In 2015, according to the Guardian, a total of 1,134 Americans were killed by law enforcement officers. The British news organization’s “Counted” project found that young black men were nine times more likely than anyone else to be killed by police this year.
The Guardian found that one in every 65 deaths of an African-American man between the ages of 15 and 34 is a killing by police, and that such victims comprised 15 percent of all police killings this year, despite making up only 2 percent of the population in the United States. The Guardian’s findings were corroborated by a similar, parallel Washington Post investigation.
Nationally, about 25 percent of African Americans killed by police were unarmed, compared with about 17 percent of white people killed. In New York state nine of the 25 people killed were unarmed. Seven of those were black men. Overall, white people, Hispanic, and native American people were half as likely to be killed as black people.
Of 29 military veterans who were killed by police in 2015, at least eight were said to have been suffering from post-traumatic stress disorder (PTSD) following their service. In all, mental health issues were reported in relation to 246 people killed by police this year – more than one in every five cases. On at least eight occasions, the death was officially ruled a suicide, prompting claims from relatives that officers were escaping scrutiny.
“We have a tremendous problem,” said Dr Daniel Reidenberg, the managing director of the National Council for Suicide Prevention. “In a society where firearms are as prevalent as they are, and where people know law enforcement are trained to respond to a certain situation in a certain way, we have a problem.”
Over the past decade, authorities have indicted an average of five officers a year for fatal shootings, a Post analysis found. In 2015, 18 officers were charged, compared to 47 officers between 2005 and 2014.
Half of the 2015 indictments stemmed from shootings that occurred during the year, while the rest date back as far as 2011. In 10 of the 2015 cases, prosecutors had a video record of the shooting, a big increase over previous years.
“Thank God for technology,” said the Rev. Ira Acree, pastor at Greater St. John Bible Church in Chicago, where an officer was charged with first-degree murder in November. “Maybe it’s finally helping us crack the blue code of silence.”
According to the Post, 6 percent of the killings were captured by body cameras, although more than half of the departments where killings took place refused requests from the paper to release the video.