As of today, June 1, a total of 477 people have been killed by police in the U.S. so far this year, but that number can easily shoot up to 478 before the day is over, considering police are killing an average of more than three people a day and so far, only two have been killed today.
At least according to the website Killed by Police, which has been tracking these incidents since May 1, 2013, determining that police killed 770 people for the remainder of that year as well as 1104 the following year, maintaining the three-a-day killings for more than two years now.
But over the weekend, the Washington Post reported that police so far have shot and killed 385 people this year, an average of more than two a day. However, the Post focused solely on deaths by shootings and not just deaths by tasers, chokeholds, beatings or the ever mysterious in-custody deaths.
Data collected by the Washington Post newspaper suggests that the number of people shot by US police is twice as high as official figures claim.
The paper said that during the first five months of this year, 385 people – more than two a day – were killed.
The number of black people was disproportionately high among the victims, especially unarmed ones.
Official statistics rely on self-reported figures from law enforcement agencies.
They suggest about 400 people have been killed each year since 2008.
Criminal justice experts note that, while the federal government and national research groups keep scads of data and statistics— on topics ranging from how many people were victims of unprovoked shark attacks (53 in 2013) to the number of hogs and pigs living on farms in the U.S. (upwards of 64,000,000 according to 2010 numbers) — there is no reliable national data on how many people are shot by police officers each year.
The government does, however, keep a database of how many officers are killed in the line of duty. In 2012, the most recent year for which FBI data is available, it was 48 – 44 of them killed with firearms.
But how many people in the United States were shot, or killed, by law enforcement officers during that year? No one knows.
In its most recent piece, the Washington Post reported that the FBI estimates 1.1 people are shot and killed by police daily.
Currently, the FBI struggles to gather the most basic data. Reporting is voluntary, and since 2011, less than 3 percent of the nation’s 18,000 state and local police agencies have reported fatal shootings by their officers to the FBI. As a result, FBI records over the past decade show only about 400 police shootings a year — an average of 1.1 deaths per day.
According to The Post’s analysis, the daily death toll so far for 2015 is close to 2.6. At that pace, police will have shot and killed nearly 1,000 people by the end of the year.
A New York Times article published on May 30 – which detailed corrupt police tactics surrounding police killings – also failed to report total police killing numbers, noting that in Florida, “fatal police shootings has tripled in the past 15 years,” while omitting the actual number of deaths.
The New York Times article did faithfully report on a number of issues surrounding police killings, noting the false police testimony about the July 2013 shooting of Jermaine McBean -where officers swore under oath that nothing prevented Mr. McBean from hearing the screaming officers, while newly discovered photographs revealed that McBean was wearing earbuds when he was shot, and the earbuds “somehow wound up in the dead man’s pocket.”
The article additionally reported that “in South Florida’s Broward County, no officer has been charged in a fatal on-duty police shooting since 1980, a period that covers 168 shooting deaths,” a fact that is likely mirrored in counties across the nation.
The New York Times article did have two other paragraphs of note:
The death of a black man struck multiple times by Coconut Creek police officers firing Taser stun guns was ruled a homicide this month by the Broward County medical examiner’s office. The death led to the resignation of the police chief, Michael Mann, in March after it was revealed that three of the four officers involved were not certified in Taser use. The family of the victim has asked the United States attorney general for an independent investigation.
The [U.S. Justice Department] confirmed it opened an inquiry last month into the 2013 death of Charles Eimers, a Michigan man who died after he was stopped for an illegal lane change in Key West. Police dashboard camera videos that could have shed light on his death were erased, even while one Taser device recording captured an officer suggesting police should get their stories straight and another by a tourist showed a vastly different event than the one the police had initially described.
Americans are being killed in record numbers by the police, and while the media are just now jumping on the story, they must stop undermining the blunt truth that comes from publishing the real data.
It’s great that the Washington Post is compiling a database of police shootings and The Guardian is also compiling a database of citizens killed by police, estimating that 464 people have been killed so far this year.
But for more corrupt police chiefs like Michael Mann to resign, and more Justice Department investigations to be opened, more people must recognize the crisis of policing in the U.S. And that recognition may very well start with the widespread knowledge of a few simple numbers.
The reality is, police in the U.S. are now killing more than three people a day, totaling to more than a thousand a year. And that figure doesn’t look like it will go down anytime soon.