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Police Killed 1,055 Last Year in U.S.; Trend Continues Despite Reforms

Police shot and killed at least 1,055 people nationwide last year, the highest total since the Washington Post began tracking fatal shootings by officers in 2015. The count underscores the difficulty of reducing such incidents despite sustained public attention to the issue, the Post reports. Last year's count is up from 1,021 shootings the previous year and 999 in 2019. The total comes amid a nationwide spike in homicides as people increasingly go into public spaces now that coronavirus vaccines are widely available. Police have fatally shot roughly 1,000 people in each of the past seven years, ranging from 958 in 2016 to last year’s high. That the number of fatal police shootings last year is within 60 of the average suggests officers’ behavior has not shifted significantly, said Andrew Wheeler, a criminologist and data scientist. Advocacy for policing overhauls has intensified since the murder of George Floyd by a Minneapolis police officer in 2020. Police departments increasingly have partnered with mental health experts to respond to people in crisis. Cities established more civilian review boards for use-of-force incidents. None of it decreased the number of people shot and killed by officers last year. The total has increased slightly most years since 2015. Franklin Zimring, a law professor and criminologist at the University of California Berkeley, agreed that the rise in fatal shootings from 2020 to 2021 was relatively insignificant. He noted that the percentage change from one year to the next — three percent — was small.

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