St. Louis police shoot Americans more often than any other city, according to a news investigation released Monday.
Vice News conducted a nine-month investigation of police shootings from the 50 largest city police departments in the country, which determined that overall, police shoot people more than twice as often as was previously estimated. In addition, black people are killed at a higher rate and unarmed people are shot more often than prior data has shown, according to Vice.
In the 50 largest departments, more than 4,000 people were shot by police in the last six years. Of those, 1,378 were fatal, Vice reported.
The Washington Post and Guardian have been keeping a running tally on fatal shootings since the Michael Brown shooting in 2014. But only 35 police departments participate in the federal database maintained by the FBI, according to Vice — out of 18,000 U.S. law enforcement agencies.
Vice’s study follows fatal and nonfatal shootings from 50 departments, covering 148,000 police officers in cities with a combined 54 million residents. Many fought to keep the information secret, according to Vice. One department sent a CD-ROM with a spreadsheet file; another tried to charge thousands of dollars for the data.
St. Louis had the most police shootings per capita, though Vice said the police provided “scant details” for shootings after Michael Brown in 2014. But St. Louis had a big drop in 2015, without the federal agreement; other big drops were primarily from departments voluntarily accepting FBI oversight, including Miami, New Orleans and Milwaukee.
Still, St. Louis’ average is about five people per 100,000 residents, double the rates of Chicago, New Orleans and Philadelphia, according to the Riverfront Times.
“Policing is a dangerous job and often requires officers to make split-second decisions,” the St. Louis police said in a statement to the Riverfront Times. “While the numbers you referenced in your inquiry paint a picture, you must take into account the circumstances, and examine each incident on a case-by-case basis.”
Other statistics from the Vice investigation:
▪ About 20 percent of people shot by police were unarmed, and in 8 percent departments did not say whether the subject was armed or not.
▪ Black people comprise 55 percent of the total number of people shot, more than double the share of the black population in their communities. Black people were more likely to be shot during incidents that began as routine traffic or pedestrian stops, but less likely to be armed with a weapon. However, about a dozen departments would not release data on race.
▪ Approximately 60 percent of police shooter incidents involved white officers.
▪ Overall, police shootings are down about 20 percent. Cities like Philadelphia, Chicago and Las Vegas that adopted Obama-era efforts to reduce police shootings saw a 29 percent decline; those efforts have been halted under the current administration, according to Vice.
Proposals to reduce police shootings have included creating civilian review boards, improving officer training, updating use-of-force policies and stressing de-escalation and the sanctity of life.