Law enforcement agencies across the country have failed to provide us with even basic information about the lives they have taken. And while the recently signed Death in Custody Reporting Act mandates this data be reported, its unclear whether police departments will actually comply with this mandate and, even if they do decide to report this information, it could be several years before the data is fully collected, compiled and made public.
We cannot wait to know the true scale of police violence against our communities. And in a country where at least three people are killed by police every day, we cannot wait for police departments to provide us with these answers. The maps and charts on this site aim to provide us with the answers we need. They include information on 1,131 known police killings - including 1,067 arrest-related deaths (according to Bureau of Justice Statistics definitions) as well as 64 unintentional, off-duty and/or in-custody deaths - that occurred in 2014. They also include information on 1,080 police killings in 2013, 1,131 in 2015, and 1,129 police killings in 2016. 93 percent of the killings in our database occurred while a police officer was acting in a law enforcement capacity. Importantly, these data do not include killings by vigilantes or security guards who are not off-duty police officers.
This information has been meticulously sourced from the three largest, most comprehensive and impartial crowdsourced databases on police killings in the country: FatalEncounters.org, the U.S. Police Shootings Database and KilledbyPolice.net. We've also done extensive original research to further improve the quality and completeness of the data; searching social media, obituaries, criminal records databases, police reports and other sources to identify the race of 91 percent of all victims in the database.
We believe the data represented on this site is the most comprehensive accounting of people killed by police since 2013. A recent report from the Bureau of Justice Statistics estimated approximately 1,200 people were killed by police between June, 2015 and May, 2016. Our database identified 1,179 people killed by police over this time period. While there are undoubtedly police killings that are not included in our database (namely, those that go unreported by the media), these estimates suggest that our database captures 98% of the total number of police killings that have occurred since 2013. We hope these data will be used to provide greater transparency and accountability for police departments as part of the ongoing campaign to end police violence in our communities.
Police Killing: A case where a person dies as a result of being chased, beaten, arrested, restrained, shot, pepper sprayed, tasered, or otherwise harmed by police officers, whether on-duty or off-duty, intentional or accidental.
A victim was coded as Unarmed in the database if they were one or more of the following:
- not holding any objects or weapons when killed
- holding household/personal items that were not used to attack others (cellphone, video game controller, cane, etc.)
- holding a toy weapon (BB gun, pellet gun, air rifle, toy sword)
- an innocent bystander or hostage killed
- a pedestrian or motorist accidentally hit by a police car or passengers in a vehicle chased by police with no weapon on them
- drivers or passengers accidentally hit by a police car
- a person who dies in police custody after a police use of force or police neglect of their medical needs
- alleged to be armed by the police, but multiple independent witnesses maintain the person was unarmed, video evidence shows that the person was unarmed, and/or circumstances indicate it was physically impossible for that person to be armed (i.e. claiming a person shot themselves with their own gun while handcuffed and under surveillance in police custody after being searched for weapons)
A victim was coded as having a Vehicle as a weapon if they were one or more of the following:
- a driver who was killed while hitting, dragging or driving towards officers or civilians
- a driver being chased at high speed by police when police killed them (they could be considered a threat to others by driving at such reckless speeds)
- people who were killed by a civilian driver or crashed without being hit directly by police during a police pursuit are not included in the database. Note that an estimated 400 people are killed in police pursuits each year and only a small proportion of these cases are included in the database (most deadly pursuits end after the driver crashes themselves into something or hits a civilian vehicle without being directly rammed/hit by police).
A person was coded as Allegedly Armed in the database if they:
- were alleged to have possessed objects or weapons in circumstances other than those stated above