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2022 Fatal Police Shootings Up Again, But Causes Up for Debate

Updated: Feb 22, 2023

Last year, police shot and killed more people than at any point since the Washington Post began tracking these incidents in 2015, with only 15 days in 2022 without a fatal police shooting and with a consistency throughout the year not seen before, the Post reports. Since 2017, the number has increased every year, and 2022's total of 1,096 deaths was about 10 percent higher than three years earlier. But criminologists caution that more data is needed to understand what is driving the rise. “It’s hard to know if the increase is meaningful or random,” said Justin Nix, an associate professor of criminal justice at the University of Nebraska at Omaha. “We really need a better understanding of when police shoot and injure people, but more so when police avoid shooting someone.”

Some experts point to a rise in gun purchases across the country as one factor. Others blame the slow pace of reform in use-of-force policies and the challenge of holding officers accused of excessive force accountable. Ultimately, experts say, each incident is rooted in unique circumstances, complicating efforts to draw meaningful insights. The demographics of those killed, however, have remained largely the same: While more White people were shot and killed by police overall last year, Black people were killed at a rate 2.5 times higher based on their percentage of the population. The majority of people police shot and killed were armed. And, as in prior years, about one quarter of people killed were in the throes of a mental or emotional crisis. The most deadly calls remain those for domestic disturbances. The rate of violent crime dropped steadily after 2016 but has climbed higher since 2020. Last year, 49 police officers were shot and killed in the line of duty, compared with 61 the year before, according to Federal Bureau of Investigation data. Data on fatal police shootings remains sparse. The FBI asks state and local departments to contribute voluntarily to its collection efforts. But in the past eight years, the bureau has recorded fewer police shootings each year even as The Post’s count has increased.


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