25 Numbers That Show Police Killings Are A Bigger Problem Than We Ever Thought

25 Numbers That Show Police Killings Are A Bigger Problem Than We Ever Thought
Kenneth Harding Jr., an unarmed African-American man who was shot by San Francisco police officers and left to die

AFRICANGLOBE – Two comprehensive reports published since Saturday provide new information about police killings in the United States, filling a void left by the lack of a national standard for reporting the use of deadly force.

The Washington Post on Saturday published an analysis of 2015 fatal police shootings through May 29, citing “interviews, police reports, local news accounts and other sources.” The Post’s data included basic information about victims’ race, age and gender, as well as whether the person was armed or had other circumstances that led to being shot by police.

The Guardian on Monday published the results of its investigation into all 2015 police killings through the end of May. The project, called The Counted, included deaths in which police officers killed citizens by means other than gunshots, including Taser stun guns and vehicle crashes. The news organization also counted deaths of people following altercations in custody. That would include Freddie Gray’s death in Baltimore in April. The Guardian sourced its data to public records, local news reports and original reporting.

The two reports contain minor statistical discrepancies, but provide a much-needed factual basis for the debate over police use of deadly force, misconduct, transparency and reform.

The use of lethal force by law enforcement rose to the national discourse following the fatal police shooting of 18-year-old Michael Brown in Ferguson, Missouri, in August. Many people pointed out that it was nearly impossible to gauge the size and scope of the issue because there is no national mechanism to keep track of police killings. Federal statistics intended to monitor police killings only include “justifiable homicides.” And that number, incomplete as it may be, relies on the uniform crime reporting program of data that police departments voluntarily provide to the FBI.

Independent groups have mounted efforts to record a more complete picture of police killings, and it appears that both news organization reports have built upon these attempts.

Below, some most important data points from the reports. Read the Post’s article here, and The Guardian’s here.



Number of people killed by police from Jan. 1 to May 31, according to The Guardian.



Average number people killed by police every day in the U.S. in 2015, according to The Guardian.



Number of people killed by police in shootings as of May 30, according to the Post, at a rate of about 2.5 each day. The Guardian tallied 408 people fatally shot by police in 2015.



Average number of people killed by police each day in 2015, according to FBI data. According to this incomplete count, police kill an average of about 400 each year, with 461 justified homicides in all of 2013. Both the Post and The Guardian suggest that the actual number of police killings is more than twice that, at least to this point in 2015.


Less than 3 percent

Percentage of the nation’s 18,000 state and local police agencies that have reported fatal shootings by their officers to the FBI, according to the Post.



Rate at which black citizens were fatally shot by police this year, compared with whites and other races when adjusting by the population of the census tracts where shootings occurred, according to the Post. The newspaper’s database contained a total of 100 black people killed, compared with 171 white, 54 Hispanic, six Asian, three “other,” and 31 unknown.



Number of women shot to death by police in the first five months of 2015, according to the Post. The Guardian reported that 5 percent of the 464 total people killed by police were female.



Number of unarmed citizens killed by police by all means this year, according to The Guardian. The Post placed the number of unarmed people shot to death by police at 49.


32 percent

Percentage of black people who were unarmed when they were killed by police, according to The Guardian. The paper reported that black Americans were more than twice as likely to be unarmed when killed during encounters with police as white people.


62.7 percent

Percentage of unarmed victims who were minorities, according to The Guardian.


20 percent

Percentage of unarmed people fatally shot by police while fleeing, according to the Post. This included Walter Scott, a 50-year-old black man fatally shot by South Charleston, South Carolina, police officer Michael Slager in April. The shooting was captured in a widely circulated video. Slager has been charged with murder.


Less than 1 percent

Percentage of police shooting cases in which officers have been charged, according to the Post.


Part Two