Washington Post Investigation Finds Police Fatal Shootings at All Time High Since 2015

By Ankita Joshi and Helen Greenia

WASHINGTON, DC – In 2021, on-duty police officers shot and killed at least 1,055 people, up from 999 in 2019, and the highest recorded number since 2015, reports the Washington Post.

In 2015, the Washington Post began to document every fatal shooting by an on-duty police officer nationwide, after the death of Michael Brown, an unarmed Black man, in 2014 by police.

The resulting investigation revealed the FBI undercounted fatal police shootings by more than half due to the voluntary aspect of reporting by police departments.

And while the number of fatal police shootings is the highest it’s been in five years, data shows that police nationwide have shot and killed a consistent number of people annually—around 1,000.

“I think the data is pretty consistent that there’ve been no major changes in policing, at least in terms of these officer-involved shooting deaths,” stated Andrew Wheeler, a private-sector criminologist and data scientist.

Franklin Zimring, a law professor and criminologist at the University of California at Berkeley, said he agreed that the rise in fatal shootings from 2020 to 2021 was relatively insignificant.

Zimring added that despite the 400 bills that were introduced into state legislature following the death of George Floyd, policy “may take years to make a statistically significant difference.”

Zimring noted, “The good news is, things aren’t getting an awful lot worse…and the very bad news is that they’re not getting better, either.”

In addition to the constant state of the total number of fatal shootings by police, the demographics of those fatally shot have also stayed consistent.

The report notes, “Although half of the people shot and killed by police are White, Black Americans are killed at a much higher rate than White Americans “(because) Blacks account for less than 13 percent of the total US population.”

It was also reported that more than 95 percent of the people shot and killed by the police are young males between the ages 20 and 40 years old.

Other key findings include that shootings occur more frequently where populations are concentrated, and that states with the highest rates of shootings are New Mexico, Alaska and Oklahoma.

Methodology behind the Post’s investigation includes data collected from news accounts, social media postings, and police reports.

The data shows that only 15 percent of people shot and killed by officers were armed, 94 percent of these officers were men, and 14 percent struggled from mental health. Roughly 16 percent of people who were fatally shot were killed after policemen responded to domestic violence calls.

Last year, about 20 percent of the shootings were shown on body cameras. In 2015, when The Post first began collecting data, they found that eight percent of shootings were captured on body cameras.

However, body cams do not affect a police officer’s actions, according to a criminal justice professor at Stockton University, Nusret Sahin.

Of 1,055 people shot and killed, one percent of those people were children.

About The Author

Ankita Joshi is a second-year student at the University of San Francisco, pursuing a major in International Studies and a minor in Political Science. She is originally from Sacramento, CA.

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