Mountain West Leads The Nation In Fatal Encounters With Police

Jan 20, 2021

FOR IMMEDIATE RELEASE January 20, 2021 

Kate Concannon, Mountain West News Bureau Managing Editor: 425-765-4805 

kateconcannon@boisestate.edu

BOISE, IDAHO — The Mountain West has the highest rate of fatal encounters with police in the nation. That's according to the Mountain West News Bureau's ground-breaking series "Elevated Risk," which takes a hard look at law enforcement in our region.

"Over the past year, we'd been really drilling down on community engagement, and one of the things we were hearing – anecdotally at least – was that our region seems to be a hotspot for fatal encounters with police," said Kate Concannon, managing editor. "So we decided to take a look at the data to truth-squad that. And what we found is alarming."

Over five years, an average of 7.74 people per million residents each year were killed by police in the Mountain West. Nationwide, an average of 5.48 people were killed by police per million residents each year. 

"No matter which dataset we looked at, the result was the same: People in the Mountain West are more likely to be killed by police than any other region of the U.S.," said Jordan Wirfs-Brock, data journalist. (For more on the data, visit this FAQ page).


   

This coverage was also shaped and informed by listening sessions with community members and law enforcement officers. The five-part series digs into the reasons behind the high fatal encounter rate and more. 

"There are a lot of theories about why we have such high fatal encounter rates, but the most common ones boil down to this: high rates of gun ownership, poor access to mental health services and a lack of robust police training and stringent use-of-force policies," said Nate Hegy, the bureau's community engagement and roving rural reporter.

The series includes stories from across the region, and Canada: 

The Mountain West News Bureau is a collaboration between Wyoming Public Media, Boise State Public Radio in Idaho, KUNR in Nevada, the O'Connor Center for the Rocky Mountain West in Montana, KUNC in Colorado, KUNM in New Mexico with support from affiliate stations across the region. 

This project was powered by America Amplified, a public radio initiative.