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The shooting death of Philando Castile by police in Falcon Heights, Minnesota, on 7 July pushed the issue of the use of deadly force by police back into national headlines and ignited protests throughout the United States. Data collected by the Washington Post on US police shootings suggests that the use of deadly force is on the rise. So far this year 512 people have been shot and killed by police in the United States. This is a three-percent increase - or, 16 more deaths - than the same period of 2015 and roughly equal to the number of people that have been killed this year in mass shootings in the US. Additional highlights from the data, as feature in the visualizations, include the following:

  • In 55 percent of 2016 cases, police officers were confronted by subjects armed with guns, a slight decrease from 57 percent last year. In 77 percent of these incidents, the subjects fired at police, prompting officers to fire in return to protect themselves or bystanders. Subjects fired on police in 95 percent of incidents in 2015.
  • Other measures are similarly static. As in 2015, 27 percent of those killed so far in 2016 have been black, 51 percent white. Likewise, in 2015 and 2016, mental illness played a role in roughly one-quarter of the incidents. In addition, the share of killings of unarmed people has remained below 10 percent - 6.8 percent in 2016 and 9.4 percent in 2015.
  • One statistic that has notably changed is the share of black women killed in police shootings. While men still represent 95 percent of fatalities, in cases involving female deaths, the share of black women has risen to 35 percent in 2016 from 24 percent in 2015.

The Washington Post began collecting data on shooting deaths by US police in 2014 after the death of Michael Brown in Ferguson, Missouri, which rented national attention to police accountability. The Post aims to provide a more comprehensive accounting of incidents in response to the incompleteness and unreliability of data compiled by the FBI and other federal government agencies. The Post’s dataset, however, is not definitive. While the Post database reports 990 people were fatally shot by police in 2015, similar research by the Guardian "The Counted" suggests the figure is as high as 1,146 people.

Looking ahead, increasing use of cameras mounted to patrol cars and worn by police officers in the line of duty promises near-term changes in awareness and prosecution of incidents of abuse of power by police forces. So far this year, 65 police shootings have been recorded using police devices, almost as many incidents as were captured on police cameras in all of 2015. As more incidents have been captured on camera, there has been a corresponding increase in officers facing criminal charges. 

  • According to the Washington Post, seven officers have been criminally charged so far this year, with five of the seven cases involving video evidence. During 2015, 18 officers were criminally charged and 10 cases involved video footage.  
  • Surveillance cameras in the vicinity of crime scenes and witness smartphone camera footage also are contributing to awareness and accountability during these incidents.

Related Data Insights

Percentage of homicides by firearm

Source: Global Study on Homicide: Homicide by FirearmsEconomyCrimeDemographicsGDP, current prices USDHomicide RateTotal Population ForecastGDP, PPP current intern. $HomicidesPopulation Growth Rate ForecastGDP per capita, current prices USDPercentage of homicides by firearmPopulation Density ForecastGDP per capita, PPP current intern. $Number of homicides by firearmMedian Age of the Population ForecastForeign Direct InvestmentHomicide by firearm rate Total populationTotal External Debt, USDAssault, ratePopulation Growth RateShare of AgricultureKidnapping, ratePopulation DensityShare of ManufacturingRobbery, rateMedian Age of PopulationShare...

People Killed by Police in United States, 2015

US police and other law enforcement agencies killed 1,146 persons last year, according to "The Counted", project by The Guardian, which is aimed to build a comprehensive record of such fatalities, monitor their demographics and to tell the stories of how those people died. Approximately 20% of all persons killed had not attempted to use weapons, whereas roughly 50% of them attempted to use or used firearm. Nevertheless, this information is difficult to verify because often the only information available comes directly from law enforcement officials. In some cases, friends and relatives of people killed will dispute this official...

Homicides

Source: UNODC International Homicide StatisticsEconomyCrimeDemographicsGDP, current prices USDHomicide RateTotal Population ForecastGDP, PPP current intern. $HomicidesPopulation Growth Rate ForecastGDP per capita, current prices USDPercentage of homicides by firearmPopulation Density ForecastGDP per capita, PPP current intern. $Number of homicides by firearmMedian Age of the Population ForecastForeign Direct InvestmentHomicide by firearm rate Total populationTotal External Debt, USDAssault, ratePopulation Growth RateShare of AgricultureKidnapping, ratePopulation DensityShare of ManufacturingRobbery, rateMedian Age of PopulationShare of...

US Firearms Trace Data, 2013

           The 2013 report includes a state-by-state breakdown of types and calibers of firearms recovered and traced, source states, criminal offenses associated with the crime guns, time-to-crime, and age ranges of crime gun possessors at the time of recovery. Key findings of this year’s report include pistols as the most common firearm type recovered and traced, 9 mm as the top caliber recovered and traced, and 11.08 years as the average time-to-crime for crime guns recovered and traced in the U.S. and its territories. The National Tracing Center (NTC) traced more than 336,000 crime guns in calendar year 2013.