“The nation’s leading law enforcement agency [FBI] collects vast amounts of information on crime nationwide, but missing from this clearinghouse are statistics on where, how often, and under what circumstances police use deadly force. In fact, no one anywhere comprehensively tracks the most significant act police can do in the line of duty: take a life,” according to the Las Vegas Review-Journal in its series Deadly Force (Nov. 28, 2011).
This site is founded upon the premise that Americans should have the ability to track that act. This idea was conceived in the wake of the Oct. 6, 2012, killing of a naked, unarmed college student, Gil Collar, at the University of South Alabama. Media reports contained no context: How many people are killed by police in Alabama every year? How many in the United States?
It turned out that Collar was on drugs, including marijuana and the hallucinogen 25-I. It also turned out the freshman never got within 5 feet of the officer, and the officer attempted no less-lethal methods to subdue Collar. On March 1, 2013, the policeman was cleared of wrongdoing.
Fatal Encounters is intended to help create a database of all deaths through police interaction in the United States since Jan. 1, 2000. A large piece will be based on public information requests, but the bulk of it–the part that will make it sustain after the structure is built–will use crowdsourcing to update the database. To help, please go here to research and add data for an older incident; go here to add data for new incidents (but please do a last name search before you add a new incident).
This site will remain as impartial and data-driven as possible, directed by the theory that Americans should be able to answer some simple questions about the use of deadly force by police: How many people are killed in interactions with law enforcement in the United States of America? Are they increasing? What do those people look like? Can policies and training be modified to have fewer officer-involved shootings and improve outcomes and safety for both officers and citizens?
D. Brian Burghart