On-duty police officers shot and killed 1,017 people in 2021, The Washington Post reported in its update Tuesday (March 2) to a database started in 2015. And as in previous years, the newspaper found that officers shot and killed Black people disproportionately higher than other racial and ethnic groups.
The fatal 2014 police shooting of Michael Brown, an unarmed Black man in Ferguson, Mo., prompted the Post to begin compiling the data. It turned out that the FBI was undercounting fatal police shootings by more than half because police departments were not required to report that information. Since then, the newspaper compiled a list of more than 5,000 fatal shootings, based on available police reports, news stories and social media postings.
“The rate at which Black Americans are killed by police is more than twice as high as the rate for white Americans,” according to the Post. The data shows that police killed 38 per million Blacks compared to 15 per million whites, even though Blacks account for only 13 percent of the population. Hispanics were also disproportionately killed at 28 per million.
At the same time, police officers rarely face arrest or criminal charges in fatal shooting incidents–even in high-profile incidents, CNN reports. The reasons for this lack of accountability include laws that protect an officer’s right to use force, conflicted prosecutors and powerful police unions.
"It's rare because the juries are very reluctant to second guess and judge the actions of on-duty police officers in violent street encounters," said Philip Matthew Stinson, a Bowling Green State University criminal justice professor who tracks data on police crimes.
Police officers have consistently shot and killed roughly 1,000 people annually, and “the overall demographics of the victims have remained relatively constant.” Men account for more than 95 percent of fatal shootings, and more than half are between 20 and 40 years old.
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