Chicago, nation have a long way to go to reduce police shootings, research shows

ByChuck Goudie and Barb Markoff, Christine Tressel and Ross Weidner WLS logo
Thursday, April 22, 2021
Research shows Chicago, nation have long way to go to reduce police shootings
More than 1,000 times a year, a police officer somewhere kills a citizen, according to criminologists.

CHICAGO (WLS) -- Although there is no failsafe government record of fatal police-involved shootings, one tracking project pegs the number of citizens killed by officers nationwide at about 1,100 per year.

So far this year at least 319 people have been killed by police in the U.S. According to Mapping Police Violence data, there have only been three days this year when someone hasn't been killed by police somewhere in the nation. Black people make up 28% of those killed by police according to the database, even though just 13% of the U.S. population is Black.

More than 1,000 times a year, a police officer somewhere kills a citizen, according to criminologists.

A decades-long research project at Bowling Green State University found officers were charged in 1.1% of cases, with most determined to be legally justified.

Project director and criminal justice professor Philip Stinson said there is an important wild card,

"Many of these instances, don't involve any sort of video recordings, there aren't dashcam recordings, there aren't body worn video recordings, there aren't cell phone videos recorded by bystanders," he said. "Sometimes, you know, there aren't surveillance and security videos either. So, in those instances, the police own the narrative."

Despite thousands of arrestees dying while in police care, since 2005 Stinson found only 143 officers arrested for criminal use of force. Only about half of those resulted in conviction, including Tuesday's guilty verdicts against former Minneapolis police officer Derek Chauvin for the murder of George Floyd.

The difference in the Floyd case was video.

"I want to be clear that not all police officers are racist. Obviously, that's not the case, but we do see this, this type of incident occurring with frightening regularity. And it seems that we ought to be able to reduce the incidents and prevalence of people being killed by on duty police officers in this country," said Stinson.

Despite a recent police scorecard that ranks Chicago 499th out of 500 US departments in use of force and officer accountability, Stinson said Chicago was one of the first places where excessive force data was routinely available. He also noted some other good things happening in Chicago: organizations pursuing transparency by obtaining police disciplinary records.