25 Numbers That Show Police Killings Are A Bigger Problem Than We Ever Knew

A man holds a sign during a protest for the shooting death of Walter Scott at city hall in North Charleston, S.C., Wednesday,
A man holds a sign during a protest for the shooting death of Walter Scott at city hall in North Charleston, S.C., Wednesday, April 8, 2015. Scott was killed by a North Charleston police officer after a traffic stop on Saturday. The officer, Michael Thomas Slager, has been charged with murder. (AP Photo/Chuck Burton)

Two comprehensive reports published since Saturday provide new information about police killings in the United States, filling a void left by the lack of a national standard for reporting the use of deadly force.

The Washington Post on Saturday published an analysis of 2015 fatal police shootings through May 29, citing "interviews, police reports, local news accounts and other sources." The Post's data included basic information about victims' race, age and gender, as well as whether the person was armed or had other circumstances that led to being shot by police.

The Guardian on Monday published the results of its investigation into all 2015 police killings through the end of May. The project, called The Counted, included deaths in which police officers killed citizens by means other than gunshots, including Taser stun guns and vehicle crashes. The news organization also counted deaths of people following altercations in custody. That would include Freddie Gray's death in Baltimore in April. The Guardian sourced its data to public records, local news reports and original reporting.

The two reports contain minor statistical discrepancies, but provide a much-needed factual basis for the debate over police use of deadly force, misconduct, transparency and reform.

The use of lethal force by law enforcement rose to the national discourse following the fatal police shooting of 18-year-old Michael Brown in Ferguson, Missouri, in August. Many people pointed out that it was nearly impossible to gauge the size and scope of the issue because there is no national mechanism to keep track of police killings. Federal statistics intended to monitor police killings only include "justifiable homicides." And that number, incomplete as it may be, relies on the uniform crime reporting program of data that police departments voluntarily provide to the FBI.

Independent groups have mounted efforts to record a more complete picture of police killings, and it appears that both news organization reports have built upon these attempts.

Below, some most important data points from the reports. Read the Post's article here, and The Guardian's here.


Number of people killed by police from Jan. 1 to May 31, according to The Guardian.


Average number people killed by police every day in the U.S. in 2015, according to The Guardian.


Number of people killed by police in shootings as of May 30, according to the Post, at a rate of about 2.5 each day. The Guardian tallied 408 people fatally shot by police in 2015.


Average number of people killed by police each day in 2015, according to FBI data. According to this incomplete count, police kill an average of about 400 each year, with 461 justified homicides in all of 2013. Both the Post and The Guardian suggest that the actual number of police killings is more than twice that, at least to this point in 2015.

Less than 3 percent

Percentage of the nation’s 18,000 state and local police agencies that have reported fatal shootings by their officers to the FBI, according to the Post.


Rate at which black citizens were fatally shot by police this year, compared with whites and other races when adjusting by the population of the census tracts where shootings occurred, according to the Post. The newspaper's database contained a total of 100 black people killed, compared with 171 white, 54 Hispanic, six Asian, three "other," and 31 unknown.


Number of women shot to death by police in the first five months of 2015, according to the Post. The Guardian reported that 5 percent of the 464 total people killed by police were female.


Number of unarmed citizens killed by police by all means this year, according to The Guardian. The Post placed the number of unarmed people shot to death by police at 49.

32 percent

Percentage of black people who were unarmed when they were killed by police, according to The Guardian. The paper reported that black Americans were more than twice as likely to be unarmed when killed during encounters with police as white people.

62.7 percent

Percentage of unarmed victims who were minorities, according to The Guardian.

20 percent

Percentage of unarmed people fatally shot by police while fleeing, according to the Post. This included Walter Scott, a 50-year-old black man fatally shot by South Charleston, South Carolina, police officer Michael Slager in April. The shooting was captured in a widely circulated video. Slager has been charged with murder.

Less than 1 percent

Percentage of police shooting cases in which officers have been charged, according to the Post.


Number of people shot to death by police while wielding toy guns, according to the Post.


Number of children younger than 18 shot to death by police, according to The Post.


Age of the youngest people killed by police, according to the Post and The Guardian. Three were aged 16, according to the Guardian. Police said all had brandished or fired weapons at officers before they were killed.


Age of the oldest shooting victim, according to the Post. Police reported that an Oklahoma octogenarian had threatened officers with a machete before he was shot. The Guardian noted that an 87-year-old was killed after his vehicle was struck by a police cruiser.


Number of mentally ill people shot to death by police, according to the Post. The Guardian reported that 26 percent of all people killed by police "exhibited some sort of mental illness," and in at least 29 cases, victims were identified as suicidal.

5 feet 4 inches, 120 pounds

The stature of Lavall Hall, a mentally ill black man killed by Florida police in February. Hall, 25, was dressed in boxer shorts and an undershirt and waving a broomstick when he was confronted by officers. A family member had called 911, reporting Hall was having a violent episode. Police said Hall attacked an officer, though video of the incident appears to show Hall repeatedly backing away from officers in the minute preceding his death.

1 in 13

Number of fatal shootings committed by police, compared with the U.S. total number of fatal shootings, according to the Post's Christopher Ingraham:

Through June 1, there have been 5,099 gun deaths in the U.S., according to up-to-date numbers maintained by the Gun Violence Archive. Based on the 385 figure, that means that American police are responsible for about 1 in every 13 gun deaths in the country, or 8 percent. The Gun Violence Archive numbers include suicide as well as homicide, so the police-involved share of gun homicides would be even larger.


Number of police officers shot to death this year, according to the Officer Down Memorial Page, an independent group that collects data on line-of-duty incidents. Eight of these were in May. A total of 54 officers have died in the line of duty in 2015. The second-leading cause of on-duty officer death is automobile accident.


Number of police officers feloniously killed in 2014, according to the FBI.


Number of officers killed by ambush in 2014, according to the FBI. Six of these killings were premeditated and two were reportedly unprovoked. Two officers have been killed by ambush in 2015. Law enforcement officials have repeatedly expressed concerns that protests against police brutality and misconduct create a dangerous climate for police officers. There doesn't appear to be a statistical increase in lethal targeting of police officers.


Average number of officers feloniously killed each year from 1980 to 2014, according to the FBI. While the 51 officers killed in 2014 was 89 percent higher than in 2013, the 27 officers killed feloniously in 2013 was the fewest in at least 50 years.


Number of days left in 2015 from the date The Guardian's tally was published.

At least 1

Number of people killed by police on the day The Guardian's report was published. A suspect was killed early Monday in Palestine, Texas, after allegedly pointing a firearm at officers, police said.

This article has been updated with additional data from the Post regarding the rates at which different races were shot and killed by police.