Police Killings in the United States Closing In on 1100 in 2015 Alone, African-Americans Twice as Likely to Die

© Patrick Semansky/AP Police stand in formation as a curfew approaches, Tuesday, April 28, 2015, in Baltimore, a day after unrest that occurred following Freddie Gray's funeral. Patrick Semansky/AP
© Patrick Semansky/AP Police stand in formation as a curfew approaches, Tuesday, April 28, 2015, in Baltimore, a day after unrest that occurred following Freddie Gray’s funeral. Patrick Semansky/AP

Police in the United States are killing people at a rate that would result in 1,100 fatalities by the end of this year, according to a Guardian investigation, which recorded an average of three people killed per day during the first half of 2015. 

The Counted, a project working to report and crowdsource names and a series of other data on every death caused by law enforcement in the US this year, found that 547 people had been killed by the end of June.

In total 478 of those people were shot and killed, while 31 died after being shocked by a Taser, 16 died after being struck by police vehicles, and 19 – including 25-year-old Freddie Gray in Baltimore – have died after altercations in police custody.

When adjusted to accurately reflect the US population, the totals indicate that black people are being killed by police at more than twice the rate of white and Hispanic/Latino people. Black people killed by police were also significantly more likely to have been unarmed.

Brittany Packnett, an activist and member of Barack Obama’s influential Task Force on 21st Century Policing, described the continued disproportionate killing of unarmed black Americans as “appalling”.

“It is something we should be deeply ashamed of and committed to changing urgently because it is very literally a life-or-death situation for so many people, and many of those people look like me,” Packnett said on Tuesday.

The US government does not currently keep a comprehensive record of people killed by police. Instead the FBI runs a voluntary program for law enforcement agencies to submit numbers of “justified homicides” if they choose.

When the federal government last published a full year’s worth of data, it found 461 “justifiable homicides” by law enforcement for the entirety of 2013; at the current crude rate, the Guardian’s count has law enforcement on track to kill 1,109 people in 2015.

Forecasting how the total number of officer-involved deaths will stand at the end of 2015 and how this compares with past years is complicated by the fact that a comprehensive count for an entire year, taking into account seasonal changes and other variables, has not yet been produced.

Over a period spanning from 2003 to 2009 and 2011, the FBI counted 383 such homicides as an annual average. The actual average, as estimated by a March study from the Bureau of Labor Statistics which even that agency’s accountability researchers admit is incomplete, was 928.

Related: By the numbers: US police kill more in days than other countries do in years

A major recommendation made by Obama’s policing taskforce was a call for the federal government to start collecting more complete numbers.

Click here to read more

Source: The Guardian | Oliver Laughland, Jon Swaine and Jamiles Lartey in New York

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