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Will police officers in the United States shoot and kill more than 1000 people in 2016?
Fatal shootings of civilians by police were thrust into the national spotlight following the August 2014 shooting death of Michael Brown in Ferguson, Mo. The incident sparked a debate about the use of force in police encounters, as well as the lack of comprehensive reporting of such incidents.
Currently, the Bureau of Justice Statistics compiles reports from state agencies of deaths that occurred while in police custody. By the bureau's own admission, however, more than half of such deaths may go unreported.
To cover the gap, several independent organizations have launched their own tracking systems, notably Killed by Police and Fatal Encounters. Building on their work, journalists at the Washington Post and The Guardian have followed up on reports of police-related deaths, which are gathered from social media and news reports, to compile databases and tell the stories behind each incident.
The Washington Post's database is unique because it tracks only shooting deaths and not other deaths in police custody, such as the April 2015 death of Freddie Gray in Baltimore, Md., which was attributed to injuries sustained while detained in a police van.
By the Post's accounting, 990 people were fatally shot in police encounters in the United States in 2015. Further statistics paint a picture of the majority of encounters: Most of the victims were white males, armed with a deadly weapon in the process of an active attack. By race, 26% of those shot and killed were black and 17% were Hispanic. Mental illness played a factor in at least 25% of incidents.
In December 2015, the FBI announced that their system for tracking deaths in police custody, including non-shooting incidents, would dramatically expand by 2017.
Many solutions have been proposed to reduce police shootings, including additional training on interacting with mentally ill individuals. The effectiveness of such efforts, however, is most directly measured in the total number of shooting deaths by years' end. As of early July 2016, the Post reported 505 police shooting deaths in 2016, 27 more cumulative deaths than at the same time last year.
Will the total number of police shooting deaths in 2016 reach 1,000, surpassing 2015's total of 990 deaths?
This question will resolve as positive if, once complete numbers for 2016 are available, the Washington Post database shows 1,000 or more deaths in 2016.
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