by BAR editor and columnist, Dr. Marsha Coleman-Adebayo
The federal government has never gathered meaningful statistics on police killings of civilians. Now the Washington Post has begun an ongoing examination of deaths at the hands of police, in cooperation with two existing web sites that have tried valiantly to fill in the gap. The Post’s count shows “385 people were shot and killed by police nationwide during the first five months of this year, more than two a day.”
Mass Protests Trigger Washington Post Study of Police Killings
by BAR editor and columnist Dr. Marsha Coleman-Adebayo
“Police will have shot and killed nearly 1,000 people by the end of the year.”
The Washington Post is conducting an ongoing national examination of police shootings by law enforcement. In a recent article entitled “Fatal Police Shootings in 2015 Approaching 400 Nationwide,” the Post outlines the goals of this study to: “track every fatal shooting by an on-duty law enforcement official nationwide since January (2015) as well as the number of officers who were fatally shot in the line of duty.” It’s important to note that a major methodological flaw of this study is that it does not capture the murders of young Black men, such as 18 year-old St. Louis resident Vonderrit Myers, who was killed by an off-duty policeman.
In conducting this study, the Post utilized news reports, the internet and police records. A database was compiled by the Post with information about each incident, including the deceased’s age, race, gender, location and general circumstances. The Post also noted whether police reported that the person was armed and, if so, with what type of weapon. In addition, the paper analyzed a decade of FBI and CDC records as part of the study, while noting that “the data of the two federal agencies… is incomplete.”
According to the study, 385 people were shot and killed by police nationwide during the first five months of this year, more than two a day. This figure represents twice the rate of fatal police shootings calculated by the federal government over the last 10 years. Nevertheless, only three of the 385 fatal shootings have resulted in an officer being charged with a crime — less than 1 percent.
“Among the unarmed victims of police homicide 67% are African-American and Hispanic.”
However, a breakdown of the 385 people killed by police in 5 months reveals that 171 victims were white, 100 victims were Black and 54 were Hispanic. Blacks (African-Americans and people of African descent that do not identify as African-Americans) represent 14% of the US population but account for 30.7% of victims of police homicide. Hispanics, according to the 2013 Census, represent 17% of the US population and account for 16.6% of police killings. Therefore, Blacks, compared to other populations, are being killed disproportionately to any other ethnic group in the US. However, among the unarmed victims of police homicide 67% are African-American and Hispanic.
FBI reporting on the escalating deaths of Black men, boys and women is conducted on a voluntary basis. According to this study, since 2011 “less than 3% of the nation’s 18,000 state and local police agencies have reported fatal shootings by their officers to the FBI.” This gap in information may account for an inexcusable lack of data by the FBI that shows only about “400 police shootings a year – an average of 1.1 death per day.” However, the FBI quote of 1.1 death per day of African-Americans at the hands of police is consistent with a 2012 “Operation Ghetto Storm” report published by the Malcolm X Grassroots Committee that ignited the conversation when it exposed that every 28 hours, “someone inside the United States, employed or protected by the U.S. government kills a Black child, woman or man.”
According to the Post’s analysis, the daily death toll so far for 2015 is close to 2.6 people every day. At that pace, police will have shot and killed nearly 1,000 people by the end of the year.
Dr. Marsha Coleman-Adebayo is the author of No FEAR: A Whistleblowers Triumph over Corruption and Retaliation at the EPA. She worked at the EPA for 18 years and blew the whistle on a US multinational corporation that endangered South African vanadium mine workers. Marsha's successful lawsuit led to the introduction and passage of the first civil rights and whistleblower law of the 21st century: the Notification of Federal Employees Anti-discrimination and Retaliation Act of 2002 (No FEAR Act). She is Director of Transparency and Accountability for the Green Shadow Cabinet, serves on the Advisory Board of ExposeFacts.com.and coordinates the DC-based Hands-Up Coalition.