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Police Killings Near Grisly Milestone

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By Christopher Coble, Esq. on November 04, 2015 5:59 AM

As of 5:00 PM Eastern Standard Time on November 2, a total of 999 people have been killed by police in the year 2015. And even if that total reaches 1,000 before December 31st, it will still trail last year's number of 1,108.

Fatal police interactions have been hard to track until very recently, but KilledByPolice.net and the Washington Post have started to compile databases of police killings and analyzing the data. And several high-profile homicides in the last two years have focused the media's attention on an overwhelming but previously under-reported policing issue.

The Data

The Washington Post's data is limited to police shootings and, as of this posting, lists 827 victims thus far. Their comprehensive data can be sorted by date and location, the victim's gender, race, and age, and other factors like whether the victim had a weapon, whether he or she showed signs of mental illness, and the level of threat involved. The data also show the frequency of shootings in relation to a state's overall population, with New Mexico, Oklahoma, and Wyoming having the highest rates of fatal police shootings.

The Killed By Police list has fewer searchable details, but lists the state where it occurred, the gender, race, and age of victims, and links to news stories for each death. The list also includes non-firearm police homicides, like Calvon Reid, who was tased to death after an elderly couple called 911 to get him medical attention.

The Solution

There seem to be few answers to the problem. Some were deemed justifiable. Some were charged as murder. Some advocate community policing in order to diffuse tensions between police and the communities they serve. Some advocate body cameras for officers to have more accurate information about police interactions. While a few shootings have sparked the #BlackLivesMatter movement, data shows that police have shot and killed almost twice the number white people than black people this year.

With the data collection in its infancy, it is difficult to draw hard and fast conclusions about what needs to be done.

[UPDATE: A refresh of KilledByPolice.net shows that the list hit the 1,000 mark in the time it took to write this post.]

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