Data from the FBI has revealed that police officers in the United States killed a total of 984 people in 2015. The final killing occurred during the afternoon of New Year’s Eve, when Las Vegas police officers shot and killed 23 year old African American Keith Childress. Police thought that Childress had a firearm in his hand, but it was actually only a mobile phone.
Throughout the nation, people have been enraged over the unjust killings of unarmed African American males. Although black males only represent about 6% of the American population, this group accounted for more than 40% of the individuals who were shot and killed by the police while they were unarmed. When adjusted for population differences, black people were three times more likely to be killed by the police in 2015.
Interestingly, the state of Rhode Island had no fatal police shootings whatsoever.
To be fair, many situations put officers in extremely difficult spots. The police officers are often dealing with people who have a history that suggests a capacity for violence. A large portion of those who are killed by the police have demonstrated a history of mental illness. When suspects like that refuse to obey the commands of officers, the police often feel they have no choice but to pull the trigger, even if it turns out that the suspect was unarmed.
That being said, police officers are typically trained and warned to only use a lethal weapon as method of last resort. To have nearly three fatal shootings per day is beyond excessive.
Perhaps even more concerning is the fact that this trend is very likely to continue into 2016. Already, nine people have been fatally shot by the police in this early stage of the year.
Luckily, technology is allowing for such instances to be better reviewed thanks to the introduction of body cameras which are being worn by police officers. Many police departments across the country have adopted this useful technology, and officers have said it makes them think twice before shooting. Now, police departments must strongly enforce their policies of requiring officers to turn the cameras on when they are on duty.