The Washington Post has documented nearly 1,000 fatal police shootings nationwide every year, but there are no comprehensive data on incidents in which officers shoot and wound someone. That has made it difficult to know how often it happens and to hold departments and officers accountable. “That kind of information is necessary to develop strategies to reduce officer-involved shootings,” said Chuck Wexler of the Police Executive Research Forum, who contends that nonfatal police shootings deserve as much scrutiny as fatal ones. To help fill this gap, The Post and Berkeley Journalism’s Investigative Reporting Program filed public records requests for information about nonfatal shootings from every police department with five or more deadly police shootings from 2015 through 2020. Analysis of data from 156 departments found that in addition to the 2,137 people killed in fatal shootings, officers in those departments shot and wounded 1,609 more. For every five people shot and killed by police in these departments, four others were shot and survived.
It is a hidden population whose circumstances echo those in fatal shootings but who survive to grapple with debilitating wounds, emotional trauma and legal fallout. Because only the deadliest departments were analyzed, the tally of those wounded by police is far higher. In some cities, woundings heavily outnumbered fatal shootings. New York City had 87 nonfatal shootings compared with 43 fatal ones. In Chicago, police wounded 63 people and killed 38. The Atlanta Police Department had the largest disparity, wounding three times as many people as it killed: 40 nonfatal police shootings since 2015, compared with 13 fatal shootings. The incidents can pose a threat to police: Officers were shot in about seven percent of all fatal and nonfatal shootings examined. Nearly all of those shot and wounded were men, and many struggled with addiction, homelessness and poverty. At least one in five were experiencing mental health crises, and police said most were armed with guns when the shootings occurred. The racial disparity in nonfatal shooting was more pronounced than in fatal shootings: Black residents accounted for 16 percent of the combined population policed by these departments, but they represented 30 percent of those fatally shot by police and 41 percent of those shot and wounded.