Police are shooting Americans dead at a rate of over two per day, according to a Washington Post tally that the newspaper calls "an unprecedented examination of these shootings." In the first five months of its year-long project to compile fatal police shootings, the Post has documented 385—which more than doubles the rate tallied by the federal government during the past 10 years. But then, police agencies are allowed to report voluntarily: "These shootings are grossly underreported," says a former police chief. "We are never going to reduce the number of police shootings if we don’t begin to accurately track this information." Among the Post's findings:
- Half of those shot and killed are minority, half white. Among those unarmed, two-thirds are Hispanic or black.
- More than 4 in 5 shooting victims were carrying "potentially lethal objects," the Post reports—mostly guns, but also knives and other objects. Overall, 16% were unarmed or carrying a toy. Dozens of victims were shot while running from police.
- In roughly 50% of cases, police were answering calls of domestic disturbance or "complex social" problems like erratic behavior, threatened suicide, or threatened violence. Almost 25% of shooting victims were later said to be mentally ill.
- Less than 1% of cases have resulted in criminal charges against an officer.
Officers displayed heroism in many of the cases, but dozens of current and former police officials tell the Post that police agencies can make changes (like telling officers not to chase people or jump on armed suspects) to prevent shootings. Click for the full article, or read about a New Orleans police officer found dead in his car. (Read more police shooting stories.)