A long journalistic event: According to the Washington Post's Fatal Force reporting project, roughly a thousand people per year are shot and killed by police officers around the United States.
What percentage of those events involved misconduct by the officer or officers in question? We know of no one who has ever tried to perform such an analysis.
The Post has tried to sort these events according to the race or ethnicity of the deceased—the dead. The newspaper's reporting project began at the start of 2015. As of this very morning, the numbers look like this:
Numbers of people shot and killed by police officers, 2015 to presentThat's the way the numbers break down according to "race" or ethnicity. The numbers can also be sifted in these additional ways:
Other race or ethnicity: 218
Unknown race or ethnicity: 611
Numbers of people shot and killed by police officers, 2015 to presentFor whatever reason, the number of racial/ethnic "unknowns" has greatly increased since the start of the project.
Numbers of people shot and killed by police officers, 2015 to present
45 years of age and older: 1,465
Under 18: 102
Unknown age: 251
In 2015, the Post lists only 29 racial/ethnic "unknowns" among 994 shooting deaths. For 2019, the Post lists 142 such "unknowns" among 999 shooting deaths.
(For 2018: 101 such "unknowns" among 990 deaths.)
For what it's worth, the steady rise in these "unknowns" has begun to diminish the value of the racial/ethnic component of this reporting project. We'll suggest the possibility that the Post has perhaps devoted less time and attention to this project as the years have passed.
(At present, the Post lists four such racial/ethnic "unknowns" for the state of Wisconsin—two from 2018, one from 2019 and one from 2020. Over this past weekend, it was easy to establish that three of these victims were actually white. We didn't attempt to research the fourth, for whom no name is known.)
After adjusting for population, the United States has many more police shooting deaths than comparable developed nation. The fact that the United States is "awash in guns" is almost surely partly or largely responsible for this large disparity.
That said, this country experiences a lot of shooting deaths at the hands of police officers. Some of those deaths involve misconduct. It would be interesting and valuable to know how many.
More specifically, it would be valuable to know how many such deaths involved police misconduct for each racial/ethnic group.
Starting in 2012, the upper-end press corps has taken vastly greater interest in this societal issue. (The existence of the Fatal Force reporting project is one obvious part of this journalistic phenomenon.)
This is plainly a deeply important topic, especially since almost all reporting and discussion of the topic have stressed racial themes. That said, the reporting of this important matter has often been remarkably incompetent.
At this site, we've been reporting journalistic incompetence since 1998. Starting in 2018, we began treating this journalistic incompetence as an anthropological matter—as a marker of the less than wholly impressive way our human brains are wired.
(Presumably, this less than wholly impressive wiring dates back into prehistory, and into the time before that.)
We've been reporting journalistic incompetence since 1998. We'd say that police shooting deaths is one of the most poorly reported topics we've ever covered at this site.
As such, we'd say that the mainstream press corps's work in this area has been an anthropological gold mine, but also a source of substantial misunderstanding and pain.
In part because of long-standing cultural beliefs, in part because of the ways our highly fallible brains are wired, it's hard for us to see the upper-end press corps' work for what it actually is. Tomorrow, we'll start to discuss the many ways this important societal topic has been misreported by this unimpressive corporate elite.
According to major anthropologists, we humans aren't "the rational animal," and we never were. The press corps' handling of this topic brings this anthropological fact into stark relief, as does the way our tribal groups fashion and cling to their favorite beliefs concerning such important topics.
How has this topic been misreported by the upper-end press? Tomorrow, we'll start to count the (many) ways.
No one's beliefs will change one whit, several top experts have said.
Tomorrow: Who on earth was Bijan Ghaisar? The start of a long, winding road