Sociologist dubs police killings ‘the other capital punishment’

UC Berkeley sociologist Jerome Karabel calls police shootings in the United States 'The Other Capital Punishment."

UC Berkeley sociologist Jerome Karabel refers to police shootings in the United States as “The Other Capital Punishment.”

As world attention focuses on police power in the United States following the deaths of Michael Brown, Eric Garner and Tamir Rice, UC Berkeley sociologist Jerome Karabel has published an essay in the Huffington Post titled “The Other Capital Punishment,” which he defines as “the killing of Americans by the police without benefit of charges, trial, jury or the right to appeal.”

“The state has no power more awesome than its capacity to take the lives of its citizens,” Karabel writes. “Yet if traditional capital punishment — defined as the state’s execution of a human being for the commission of a crime, real or alleged — has declined, another kind of capital punishment continues unabated.”

Between 1999 and 2013, police killings in the U.S (marked in purple) exceeded deaths by capital punishment (marked in yellow).

Between 1999 and 2013, police killings in the U.S (marked in purple) exceeded deaths by capital punishment (marked in yellow).

“This level of police violence in the United States is an extraordinary aberration among wealthy democratic countries,” Karabel goes on to say. “In Germany in 2011, there were six police killings; in England in 2013, there were none. To be sure, the United States is a much more violent society than Germany and England; in 2013 the American murder rate was five to six times higher. But this disparity hardly explains a rate of killings that the Economist estimates is 100 times greater than in Britain.”

An award-winning author whose books include The Chosen: The Hidden History of Admission and Exclusion at Harvard, Yale, and Princeton, Karabel has published pieces in the New York Times, the New York Review of Books, the Nation,  the Los Angeles Times and Le Monde Diplomatique. He is currently working on a comparative study of 20 wealthy democratic countries called Outlier Nation: The Roots and Consequences of American Distinctiveness.