No one was keeping track of police shootings in Florida, the third-largest state, so in 2014, the Tampa Bay Times set out to count every officer-involved shooting in Florida during a six-year period. At least 827 people were shot by police, one every 2 1/2 days. More than half, 434, were fatal. Blacks were shot at a higher rate than whites. On-duty police are almost never charged with crimes for firing, even though agencies pay millions to settle civil lawsuits, the Times reports.
Nearly a fifth of the people shot — 156 — were unarmed; no gun, no knife, no vehicle. Half of those were black, in a state where blacks make up just 15 percent of the population. Unarmed black people were nearly eight times as likely to be shot by police than were whites. One hundred twelve people shot were believed to have driven toward police officers or otherwise used a vehicle as a weapon. Most of the shootings seem justified. While millions of interactions are peaceful, we give police the authority to kill and the benefit of the doubt, and we expect them to use violence judiciously to protect the public and themselves. More often than not they do. Policing can be dangerous. In the same six years, 23 officers were killed in the state, according to the Florida Department of Law Enforcement.