List of killings by law enforcement officers in the United States

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Listed below are lists of people killed by law enforcement in the United States, whether in the line of duty or not, and regardless of reason or method. Inclusion in the lists implies neither wrongdoing nor justification on the part of the person killed or the officer involved. The listing merely documents the occurrence of a death.

These lists are incomplete. Although Congress instructed the Attorney General in 1994 to compile and publish annual statistics on police use of excessive force, this was never carried out, and the FBI does not collect these data either.[1] The annual average number of justifiable homicides alone was previously estimated to be near 400.[2] Updated estimates from the Bureau of Justice Statistics released in 2015 estimate the number to be around 930 per year, or 1240 if assuming that nonreporting local agencies kill people at the same rate as reporting agencies.[3] The Washington Post tracked shootings (only) in 2015 and on May 30 reported a rate so far that would be equal to 937 shootings/year (385 as of that date).[4]

The Guardian newspaper is running a database,The Counted, tracking US killings by police and other law enforcement agencies in 2015, and counted 1140 killed, with rates per million of 2.92 for "white" people, 7.2 for "black", and 3.5 for "hispanic/latino", 1.34 for "Asian/Pacific Islander", and 3.4 for "Native American". The database can be viewed by state, gender, race/ethnicity, age, classification (e.g., "gunshot"), and whether the person killed was armed.[5]



Within the limits set by the U.S. Supreme Court in Tennessee v. Garner, authority to use deadly force in the line of duty is granted by state law to state and local law enforcement agencies. Individual agencies set policies and procedures regarding when and how to use deadly force.[6] The ruling in Tennessee v. Garner determined that deadly force is not justifiable simply to prevent a fleeing suspect's escape if the suspect does not pose a significant threat of death or serious harm to others.[7]

When deadly force is used within the prescribed manner, the killing is deemed a justifiable homicide. Some law enforcement agencies routinely investigate all uses of deadly force, while others investigate only cases involving extenuating circumstances. Other causes of death to suspects include accidents and police brutality. When circumstances surrounding a death are questionable, the death may be investigated by a state or federal agency or both.[8] Of the thousands of fatal police shootings in 2005 through 2015, 54 police officers were criminally charged as a result, and most of those officers were cleared or acquitted. According to a Washington Post report by Alice Crites and Steven Rich, officers who are convicted or plead guilty tend to get an average of four years of jail time, and sometimes only weeks.[7]

According to Amnesty International, U.S. laws do not meet international human rights standards for use-of-force standards by law enforcement. Only eight states in the United States require a verbal warning by police officers before shooting.[9]

As of December 2015, researchers from Harvard T.H. Chan School of Public Health have called on US Public Health Agencies to consider police killings and police deaths public health issues. The Summary Points of their paper are:[10]

  • During the past year, the United States has experienced major controversies—and civil unrest—regarding the endemic problem of police violence and police deaths.
  • Although deaths of police officers are well documented, no reliable official US data exist on the number of persons killed by the police, in part because of long-standing and well-documented resistance of police departments to making these data public.
  • These deaths, however, are countable, as evidenced by "The Counted", a website launched on June 1, 2015, by the newspaper The Guardian, published in the United Kingdom, which quickly revealed that by June 9, 2015, over 500 people in the US had been killed by the police since January 1, 2015, twice what would be expected based on estimates from the US Federal Bureau of Intelligence (FBI).
  • Law-enforcement–related deaths, of both persons killed by law enforcement agents and also law enforcement agents killed in the line of duty, are a public health concern, not solely a criminal justice concern, since these events involve mortality and affect the well-being of the families and communities of the deceased; therefore, law-enforcement–related deaths are public health data, not solely criminal justice data.

The authors also propose that "law-enforcement–related deaths be treated as a notifiable condition, which would allow public health departments to report these data in real-time, at the local as well as national level, thereby providing data needed to understand and prevent the problem".

Government data collection[edit]

Through the Violent Crime Control and Law Enforcement Act of 1994, specifically Section 210402, the U.S. Congress mandated that the attorney general collect data on the use of excessive force by police and publish an annual report from the data.[11] However, the bill lacked provisions for enforcement.[12] In part due to the lack of participation from state and local agencies, the Bureau of Justice Statistics stopped keeping count in March 2014.[13]

Two national systems collect data that include homicides committed by law enforcement officers in the line of duty. The National Center for Health Statistics maintains the National Vital Statistics System (NVSS), which aggregates data from locally filed death certificates. State laws require that death certificates be filed with local registrars, but the certificates do not systematically document whether a killing was legally justified nor whether a law enforcement officer was involved.[14]

The FBI maintains the Uniform Crime Reporting Program (UCR), which relies on state and local law enforcement agencies voluntarily submitting crime reports.[14] A study of the years 1976 to 1998 found that both national systems underreport justifiable homicides by police officers, but for different reasons.[14] In addition, between 2007 and 2012, more than 550 homicides by the country's 105 largest law enforcement agencies were missing from FBI records.[15]

Records in the NVSS did not consistently include documentation of police officer involvement. The UCR database did not receive reports of all applicable incidents. The authors concluded that "reliable estimates of the number of justifiable homicides committed by police officers in the United States do not exist."[14] A study of killings by police from 1999 to 2002 in the Central Florida region found that the national databases included (in Florida) only one-fourth of the number of persons killed by police as reported in the local news media.[16]"Nationally, the percentage of unreported killings by police is probably lower than among agencies in Central Florida..."[16]

The Death In Custody Reporting Act required states to report individuals who die in police custody. It was active without enforcement provisions from 2000 to 2006 and restored in December 2014, amended to include enforcement through withdrawal of federal funding for noncompliant departments.[12]

An additional bill requiring all American law enforcement agencies to report killings by their officers was introduced in the U.S. Senate in June 2015. [17]

According to a study by the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC), based on data from medical examiners and coroners, killings by law enforcement officers (not including legal executions) was the most distinctive cause of death in Nevada, New Mexico, and Oregon between 2001 and 2010. In these states, the rate of killings by law enforcement officers were higher above national averages than any other cause of death considered.[18][19] The database used to generate those statistics, the CDC WONDER Online Database, has a U.S. total of 5,511 deaths by "Legal Intervention" for the years 1999-2013 (3,483 for the 2001-2010 used to generate the report) excluding the subcategory for legal execution.[20]

Crowd-sourced projects to collect data[edit]

Mainly following public attention to police-related killings after several well-publicized cases in 2014 (e.g., Eric Garner, Michael Brown, and John Crawford III), several projects were begun to crowd-source data on such events. These include Fatal Encounters[21] and U.S. Police Shootings Data at Deadspin.[22] Another project, the Facebook page Killed by Police, tracks killings starting May 1, 2013.[23] In 2015, CopCrisis used the Killed by Police data to generate infographics about police killings.[24]

The National Police Misconduct Reporting Project, started in 2009 by David Packman, is now owned and operated by the Cato Institute. It covers a range of police behaviors.[25] The most recent addition is The Puppycide Database Project, which collects information about police use of lethal force against animals, as well as people killed while defending their animals from police, or unintentionally while police were trying to kill animals.[26]

Lists of killings[edit]

See also[edit]


  1. ^ Tony Dokoupil (January 14, 2014). "What is police brutality? Depends on where you live". NBC News. 
  2. ^ Johnson, Kevin (Oct 15, 2008). "FBI: Justifiable homicides at highest in more than a decade". USA Today. 
  3. ^ Bialik, Carl (March 6, 2015). "A New Estimate Of Killings By Police Is Way Higher — And Still Too Low". FiveThirtyEight. 
  4. ^ Kindy, Kimberly (30 May 2015). "Fatal police shootings in 2015 approaching 400 nationwide". The Washington Post. Retrieved 31 May 2015. 
  5. ^ "The Counted: People killed by police in the US". The Guardian. Retrieved 5 February 2016. 
  6. ^ Roy, Roger (May 23, 2004). "Deadly But Legal". Orlando Sentinel. 
  7. ^ a b Kindy, Kimberly (April 11, 2015). "Thousands dead, few prosecuted". The Washington Post. Retrieved 31 May 2015. 
  8. ^ "FBI: Frequently Asked Questions". The Federal Bureau of Investigation. 
  9. ^ "Survivors Guide to Earth: Police Shootings". Huffington Post. 29 June 2015. 
  10. ^ Krieger N, Chen JT, Waterman PD, Kiang MV, Feldman J (2015) Police Killings and Police Deaths Are Public Health Data and Can Be Counted. PLoS Med 12(12): e1001915. Published: December 8, 2015 DOI: 10.1371/journal.pmed.1001915
  11. ^ McEwen, Tom (1996). "National Data Collection on Police Use of Force" (PDF). U.S. Department of Justice Bureau of Justice Statistics. 
  12. ^ a b Robinson, Rashad (3 June 2015). "The US government could count those killed by police, but it's chosen not to". The Guardian. Retrieved 3 June 2015. 
  13. ^ McCarthy, Tom (18 March 2015). "The uncounted: why the US can't keep track of people killed by police". The Guardian. Retrieved 3 June 2015. 
  14. ^ a b c d Colin Loftin, Brian Wiersema, David McDowall, and Adam Dobrin (July 2003). "Underreporting of Justifiable Homicides Committed by Police Officers in the United States, 1976–1998". Am J Public Health 93 (7): 1117–1121. doi:10.2105/AJPH.93.7.1117. PMC 1447919. PMID 12835195. 
  15. ^ Barry, Rob; Jones, Coulter (December 3, 2014). "Hundreds of Police Killings Are Unaccounted in Federal Stats". Wall Street Journal. 
  16. ^ a b Roy, Roger (May 24, 2004). "Killings by Police Underreported". Orlando Sentinel. 
  17. ^ "US senators call for mandatory reporting of police killings". The Guardian. 2 June 2015. Retrieved 3 June 2015. 
  18. ^ Mekouar, Dora (15 May 2015). "Death Map: What’s Really Killing Americans". Voice of America. Retrieved 18 May 2015. 
  19. ^ Boscoe FP, Pradhan E. The Most Distinctive Causes of Death by State, 2001–2010. Prev Chronic Dis 2015;12:140395. DOI:
  20. ^ Centers for Disease Control and Prevention, National Center for Health Statistics. Underlying Cause of Death 1999-2013 on CDC WONDER Online Database, released 2015. Data are from the Multiple Cause of Death Files, 1999-2013, as compiled from data provided by the 57 vital statistics jurisdictions through the Vital Statistics Cooperative Program. Accessed at on May 18, 2015 23:42:42 UTC
  21. ^ Burghart, D. Brian. "Fatal Encounters Official Page". Retrieved 2015-05-05. 
  22. ^ Wagner, Kyle. "We're Compiling Every Police-Involved Shooting In America. Help Us.". Retrieved 2015-05-03. 
  23. ^ "Killed By Police: About". Retrieved 2015-05-05. 
  24. ^ "Every 8 Hours, Cops kill an American Citizen.". Retrieved 2015-05-03. 
  25. ^ "About The Cato Institute's National Police Misconduct Reporting Project.". Retrieved 2015-05-05. 
  26. ^ "Puppycide DB.". Retrieved 2015-05-05.