How Many People are Killed by Police in U.S.? Who Knows?

Sunday, February 02, 2014

Here’s a pitch for a procedural: Cops track down the number of police shootings in the United States in a given year. Why should that require any detective work? It’s that there are currently no national statistics on how many people are shot by police each year.


In some areas, such as Los Angeles, New York City, Philadelphia and Massachusetts, police shootings have increased, according to a report in Salon. Whether those numbers can be extrapolated to a national trend is not known though. Police departments are not required to release data on how many civilians are shot by officers each year and many don’t.


Some observers believe that there are more police shootings than there had been five or 10 years ago. Those who want to hold police accountable are stymied by the lack of nationwide statistics on the issue.


So, we’re left to try to find the information on our own. Jim Fisher tried in 2012. According to his True Crime blog, in 2011, 1,146 people were shot by police, with 607 killed. To come up with those numbers, Fisher scoured the Internet for data about every shooting that year. But that system is not comprehensive.


What statistics there are do show that police shootings often involve racial minorities, those with mental illnesses and sometimes victims who fall into both categories.  For instance, there were 57 police shootings in Chicago in 2012, according to the city. Fifty of those shot were African-American. A review of police shootings in Maine by the Portland Press Herald/Maine Sunday Telegram showed that between 2000 and 2012, 57 people were shot by police in Maine. Of those, at least 24 of the shootings involved victims with mental health issues.


Police shootings may be on the rise because of state laws that empower more firearm use by citizens. Indiana passed a law in 2012 that allowed people to use deadly force against public servants, including law enforcement officers, who illegally enter their homes. Of course, police have no way of knowing whether the occupant of a home thinks the authorities are there legally, so some officers are nervous. “It’s just a recipe for disaster,” Indiana State Fraternal Order of Police president Tim Downs told Bloomberg News. “It just puts a bounty on our heads.”

-Steve Straehley


To Learn More:

“We Called for Help and they Killed our Son”: Out-of-Control Police Overreach Meets Extreme Secrecy (by David Mizner, Salon)

Police Involved Shooting Statistics: A National One-Year Summary (by Jim Fisher, Jim Fisher True Crime)

How Many People have been Killed by the Police? (by Dr. Q, Massachusetts Cop Block)

Half of People Killed by Police are Mentally Ill (by Noel Brinkerhoff, AllGov)

Indiana First State to Allow Citizens to Shoot Law Enforcement Officers (by Noel Brinkerhoff, AllGov)


becky 8 years ago
I think the problem could stem from who is being hired for the police jobs. Seems to me more and more departments are hiring young vets that come back from the wars. Seems like many vets come home with mental problems, from their experiences, and unfortunately they are being hired as police. Very Bad combination. They are trained to police a war zone and then they come back try to police a community.
JR 9 years ago
Bullshat! It took me all of about 5 minutes to find a site that listed everyone killed by police from 2009 up to present! They have every police killing listed by date and who was killed and how and why. Example police killed 593 in 2014 and 166 in 2011 They also have police brutality cases listed as a heading though I did not look at it. HER IS THE URL:
zebra 9 years ago
@chero, how about the total number of minorities shot by minorities? I bet those numbers are a hell of a lot higher than minorities killed by officers. Talk about people being killed "for no apparently reason" is that. Unless wearing the wrong color shirt counts as a reason in your book.
chero 9 years ago
statics i bet keeps up with how many law enforcers are killed by civilians but they dont keep up with how many Africian americans or minorities are fatal killed by them for no apparently reason
edward 10 years ago
Former Reagan administration member Paul Craig Roberts explains why police brutality is on the rise and what is going to happen if this is not reversed:
american citizen 10 years ago
It's not that police have to defend themselves against lunatic armed citizens. when police get a NO KNOCK warrant, then kick in the door to the wrong house without identifying themselves, the home owner has the right to defend his family, not knowing they are police, then police are justified in killing that person because they felt threatened. then apologize to the family for the mistake. no criminal charges
Jason 10 years ago
Your saying that police shootings are on the rise because more firearm use by citizens? Actually violent gun crime is a lower than it was in years past and police shootings are up. The police are shooting people by raiding wrong houses, when someone tries to pull out a phone they are shot 16 times because it was a percieved threat. No sir, I would say you are a paid commenter trying to disarm and create a slave populace.
anonamouse 10 years ago
"Police shootings may be on the rise because of state laws that empower more firearm use by citizens." Gee, who could blame the police for defending themselves from the lunatic public? Except, it's only Indiana that's passed an "empowering" law, and there's no statistical information to support this conclusion, which apparently reflects the writer's anti-gun bias, and not much else. In fact, law enforcement remains one of the safer areas of the economy to work in, judging by per-capita death rates of policemen compared to say construction workers or cab drivers. People tend to conflate TV law enforcement with real police work; in fact, many if not most cops never have occasion to fire their guns in self-defense over the course of their entire careers.

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