June 24 (UPI) -- A four-year analysis released Wednesday shows that black Americans were, on average, more than three times as likely as white people to be killed during a police encounter.
The study by researchers at the Harvard T.H. Chan School of Public Health examined 5,494 police-related deaths in the United States between 2013 and 2017 and found disparities across the two racial groups in all metropolitan statistical areas that provided race/ethnicity data.
Among all MSAs, the analysis found, black people were 3.23 times as likely to be killed by police than white people. Among MSAs, researchers said the figures "varied greatly."
At the low end, black deaths in the Atlanta-Sandy Springs-Roswell, Ga., area were 1.81 times greater than white deaths. That figure rose to 6.51 in the MSA with the highest level of disparity -- Chicago-Naperville-Elgin, Ill.
MSAs that showed "more extreme" disparities between the number of black and white people killed in police encounters tended to have lower rates of police-related fatalities in general, according to the analysis.
According to the study, the areas with the highest death rates involving police compared to population were:
-- Anniston-Oxford-Jacksonville, Ala. (1.17 per 100,000)
-- Farmington, N.M. (1.01 per 100,000)
-- Bakersfield, Calif. (1.01 per 100,000)
-- Billings, Mont. (1.01 per 100,000)
-- Pueblo, Colo. (0.95 per 100,000)
-- Oklahoma City (0.93 per 100,000)
-- Albuquerque (0.92 per 100,000)
-- Anchorage, Alaska (0.92 per 100,000)
-- Tulsa, Okla. (0.88 per 100,000)
-- Las Cruces, N.M (0.86 per 100,000)
The area with the lowest rate of police-involved deaths was Buffalo-Cheektowaga-Niagara Falls, N.Y., which had a rate of 0.13 per 100,000 people.
Overall, the researchers said rates of deadly police violence were higher in the West and South than they were in the Midwest and Northeast.
"People's risk of fatal police violence varies hugely from one metro area to another; some metros have death rates nine times those of other cities, which points to how preventable these deaths are and why so many people are protesting police violence across the country," said study authors Jaquelyn Jahn and Gabriel Schwartz.
"Nationally, black people are at much higher risk of being killed by the police, but in some places the difference is truly enormous: Black Chicagoans are more than 650 percent more likely to be killed than white Chicagoans."
The researchers used data from Fatal Encounters, an independently validated database that is endorsed by the federal Bureau of Justice Statistics. Of the deaths they examined, they discounted those reported as suicides, accidents or vehicle collisions. Those that lacked race or ethnicity data -- 547 -- were excluded from race-related statistics.
The study, published in PLOS ONE, comes after weeks of protests nationwide spawned by the police-involved death of George Floyd on May 25 in Minneapolis and other police brutality cases around the country. Some activists have called for reducing or entirely cutting funding for police departments, among other proposed reforms.