Police Accountability & Oversight

Washington Post Catalogs Fatal Police Use of Force Incidents

In 2015, The Washington Post began cataloging all the deaths by a police officer in a line of duty. The database tracks extensive details about each killing – including the race of the deceased, the circumstances of the shooting, whether the person was armed and whether the person was experiencing a mental-health crisis. The emphasis on the Post’s database is on the shootings that occur when a police officer is in a line of duty and shoots and kills a civilian. These circumstances share parallels with the killing of Michael Brown in Ferguson, which prompted a wave of national protests. The Black Lives Matter movement called for accountability and justice in the police force nationwide. The data shows that police brutality is more often tied to racially motivated violence against Black Americans. The movement continues to advocate for policy changes and defunding of the police force. 

The data compiled by the Post shows that while half of the people shot and killed by authorities are White, Black Americans are shot at a disproportionate rate. Black Americans account for less than 13 percent of the U.S. population but are killed at more than double the rate of White Americans. Additionally, Hispanic Americans are killed by the police at a disproportionate rate. 

Over 95 percent of people shot and killed by police are young males. Victims are usually between the ages of 20 and 40 years old.

The data also shows that these shootings have taken place in every state. States with the highest rates of fatal shootings are New Mexico, Alaska, and Oklahoma. Shootings more frequently occur in cities where populations are concentrated.  

The database contains records of every fatal shooting in the United States since January 1, 2015. 

The Post data highlights the deep and dangerous fissures in American society. Every year, nearly 1,000 people are shot and killed by police. The database continues to be regularly updated and as of June 2021, 955 people have been shot and killed by the police.

Explore the Database: Fatal Force (washingtonpost.com)

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