The Washington Post started tracking fatal police shootings in 2015, after police shootings of unarmed Black people—and the uprisings they caused—dominated the news cycle the previous year. In an article published today (January 5), the outlet reports that its latest tally shows that police shot and killed more people in 2017 than they did in 2016.
The Post’s “Fatal Force” database logged 987 fatal police shootings last year, versus 963 in 2016 and 995 in 2015. The newspaper compiles its list using local news coverage, public records and social media reports. According to The Post, it recorded more than twice as many deadly police-involved shootings that the Federal Bureau of Investigation’s (FBI) annual average. The agency is set to debut a new system for collecting police shooting data this month, but as it will still be voluntary for law enforcement to report data, it is unclear if it will make the FBI’s reports more accurate.
The FBI reports that 46 police officers were “feloniously” killed in the line of duty in 2017, down from 66 in 2016. These numbers exclude accidents.
Here is a breakdown of the 2017 police shooting death numbers (note that the database does not include data on Native Americans, Asian American Pacific Islanders or people of Middle Eastern and North African descent):
- 987 fatal police shootings
- 68 of the victims were unarmed; that’s down from 94 unarmed people in 2015, but up from 51 in 2016
- 223 Black people were shot and killed by police (23 percent of all fatal shootings, despite accounting for 13.3 percent of the population); that is 10 fewer than in 2016
- 179 Latinx people were shot and killed by police (18 percent; they make up 17.8 percent of the population); that is 19 more than in 2016
- 236 (24 percent) of the victims were experiencing mental distress at the time of their death
- 99 (10 percent) of the deaths were caught on body cameras