For the third year in a row, police nationwide shot and killed nearly 1,000 people, which the Washington Post calls “a grim annual tally that has persisted despite widespread public scrutiny of officers’ use of fatal force.” Police fatally shot 987 people last year, or two dozen more than they killed in 2016, found a Post database project that tracks the fatal shootings.
Since 2015, The Post has logged the details of 2,945 shooting deaths, culled from local news coverage, public records and social-media reports. While many of the year-to-year patterns are consistent, the number of unarmed black males killed in 2017 declined from two years ago. Last year, police killed 19, a figure tracking closely the 17 killed in 2016. In 2015, police shot and killed 36 unarmed black males.
Some experts believe the tally may correspond to the number of times police encounter people, an outcome of statistical probability. Others are exploring whether the number tracks with overall violence in U.S. society. “The numbers indicate that this is not a trend, but a robust measure of these shootings,” said criminologist Geoff Alpert of the the University of South Carolina. “We now have information on almost 3,000 shootings, and we can start looking to provide the public with a better understanding of fatal officer-involved shootings.”
Scrutiny of shootings by police began after the unarmed black teenager Michael Brown was shot in Ferguson, Mo., in August 2014. The attention may have helped police reduce the number of unarmed people shot and killed each year. Officers fatally shot 94 unarmed people in 2015, but that number has been lower in the past two years, with 51 killed in 2016 and 68 in 2017. Black males continue to be shot at disproportionately high rates.