According to official reports, fatal police shootings approached 400 nationwide in November, 2015, an increase over the number of fatal police shootings in 2014. However, a new study estimates the real figure should be about twice what is being reported by the FBI.
A Washington Post analysis found that at least 385 people were killed by police nationwide from January to May, 2015. That is more than twice the rate of fatal killings reported by the federal government over the past decade. Federal officials admit their count is incomplete. Most reporting is voluntary, and since 2011, less than 3% of the nation’s 18,000 state and local police agencies have reported fatal shootings by their officers to the FBI.
Using interviews, police reports, local news accounts, and other sources, the Washington Post is developing a database of every fatal shooting by police in 2015. The database also includes every officer killed by gunfire in the line of duty.
Some findings from the Post study include the following. About half the victims were white, half were minority. Among unarmed victims, two-thirds were black or Hispanic. When adjusted for the population of the area where the shootings occurred, blacks were killed at three times the rate of whites or other minorities. More than 80% of the victims were armed with potentially lethal objects; 16% were either carrying a toy or were unarmed. Nearly 25% of the victims were identified as mentally ill. Most of the victims were low-income. Ages of the victims ranged from 16 to 83.
Jim Bueermann is president of Police Foundation, a non-profit organization that is dedicated to improving law enforcement. Bueermann says, “Police shootings are grossly under-reported. We are never going to reduce the number of police shootings if we don’t begin to accurately track this information”.