How to Use the Fatal Force Database
By: Joseph Giacalone
The Washington Post’s Fatal Force database tracks police officer-involved shootings in the United States. It is the only database in existence. The FBI will release one soon, but unknown when. It will be interesting to see if the FBI data coincides with the Post, or will it diverge.
The Fatal Force database has tracked over 5,000 fatal encounters with the police since 2015. Fatal encounters have remained steady:
- 2015 – 994
- 2016 – 961
- 2017 – 986
- 2018 – 990
- 2019 – 999
- 2020 – 1,003
Searching the Database
In response to my blog post on 2020 Officer-Involved Shootings (see Related Article), I was asked how I found the statistics. The database isn’t difficult, but it can be tricky. I put together a quick tutorial on how to use the database and find what you are searching for.
The video is less than three (3) minutes and should answer most, if not all of your questions. If there is something you don’t understand, feel free to reach out to me via the Contact Page and I will try and help. If you are tech savvy, you can also download the entire database and create what you want.
The Outlook for 2021
What can we expect in 2021? I don’t have a crystal ball, but if you look at the rising violence in the U.S., the outlook isn’t good. My prediction is if the violence continues, police officers using their firearms will also increase. 2020 was the most recorded fatal encounters (1,003) with the police since the Post started tracking them. Even though it was only four more, it will be interesting to watch what happens.
I hope there is a lot fewer fatal encounters, but in law enforcement, hope is not a plan. In the meanwhile, police chiefs should concentrate on better training, policies, and tactics.