Two new efforts to track fatal police shootings echo Palm Beach Post analysis

The recent national uproar over police shootings has highlighted a gap in understanding the events: No government agency reliably tracks police shootings nationally.

But the Washington Post and The Guardian have started tracking fatal shootings by police since the beginning of the year.

Both, using crowdsourcing and searching the internet, found that roughly 400 people have been shot and killed by officers around the country this year.

They also analyzed the shootings, and their findings were largely in line with what The Palm Beach Post found in its 2015 investigation into police shootings by PBSO.

For example:

  • For minorities, roughly a third were unarmed.
  • The percentage of people armed with potentially lethal objects was more than 80 percent (Washington Post) and 76 percent (Palm Beach Post).
  • The most common weapon a suspect was unarmed with was a gun – 57 percent in the Washington Post analysis and 32 percent for PBSO. That difference could be attributed to methodology. The Washington Post tracked only fatal shootings, while the Palm Beach Post tracked all shootings.

The national efforts, while helpful, also highlight the need for mandatory reporting of police shootings. For example, comparing this year’s number to previous years isn’t possible. And fatal police shootings account for only a third of all shootings.

This week two Democratic senators announced they would introduce a bill requiring police departments to report the incidents to the U.S. Department of Justice.

The Palm Beach Post maintains a searchable database of all police shootings in Palm Beach County, regardless of whether someone died, here.