The British daily newspaper The Guardian began a project called “The Counted” on June 1 to document every American killed by police this year, “monitor their demographics and to tell the stories of how they died.”
The Washington Post has also begun a similar, unnamed project. In a June 30 story, the Post reported that dozens of people “died while fleeing from police, the Post analysis shows, including a significant proportion – 20 percent – of those who were unarmed. Running is such a provocative act that police experts say there is a name for the injury officers inflict on suspects afterward: A ‘foot tax.’” The Post also reports that “less than one percent” of police officers who shoot and kill are charged with a crime.
As of this morning, July 25, 651 people had been killed by American police in 2015. The count does not include men killed by police in the Twin Peaks Massacre in Waco on May 17. According to the Guardian, “In mass shootout incidents, like the one in Waco, Texas, where police have failed to identify those who were killed by law enforcement and those killed by civilian gunfire, the Guardian has been unable to log individuals in the database. We will make every effort to include this information when more details are provided.”
The Guardian is taking pains to place the numbers it is gathering in a global context. For example, in the last 24 years there have been 55 fatal police shootings in England and Wales. There were 59 fatal police shootings in the United States in the first 24 days of this year. Iceland has had one fatal police shooting in the last 71 years. Stockton, California, which has a population smaller than Iceland’s had three fatal police shootings in the first five months of this year. Australia had 94 fatal police shootings from 1992 through 2011. The United States had 97 fatal police shootings in March. So far this year in California, police have fatally shot 106 people. Police in Texas have shot and killed 67.
The Guardian’s is the first serious effort to count the number of people gunned down by police each year in the United States. The federal government logs no comprehensive record of people killed by police. The Guardian thinks such an “accounting is a prerequisite for an informed public discussion about the use of force by police.”
The only official statistics on the number of fatal police shootings in the United States are gathered by the Federal Bureau of Investigation. The Bureau “runs a voluntary program through which law enforcement agencies may or may not choose to submit their annual count of ‘justifiable homicides.’” The FBI defines a justifiable homicide as “the killing of a felon in the line of duty.”
Between 2005 and 2012 only 1,100 of about 18,000 American police departments reported a justifiable homicide to the Bureau.
You can find the Guardian’s “The Counted” project here.
You can read the Washington Post’s June 30 story here.