WASHINGTON (Reuters) - U.S. police have shot and killed 385 people during the first five months of this year, a rate of more than two a day, the Washington Post reported on Saturday.
The death rate is more than twice that tallied by the federal government over the past decade, a count that officials concede is incomplete, the newspaper said.
The analysis is based on data the Post is compiling on every fatal shooting by police in 2015, as well as of every officer killed by gunfire in the line of duty.
“We are never going to reduce the number of police shootings if we don’t begin to accurately track this information,” said Jim Bueermann, president of the Police Foundation, a nonprofit organization dedicated to improving law enforcement.
The Post analysis comes as a national debate is raging over the police use of deadly force, especially against minorities.
Federal Bureau of Investigation records over the past decade show about 400 fatal police shootings a year, or an average of 1.1 deaths a day. Reporting of shootings by police agencies is voluntary.
But the Post’s analysis indicates the daily death toll for 2015 is close to 2.6 as of Friday. At that pace, police will have shot and killed nearly 1,000 people by the end of the year, the paper said.
The Post's analysis showed that about half the victims were white, half minority. Among unarmed victims, two-thirds were black or Hispanic.
Based on census numbers for the areas where the killings took place, blacks were killed at three times the rate of whites or other minorities.
The victims ranged in age from 16 to 83. More than 80 percent were armed with potentially lethal objects, mostly guns. Ninety-two victims were identified as mentally ill.
Police are authorized to use deadly force when they fear for their lives or the lives of others. Three of the 385 fatal shootings have resulted in an officer being charged with a crime.
Current and former police chiefs and other criminal justice officials told the Post police must begin to accept responsibility for the killings. They said that many deaths could be blamed on poor policing.
(Reporting by Ian Simpson; Editing by Simon Cameron-Moore)