Police shootings database

One of the astounding things about being American is how often the police kill our citizens. Like everything else, responses to this are sharply polarized: people on the right generally regard the police as doing a dangerous job under difficult circumstances and tend to blame the killed for unlawful behavior; people on the left view the police as uniquely sanctioned by the state to use violence and thus should be subject to especially stringent and transparent rules on how and when it is deployed. But whatever the source of the dynamic, it is the sheer number of dead that should impress us: nearly 1,000 last year and, as I write this, 813 so far this year with many deadly weeks to go.
For decades, it was very difficult to learn how many people had been killed by police, for reasons that invite skepticism, as the government professed to be unable to compile aggregate numbers across the many different jurisdictions with their own police forces. We know this number because, starting in 2015, the Washington Post created a database to track these killings and to gain insight into who was being killed and why. They won a Pulitzer Prize the following year, but the killings go on and the database is worth revisiting to remind us that they do.


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