We are not even halfway through 2015, and police have shot and killed nearly 400 people, reports The Washington Post.
In an independent analysis of police killings in the United States this year, the Washington Post estimated that approximately 385 people have been shot and killed by police officers.
That estimate is nearly double what the federal government has reported for the time between January 1 and May 31 of every year in the last decade. Many experts and officials believe that law enforcement agencies underreport cases of officers using deadly force.
This analysis is the Washington Post’s attempt to produce a more accurate estimate of annual police killings.
“These shootings are grossly underreported,” said former police chief Jim Bueermann. “We are never going to reduce the number of police shootings if we don’t begin to accurately track this information.”
The Washington Post analysis found that, overall, half the victims were white and the other half minority. However, the ratio shifted dramatically in instances where the victim was unarmed. Unarmed black or Hispanic persons were shot and killed at a rate 300 percent greater than that of unarmed whites.
While most victims are between 25 and 34 years of age, police shooting victims ranged from 16 to 83 years of age.
The Washington Post noted one instance when police in South Florida shot and killed a mentally ill man who was only 5-foot-4 and weighed 120 pounds, hardly a physical threat. The man was in his underwear while swinging a broom in a psychotic state. Police officers shot and killed the man instead of subduing him.
The case was made public mainly because the press obtained video evidence. According to the U.S. Bureau of Justice Statistics (BJS), only half of all police shootings are reported.
Shootings by local law enforcement agencies tend to be underreported because no federal law requires reporting such incidences to the federal government. FBI officials are frustrated with the incomplete data that exists in the absence of such laws.
“We caveat this data – we have been for decades, cautioning individuals and organizations from drawing conclusions from it, because we recognize it is incomplete data, it is disparate data that leaves too many holes and gaps,” said Stephen Morris of the FBI’s criminal justice information services division. “That’s been a point of frustration for decades within the FBI.”
This problem boils down to a lack of accountability on part of local law enforcement agencies. A reason why the problem isn’t discussed more is because local police agencies are hiding the problem. They need to be held accountable or else the problem will continue to grow.