Fatal Shootings by Police Down Slightly in 2016

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The number of fatal shootings by police officers in 2016 remained virtually unchanged from 2015,  when nearly 1,000 people were killed by police, the Washington Post reports. Through Thursday, law enforcement officers fatally shot 957 people in 2016 — close to three each day — down slightly from 2015 when 991 people were shot to death by officers, according to an ongoing project by the Post. The newspaper for two years in a row documented more than twice the number of fatal shootings recorded by the FBI annually on average. As in 2015, a disproportionate number of those killed this year were black, and about a quarter involved someone who had a mental illness. In a notable shift from 2015, more of the fatal shootings last year were captured on video.

Many agencies have equipped officers with body-worn cameras, but experts say an impact on fatal shootings may take years. “Making these kinds of changes is very difficult on such a widespread scale,” said Chuck Wexler of the Police Executive Research Forum. He added, “We’re still on the front-end of the training that we’re pushing out. It may be at least six months to a year until we start to really see those numbers come down.” White males continued to be those most often killed by police, accounting for 46 percent of this year’s deaths. When adjusted by population, black males were three times as likely to die as their white counterparts. The percentage of fatal shootings of unarmed people declined in 2016, from 9 percent in 2015 to 5 percent. The consistency from 2015 to 2016 is telling, experts said. “It shows that one year wasn’t an anomaly,” said criminologist Geoff Alpert of the the University of South Carolina. “It’s a very robust number that is something we can trust in the future and a good measure to see when things do change.”

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