The number of fatal shootings by US police in 2016 remained virtually unchanged from last year when nearly 1,000 people were shot and killed by officers, an investigation shows. Police officers fatally shot 957 people this year as of Thursday, amounting to three deaths each day, according to an ongoing project by The Washington Post to track fatal shootings by police.
That is despite increased scrutiny of law enforcement tactics across the country following a series of high-profile deaths at the hands of police officers. For two consecutive years, the newspaper’s project has documented more than twice the number of fatal shootings reported by the Federal Bureau of Investigation (FBI).
A disproportionate number of those killed this year were African Americans as it was the case in 2015, when the Post tracked a total of 991 fatal shootings by police. Dozens of police departments have vowed reforms since the killing of black teenager Michael Brown in Ferguson, Missouri, in August 2014 sparked mass protests across the nation and launched a national debate over police use of force.
Many agencies have since equipped officers with body-worn cameras, hoping to reduce deadly encounters. However, experts say the measures would take time to have an impact on fatal shootings. “Making these kinds of changes is very difficult on such a widespread scale,” said Chuck Wexler, executive director of the Police Executive Research Forum, a think tank in Washington pushing for national police reform.
“But quite frankly, we’re still on the front-end of the training that we’re pushing out. It may be at least six months to a year until we start to really see those numbers come down.” Experts from the United Nations warned in a report in September that African Americans were facing a “human rights crisis” in the US.
Police killings “and the trauma they create are reminiscent of the past racial terror of lynchings,” said the report, which was presented to the UN Human Rights Council. A total of 135 police officers were also killed in the line of duty in 2016, the highest number in the past five years, according to data by the National Law Enforcement Officers Memorial Fund (NLEOMF) released on Thursday. The number marks a 10-percent increase from last year.