Police

US Police Have Killed 1,000 People (And Counting) This Year

The Guardian and other sites are collecting the data on deadly force that the government won't.

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1,000
Wikimedia Commons

A man who allegedly pointed a replica gun at police in Oakland, CA was shot and killed this Sunday after "several officers discharged their weapons without exchanging words," according to the Los Angeles Times.

The Guardian reports that this man (whose name has not been released) was the 1,000th person killed by police in the US this year:

Sunday's incident was the 883rd fatal shooting by a law enforcement officer so far in 2015, according to the Guardian's records. Another 47 people died after being shocked with an officer's Taser, 33 died after being struck by a law enforcement officer's vehicle, and 36 were killed in custody. Another received a deadly blow to the head during a fight with an officer.

As Reason has noted frequently, no national database exists to accurately determine the number of people killed by police, but The Guardian and sites such as Killed By Police and Fatal Encounters have stepped up to do the work that should be done by the federal government, a discrepancy which FBI Director James Comey correctly described as "embarrassing."

As noted in the Washington Post:

"It is unacceptable that The Washington Post and the Guardian newspaper from the U.K. are becoming the lead source of information about violent encounters between police and civilians. That is not good for anybody," he said.

"You can get online today and figure out how many tickets were sold to 'The Martian,' which I saw this weekend. .?.?. The CDC can do the same with the flu," he continued. "It's ridiculous — it's embarrassing and ridiculous — that we can't talk about crime in the same way, especially in the high-stakes incidents when your officers have to use force."

The Guardian describes its interactive database, which they call "The Counted," and briefly analyzes the data they've uncovered:

An analysis of the statistics collected so far found the rate of deaths currently stands at 3.1 per day. This rate has remained relatively steady throughout the year, peaking through the month of March to a daily rate of almost four and dipping to an average of 2.6 through June.

The Counted was launched on 1 June, logging 464 deaths in the year to that point. At that time 102 or 22% of those killed had been unarmed. This proportion has since fallen slightly to 20% or 198 of the total 1,000. In 59 deaths, however, it remains unclear whether the suspect was armed.

Killed By Police puts the current 2015 tally of deaths at the hands of US law enforcement at 1,039, whereas Fatal Encounters has presently confirmed 957 deaths.

I asked D. Brian Burghart, the publisher of Fatal Encounters, why the discrepancy in the numbers and he explained to me in an email that the fact-checking mechanisms of the three sites differ, as do some of the criteria. For instance, The Guardian does not include "suicides that happen during interactions with law enforcement," but Burghart's site does. Conversely, The Guardian includes some deaths that occur once a person has been incarcerated, but Fatal Encounters does not.

Regardless of the methodology, the numbers are strikingly similar, and however grim the details may be, it's heartening that the public now has a pretty good indication of the levels of deadly force used by agents of the state. 

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  1. Good shoots.

    At least the officers got home safely to their families.

    We are WINNING!

    Booyah!

    hth

    1. Oh, um –

      NEEDS MOAR TRAINING

      Not experts in everything

      Thin Blue LIne?
      #WarOnCops

      #BlueLivesMatter_(morethanyours)

    2. Good shoots.

      1,000 good shoots totaling 80,000 collective hours of paid leave.

  2. FIFTY FIVE TIMES MORE LIKELY!!!!!

  3. If the guy pointed what appeared to be a firearm at other people he deserved to be shot.

    1. What harm did he cause that merited a summary death sentence?

      1. Disrespecting authority is sufficient cause for execution without trial.

      2. None, because he got shot.

      3. Threats of force violate the NAP too.

      4. I suppose you want the thugs to be able to get off one good shot (two? three?) before the police can fire.

        Look, if you point a gun at a cop the cop will empty his gun into you. Simple. Don’t try it.

    2. Yeah, I can’t tell if the labels on my sarc meter and poe meter got switched, but this doesn’t jive very well with my defense of 2A from people who are sure that scary black guns kill people simply by virtue of the fact that they’re scary and black, with things that go up.

      1. The thing that goes up is the baby-seeking device.

        1. I thought that belonged to the Bishop of Bath and Wells.

      2. When someone intentionally points a firearm at you they are threatening to kill you.

    3. If the guy pointed what appeared to be a firearm at other people he deserved to be shot.

      You going to apply this standard to the police themselves?

      … it really will be the “most dangerous” profession!

  4. “especially in the high-stakes incidents when your officers have to use force.”

    HAVE TO

  5. The Counted was launched on 1 June, logging 464 deaths in the year to that point. At that time 102 or 22% of those killed had been unarmed. This proportion has since fallen slightly to 20% or 198 of the total 1,000. In 59 deaths, however, it remains unclear whether the suspect was armed.

    At an absolute minimum, then 198 people were killed by cops when the cops were in no danger whatsoever.

    If Dunphy drops by, I wonder if he would mind telling us where the 198 manslaughter trials were held.

    1. Did you ever think of that maybe the cops managed to stop 198 White Lotus Kung Fu Masters from performing the Five Point Palm Exploding Heart technique?

      1. I would call the cops pussies, but I have seen how ferocious kittens can be.

      2. Look, Hugh, they really had to kill Bill.

    2. At an absolute minimum, then 198 people were killed by cops when the cops were in no danger whatsoever.

      Not true. See Michael Brown.

    3. the cops were in no danger whatsoever

      Don’t overstate the case. Unarmed people can be a threat — for example, around 1 in 20 homicide victims are beaten or strangled by an unarmed assailant.

  6. have stepped up to do the work that should be done by the federal government

    WHAT THE HELL??? Since when did Reason go all Roosevelt (pick one)?

    Oh yea, Cosmotarian magazine of record.

    1. You obviously have a better idea of who is better equipped to track police use of force. Don’t keep it to yourself.

      1. Comrade, since the FBI should not exist, I will go with the free market of data collectors and sellers.

        1. With privately-enforced subpoenas to collect data from recalcitrant PDs, no doubt.

          1. Your method is the one with the secret, or intentionally uncollected data, not mine. Maybe one day someone will create a device that can look through every news report in the US and compile it into a concise accounting. I wonder what one would call such an invention…

            1. You realize of course that most news stories rely on police reports and press releases for their details?

              1. So, according to you, the only people who could possibly report a police shooting is the police. I disagree.

  7. And how many dogs?

    1. The real question is:

      How many Syrian refugees, amirite?

    2. I am pretty sure that didn’t start in 1972, but I hear that Balko is still on the case.

  8. Only a thousand people? Talk about overblown issue. After all, people die in car accidents all the time, so clearly this isn’t a problem. God knows that we can’t address any issue unless its death rate is higher than that of car accidents, for some reason.

    And anyone who disagrees with me is a racist, since black cops exist and being a cop, much like belonging to a religion that promotes violence and political supremacy, can’t really be considered a choice. It’s our moral duty to support cops, and that means that these exceedingly rare (less than the number of car accident deaths, remember that) incidents are just the price we have to pay to do the right thing. There are no other solutions, nor is anything else worth considering outside of the narrow and poorly-thought point that supporting the police is a moral imperative.

    Oh, and the tax dollars going their way? Totally libertarian.

    1. The answer is to repeal LEOBOR and LEOPA laws, to break or at least heavily reduce the stranglehood of public sector unions, and to abolish or at least curtail such misbegotten legal ideas as “civil forfeiture”, “qualified immunity”, and “parallel construction”.

  9. They got a month and a half to go!

  10. Out of a thousand cases where a non-cop kills someone and claims self defense, how many people are charged with a crime?

    How many of the cops involved in these deaths were charged with a crime?

    I’m sure the gulf between the two is much wider than can be explained by training or any other similar bullshit.

  11. Can we compare annual US mass shooting deaths to terrorist/workplace violence deaths to police shootings? Whichever two are the lowest everyone will have to stop caring about. Then all attention can be focused on the biggest killer. Whatever that might be…

  12. If this is the real number, there is a serious problem – not just the fact that a thousand are killed, but over recent years the number of unarmed people killed by police has been around 450-ish according to the FBI numbers. That would mean over 1/3 of all people killed by police were unarmed at the time.

    Unless there is something big that I’m missing, this should be a huge red flag for the American people about the training and use of force policies of our police departments. There is just no justification for this kind of ratio.

    And it should also underscore just how bad the “we need more gun control” answer to the problem is. With around 40% of Americans having a gun, that’s way, way too high of a percentage of people killed by police being unarmed. Not to mention the fact that “armed” means they had a gun or a gun was in the car, not even that they brandished the weapon.

    1. I’d be curious to know how many of these encounters were preceded by a report of an actual felony that was in progress.

      1. Three high-profile killings (Brown, Rice, Garner) weren’t.

        I’m going on the contemporaneous statement of the guy who killed Brown that he didn’t know about the robbery, not his later, coached, statement that he did.

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