Police have killed over 1,000 people in 2015, and about 20 percent of those killed were completely unarmed.
As of Monday evening, U.S. police had killed 1,024 people since the start of the year, according to The Counted, a continuously updated database of U.S. police killings maintained by The Guardian. Of the total, 203 victims of police were unarmed.
In November alone police killed 10 unarmed males, including Jamar Clark, the 24-year-old man whose death led to in ongoing protests in Minneapolis, and Jeremy Mardis, a six-year-old who was shot by police in Louisiana during a chase. (Body camera footage showed that the two officers involved in Mardis’ death fired recklessly into the car driven by Chris Few, the boy’s father, who was also injured in the incident. The two officers have been arrested.)
Despite claims America’s police forces need to be highly armed in order to defend themselves against a “war on cops,” just 34 police were fatally shot and three others died of assault in the line of duty so far this year, according to the Officer Down Memorial Page, which tracks police deaths in the United States.
Barring a sudden spate of violence in the final days of this year, police killings appear to be down from 2014, when 47 police were fatally shot in the line of duty. Radley Balko, a criminal justice blogger at the Washington Post, argued that the raw data on police fatalities is deceptive and makes this line of work seem even more dangerous than it really is. In a comparison of the number of dead officers to the total population, he noted that, “by this measure 2015 is shaping up to be the second safest year for police ever, after 2013.”
The data provided by projects such as The Counted is crucial because the federal government does not keep a comprehensive database of police killings. In October, The Guardian compared crowd-sourced data like their database with the FBI’s official data on police killings in 2014, and found that several widely-reported victims of police violence were missing from the FBI’s data, including Eric Garner, Tamir Rice and John Crawford. Of the 18,000 law enforcement agencies in the U.S., only 224 reported data to the FBI.
On Oct. 8, The Guardian quoted FBI Director James Comey lamenting that the media has better data on police killings than the government:
You can get online and figure out how many tickets were sold to The Martian … the CDC [Centers for Disease Control and Prevention] can do the same with the flu,’ he continued. ‘It’s ridiculous – embarrassing and ridiculous – that we can’t talk about crime in the same way, especially in the high-stakes incidents when your officers have to use force.”
Feature photo | A protestor stands in front of riot Police Monday, April 27, 2015, following the funeral of Freddie Gray in Baltimore. Photo | AP