbs. Before joining the staff of the Reformer in 2021 she was a contributor to the Wall Street Journal and the New York Times. She and her husband have a daughter, son, and very grand child. In her spare time, she likes to play tennis, jog, garden and attempt to check out all the best restaurants in the metro area.

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