How Many People are Killed by Police in U.S.? Who Knows?

All Gov – by Steve Straehley

 Here’s a pitch for a procedural: Cops track down the number of police shootings in the United States in a given year. Why should that require any detective work? It’s that there are currently no national statistics on how many people are shot by police each year.

In some areas, such as Los Angeles, New York City, Philadelphia and Massachusetts, police shootings have increased, according to a report in Salon. Whether those numbers can be extrapolated to a national trend is not known though. Police departments are not required to release data on how many civilians are shot by officers each year and many don’t.  

police-brutality_small How Many People are Killed by Police in U.S.? Who Knows?

Some observers believe that there are more police shootings than there had been five or 10 years ago. Those who want to hold police accountable are stymied by the lack of nationwide statistics on the issue.

So, we’re left to try to find the information on our own. Jim Fisher tried in 2012. According to his True Crime blog, in 2011, 1,146 people were shot by police, with 607 killed. To come up with those numbers, Fisher scoured the Internet for data about every shooting that year. But that system is not comprehensive.

What statistics there are do show that police shootings often involve racial minorities, those with mental illnesses and sometimes victims who fall into both categories.  For instance, there were 57 police shootings in Chicago in 2012, according to the city. Fifty of those shot were African-American. A review of police shootings in Maine by the Portland Press Herald/Maine Sunday Telegram showed that between 2000 and 2012, 57 people were shot by police in Maine. Of those, at least 24 of the shootings involved victims with mental health issues.

Police shootings may be on the rise because of state laws that empower more firearm use by citizens. Indiana passed a law in 2012 that allowed people to use deadly force against public servants, including law enforcement officers, who illegally enter their homes. Of course, police have no way of knowing whether the occupant of a home thinks the authorities are there legally, so some officers are nervous. “It’s just a recipe for disaster,” Indiana State Fraternal Order of Police president Tim Downs told Bloomberg News. “It just puts a bounty on our heads.”

-Steve Straehley