Prosecution of police using deadly force has tripled


The decision Monday not to indict an Ohio police officer in 2014 death of a 12-year-old who had a pellet gun has some people asking whether police officers are held to a different, more forgiving, standard when it comes to fatal shootings.

Cuyahoga County prosecutor Tim McGinty announced Monday that an Ohio grand jury had decided not to indict police officers Timothy Loehmann and Frank Garmback in the shooting of Tamir Rice, saying the what happened the day Rice was killed was a “perfect storm of human error, mistakes and communications by all involved … and  did not indicate criminal conduct by police.”

Two outside investigators had previously concluded that the shooting of Tamir was "reasonable."

Rice’s case, along with cases of others such as Walter Scott --  who was shot in the back after a traffic stop in South Carolina in April -- and Samuel DuBose -- who was shot in the head in July after he was stopped for not having a license tag -- have garnered national attention in 2015, and led to questions about if and how on-duty police officers are held responsible for their actions.

>>Related: Celebs share grief, outrage over Tamir Rice grand jury decision

The numbers from 2015 seem to point to a shift  in the assumption  that officers are never held accountable in a shooting that ends someone’s life. This year, more than three times the number of officers than in previous years  have  been indicted for manslaughter or murder following a fatal, on-duty shooting.

Some have suggested the existence of videos that record the circumstances surrounding a shooting have forced prosecutors’ hands when it comes to charging police officers.

Adding to the task of determining if justice is fairly applied is the fact that the FBI does not require law enforcement  agencies to report  “justifiable homicides” committed by officers while in the line of duty. The FBI instead runs a voluntary program that allows law enforcement agencies to choose whether to submit their annual count of justifiable homicides. 

>>Read more trending stories

The FBI considers a justifiable homicide as “the killing of a felon in the line of duty."

This year there have been 18 cases brought against police officers who fatally shot someone while on duty. Of those cases, 10 have included video evidence, something those who have studied police use of deadly force say likely makes the difference in the numbers.

“If you take the cases with the video away, you are left with what we would expect to see over the past 10 years – about five cases,” Philip Stinson, a criminologist at Bowling Green State University who was quoted by the Associated Press in a story last week.

“You have to wonder if there would have been charges if there wasn’t video evidence.”

>>Read more trending stories

Whether more shooting incidents are being better investigated or more people are seeing what happens when officers confront the public, the spotlight has shifted to examining  how officers interact with the public they serve.

Here are some numbers that paint a picture of the people who were shot and killed by law enforcement in 2015

1126 people have been killed by police in the United States in 2015, according to a project from The Guardian. Of those:

  • 567 were white
  • 292 were black
  • 52 were women
  • 1073 were men

Information from other sources includes:

  •  18 police officers have been indicted in fatal shootings in 2015, more than three times as many as the average of previous years (5)
  • Half of the 2015 indictments stemmed from shootings that took place this year, the other half date back to shootings  that happened as far as 2011.
  • In 10 of the 2015 cases which led to indictments, prosecutors had a video record of the shooting
  • 75 percent of the fatal shootings happened when police were under attack or defending someone who was, the Washington Post reported
  • 54 police officers were indicted in fatal shootings between 2005 to 2014
  • 11 officers were convicted in those fatal shootings
  • 36 officers have been shot and killed in the line of duty this year

Sources: The Washington Post; The Guardian; The Associated Press; Pro Publica;


Reader Comments ...


Next Up in Nation & World

This coffee riddle has baffled the internet – can you solve it?
This coffee riddle has baffled the internet – can you solve it?

You may want to have a cup of joe – or two – before you try to solve this viral puzzle that is baffling social media users. >> Read more trending news If you've checked Facebook or Twitter over the past few days, you've probably seen the image of four coffee cups under a maze of pipes, followed by the question, "Who gets coffee...
Lena Dunham slammed for defending 'Girls' producer accused of rape
Lena Dunham slammed for defending 'Girls' producer accused of rape

Social media users are slamming actress and “Girls” creator Lena Dunham after she defended one of the show’s producers, Murray Miller, following allegations that he raped a teen actress, Page Six reports. “Life comes at you fast @lenadunham,” S.E. Cupp tweeted with a screenshot of one of Dunham's previous...
'SNL' slams former cast member Al Franken on 'Weekend Update'
'SNL' slams former cast member Al Franken on 'Weekend Update'

"Saturday Night Live" slammed Sen. Al Franken just days after Los Angeles news anchor Leeann Tweeden accused the Minnesota Democrat and former "SNL" cast member of groping and kissing her without her consent during a 2006 USO tour. Colin Jost and Michael Che took aim at the comedian-turned-senator during the show's "Weekend...
'Project Runway' contestant Wendy Pepper dead at 53
'Project Runway' contestant Wendy Pepper dead at 53

Anne Eustis Pepper Stewart, known as Wendy Pepper, has died at the age of 53, Page Six reports. The “Project Runway” first season contestant “died peacefully" Nov. 12 while "surrounded by her loving family," according to her obituary. The news comes just one month after the death of fellow contestant...
Suspect named in Pennsylvania police officer's shooting death
Suspect named in Pennsylvania police officer's shooting death

Here’s what we know about the fatal shooting of a New Kensington, Pennsylvania, police officer: >> Read more trending news
More Stories