The Fairly Obvious Reason Police In Other Countries Kill Fewer People Than American Police Do

German police officers patrol in a terminal at the airport in Frankfurt, Germany, Monday, Jan. 19, 2015. Security concerns ac
German police officers patrol in a terminal at the airport in Frankfurt, Germany, Monday, Jan. 19, 2015. Security concerns across Europe have been heightened following the terror attacks in Paris, in which 17 people were killed. (AP Photo/Michael Probst)

In the United States this year alone, there have been more than 400 fatalities as a result of police gunshots. In Germany, there have been four.

This massive disparity is what led Christian Science Monitor writer Sara Miller Llana to investigate why the number of shots fired by police is so low in other countries around the world, and what America can learn from tactics used by police around the world to reduce violence.

"As a handful of highly publicized police shootings fray already taut relations between police and black communities in the US, experts and law enforcement authorities are searching for ways to solve a pressing social problem – and wondering whether other nations might hold lessons in how to do it," Llana writes.

Even countries with the highest crime rates in the world see significantly lower numbers of fatal deaths by police. British officers shot their guns just 51 times between 2003 and 2013. Canada averaged 12 fatal police shootings each year between 1999 and 2009. In Japan, no one has been shot by the police since 2012.

Llana attributes the difference in police shootings to U.S. gun laws, police education, training, and money.

Countries like Germany put their officers through a rigorous education program, Llana found, where they are instructed on the many alternatives to pulling out their guns, such as pepper spray and batons. Officers are trained to handle extreme pressure situations and to realize that, when they may only have a second to react, reaching for a gun is not always the answer.

In the United States, improving education requirements as well as training intensity and duration may be the place to start, Llana suggests.

"In the US, police training lasts on average 19 weeks," she writes, while "in much of Europe that would be unthinkable. In Germany, for example, police train for at least 130 weeks.


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CORRECTION: A previous version of this article misstated the police shooting statistic for Canada, stating there had been only 12 total fatal shootings by police between 1999 and 2009. Twelve is the average number of such deaths annually over that time period.