In 1994 Congress instructed the Attorney General to compile and publish annual statistics on police use of excessive force. This was never carried out and thus no one really knows exactly how many people have been killed by the police in the U.S. The FBI attempts to compile an annual report of “justified homicides” by police, however, police departments are not required to report homicides by police. Reporting is strictly voluntary with only about 800 police departments out of the approximately 18,000 in the U.S. providing the data to the FBI. Because of this, estimates can vary quite a bit.
If you take the average of the 800 departments reporting to the FBI and apply it to the non-reporting departments (assuming the non-reporting departments kill people at the same rate as reporting departments) the best estimate of people killed by U.S. police is around 1,240 per year.
Independent sources, journalists, and academics, insist a more accurate number is closer to 1,000 people per year killed by the police in the U.S. Already in the first three months of 2015 the police have killed an estimated 291 people. At that rate the number could be 1,164 for the year.
The Wall Street Journal, in an analysis of recent data from 105 of America’s largest police departments, found that 550 homicides by police were not included in the FBI annual report.
Are Americans becoming more violent and forcing the police to shoot more people? Actually, according to the FBI, the violent crime rate in America has been decreasing steadily since 1994. So, no. It is not the American people who are becoming more violent. Americans are less violent then ever. It is the police who are becoming increasingly violent.
Far more people are killed each year by police in America than are killed in other countries by the police. For comparison, the average number of people killed each year by police in Canada is 25, 8 in Germany, 5 in Australia, 2 in the UK, 1 in Sweden, and 0 in Japan. In the 115 years (1900 – 2015), police in England have killed only 52 people.
Statistically, Americans are 55 times more likely to be killed by the police than by a terrorist and police are 25 times more likely to die from weight-related cardiovascular disease than from the actions of a criminal.
So why do American police find it necessary to kill so many people? Is it inadequate training, fear of being harmed themselves, or are they just trigger-happy? I have no idea.