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The number of people killed by police dropped slightly in 2016

This year the number of people killed by police stands at 957, down slightly from 991 in 2015, according to the Washington Post. While white men accounted for the most deaths by police, black men were three times more likely to be killed when population rates were factored in. Washington Post Reporter Kimbriell Kelly, one of the authors of the year-end report, joins Alison Stewart to discuss.

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  • ALISON STEWART, PBS NEWSHOUR WEEKEND ANCHOR:

    Yesterday on the “NewsHour”, we reported the number of U.S. law enforcement officers killed in the line of duty this year: 64, up from 56 last year.

    Today, we take a look at the number of people killed by police officers. This year the number is 957 people, down slightly from 991 in 2015, but still a very large number. It’s approximately three people a day, according to reporting done by “The Washington Post.” According to “The Post,” white men accounted for the most deaths, roughly half of them. However, when population rates were factored in, black men were three times as likely to be killed by police and they accounted for a third of the unarmed killed.

    Kimbriell Kelly is one of the authors of this year-end report, and was part of the team that won a Pulitzer Prize for its coverage of police shootings. And she joins me now from Washington.

    Kimbriell, this is the second year “The Washington Post” has tracked these numbers. What have been the most noticeable differences from 2015 to 2016?

  • KIMBRIELL KELLY, THE WASHINGTON POST:

    One of the biggest differences is that the number of incidents that are caught on video. You see about a 63 percent increase in the deaths that occurred this year that were captured either on officers’ body cameras or by bystanders. And so, we see that there has been an increase over the last two years, but we know that there’s an increase, also, in the number of police departments across the country.

    There are roughly 18,000 departments, and from what we understand, nearly half of them have officers that are equipped with body-work cameras. And that’s important information, too, not just in documenting these incidents but in the prosecutions of officers as well, if they are investigated.

  • ALISON STEWART:

    Now, the FBI also keeps track of these numbers, but their numbers are nearly half of “The Post’s” reporting. Why is that?

  • KIMBRIELL KELLY:

    And that’s one thing that we had found as well. For the first year — those numbers are voluntarily reported. So police departments across the country aren’t required to give that information to the FBI. And so, what we found in our two years of reporting is that the number is still about 1,000 fatalities a year, but that our number is two times the number that the FBI is reporting.

    Now, the FBI, the year before last, when our numbers first started coming out, acknowledged that they have a problem with their documentation, and they have made efforts to improve that. And next year, they are planning to launch new efforts to try to streamline this process and have more accurate information.

  • ALISON STEWART:

    Two factors in this data that are worth discussion — mental illness and domestic disturbances. What do the data tell you?

    KIMBRIELL KELLY The data tells us that those two things you talked about are some of the key indicators or key things that the buckets in which people who are killed by police fall into. And so, one in four of those cases are people who were in some sort of mental — had mental illness or were in some sort of mental illness crisis. And the second bucket has not been reported a lot, but it’s the same as it was roughly last year, which is domestic disturbances make up about one in six of those fatalities.

  • ALISON STEWART:

    A small percentage of the people who were shot and killed by police were unarmed, just 5 percent. Most had guns or knives. So, what does this tell us about lethal force and what police face?

  • KIMBRIELL KELLY:

    There are some disparities, particularly when you look at unarmed. And the unarmed percentage has gone down. So, last year was about 9 percent and this year is about 5 percent. But what it tells us, at least what the experts tell us, is that this is a universe of people who, with different training, through de-escalation, if officers are able to slow down the process, that these are lives that might be saved.

    And so, what has happened this year is a new training that was debuted a couple of weeks ago in New Orleans in which officers across the country gathered from 160 departments, and they’re being trained on new techniques to slow down a situation, to de-escalate situations, and they believe that if more police departments across the country employ these methods, that you would actually see the number of fatalities go down dramatically.

    And so, they’re estimating about 300 to 400 of the fatalities of the 1,000 people killed this year might, perhaps, not happen in the future with techniques like this.

  • ALISON STEWART:

    Kimbriell Kelly of “The Washington Post” — thanks so much.

  • KIMBRIELL KELLY:

    Thank you.

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