For the third year in a row, police nationwide shot and killed nearly 1,000 people, a grim annual tally that has persisted despite widespread public scrutiny of officers’ use of fatal force.
Some believe the tally may correspond to the number of times police encounter people, an outcome of statistical probability. The Mercury News reports that experts are exploring whether the number tracks with overall violence in American society.
“The numbers indicate that this is not a trend, but a robust measure of these shootings,” said Geoff Alpert, a criminologist at the University of South Carolina who studies police use of force. “We now have information on almost 3,000 shootings, and we can start looking to provide the public with a better understanding of fatal officer-involved shootings.”
National scrutiny of shootings by police began after an unarmed black teenager from a suburb of St. Louis was brutally executed by a white police officer in August 2014. The death of 18-year-old Michael Brown sparked widespread protests, prompted a White House commission to call for reforms, galvanized the Black Lives Matter movement and led many police agencies across the nation to examine their use of deadly force.
Black males continue to be shot at disproportionately high rates, the data shows. Black males accounted for 22 percent of all people shot and killed in 2017, yet they are 6 percent of the total population.
Mental health again played an outsize role in the shootings: 236 people, or nearly 1 in 4 of those shot, were described as experiencing some form of mental distress at the time of the encounter.