How Many People are Killed by Police? Crowdsourcing Identifies the Officer-Involved Killings Government Doesn’t Count

Monday, February 02, 2015
54-year-old former prison guard Bernard Bailey (R) was shot to death while unarmed by Richard Combs (L), former police chief of Eutawville, South Carolina

A Mother Jones story by Jaeah Lee last August didn’t have an answer to the question posed in its headline: “Exactly How Often Do Police Shoot Unarmed Black Men?” So it painted a portrait using anecdotes and tangentially-related statistics.


U.S. Attorney General Eric Holder acknowledged two weeks ago that there is no answer. “The troubling reality is that we lack the ability right now to comprehensively track the number of incidents of either uses of force directed at police officers or uses of force by police,” he said in a speech honoring Martin Luther King, Jr.


It’s the lack of the latter that concerns Americans who suspect a widespread, systemic problem with how white police officers treat people of color. The Federal Bureau of Investigation (FBI) collects a lot of crime data from cities, counties and states, but does not ask law enforcement who they are killing and why.


What information is known at the various levels of government is often self-reported and unreliable. The federal government’s best information identifies around 400 “justifiable homicides” by police per year. But that is woefully lacking.


While governments get ready to possibly gather that information, the website Killed by Police is attempting to fill the gap by crowdsourcing the question through Facebook.


The site gathers “corporate news reports of people killed by nonmilitary law enforcement officers, whether in the line of duty or not, and regardless of reason or method. Inclusion implies neither wrongdoing nor justification on the part of the person killed or the officer involved. The post merely documents the occurrence of a death.”


The acclaimed statistically-oriented favorably vetted the numbers. Killed by Police isn’t the only website gathering the data. Fatal Encounters, the Gun Violence Archive and Deadspin are among other sites that have crowdsourced a plea to gather the information that government should have, but does not. None of them are comprehensive.

-Ken Broder


To Learn More:

Police Killed at Least 150 People in California Last Year (by Matthew Green, KQED)

Holder: We Need Better Data on Police Shootings and Officer Deaths (by Mark Berman, Washington Post)

Exactly How Often Do Police Shoot Unarmed Black Men? (by Jaeah Lee, Mother Jones)

Another (Much Higher) Count of Homicides by Police (by Reuben Fischer-Baum and Al Johri, FiveThirtyEight)

How Many People are Killed by Police in U.S.? Who Knows? (by Steve Straehley, AllGov)


Mr Parker 9 years ago
We don't need to record such numbers because we all know that the police are above the law like the judges,bankers and pedophile politicians. The pay back when we gain control back will be massive and police officers who get away with murder today will find cases re-opened and they can kiss goodbye to getting any pensions that are paid for by public taxes. First they come for the blacks, i did nothing and then they come for the whites !
anonamouse 9 years ago
There are a few certainties in life: death, taxes, climate change of course, and a declaration that the killing of a civilian by a cop was "justifiable homocide" --- those are about it. ...
Nathan 9 years ago
Patriot Intel Project - Tracks news media reports and uses social media analytics to build a database of Police/Civilian Violence. Check it out.

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