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A year-long investigation published by The Washington Post this weekend takes an in-depth look at the nearly 1,000 people fatally shot by police in 2015.
Among the findings:
Mental illness played a role in one-quarter of the killings. In three-quarters of the fatal shootings, police were under attack or defending someone who was. And one in 10 people shot and killed by police were unarmed.
For more insight, we are joined by Kimbriell Kelly of The Washington Post.
Kimbriell, your report puts shootings by police officers into three main categories. Can you tell us about those?
KIMBRIELL KELLY, The Washington Post:
One of the biggest categories is people who are mentally ill and then also those who are unarmed, which is a small percentage, but there's some disparity there when it comes to race.
And the mentally ill, one of the big problems — as you said, the number was one in four — and officers and police experts will agree that there's not enough training among police officers. A vast majority of the people who were fatally shot and killed by police were in chases and they were armed. But, in many cases, training is definitely necessary.
I'm going to quote here from the report.
Something interesting that you found was, in the majority of cases in which police shot and killed a person who had attacked someone with a weapon or brandished a gun, the person who was shot was white. And that only tells part of the story, right?
Correct. That is part of the story.
And we know that the vast majority of the people in the country are white. African-American men make up about 6 percent of the population. And when it comes to unarmed suspects, black men make up about 40 percent of both members.
So, there is a disproportionate number there in terms of unarmed African-American men who were killed by police.
Can you talk a little bit about the role that video has played in these shootings?
Video is very interesting, because, 10 years ago, you didn't have everybody taking pictures on their cell phone cameras, and now you do.
And so that has actually — one of the primary reasons in the increase in indictments that you see from officers, because there is evidence. People are starting to question the word of not all police officers, but some police officers in this case.
And there is evidence to prosecute. So, what you are seeing is an uptick in the number of indictments. This year, there were, I believe, about three times, two or three times more indictments of officers than there had been in years past.
Prior, there had been four every year, four or five a year in the last decade. And now you saw, in the last year, about 18. But the difference that we see, even though we're seeing more indictments, more charges of officers, you're actually seeing the outcomes are a little less severe, because most of those officers are either being acquitted, their cases are dismissed, or their — their charges are dropped.
And I understand that statistics about these fatal shootings are not particularly well kept, at least by law enforcement. Can you talk a little bit about that?
In documenting all the fatal police shootings at The Washington Post, we use primary sources. We use news articles. We use online databases. And the data that we collected was the number that you included earlier, which is, there have been nearly 1,000 this year as of December 24.
And that number is usually kept by the FBI and the Bureau of Justice Statistics. And what we found at The Washington Post is that our number is nearly twice that of the number that's actually put out by the FBI.
So, the FBI and BJS are now undertaking a good look at how they have been tracking that, and they're making efforts to do a better job.
Kimbriell Kelly from The Washington Post, thank you so much for joining us.
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