Only 54 officers have been charged for thousands of fatal shootings at the hands of police across the United States over the past decade, according to a new report.
An analysis by The Washington Post and researchers at Bowling Green State University sought to identify, for the first time, every police officer who was charged for fatal shootings since 2005.
What the researchers found represents a tiny fraction of the cases involving a police officer fatally shooting someone while on duty since 2005.
“To charge an officer in a fatal shooting, it takes something so egregious, so over the top that it cannot be explained in any rational way,” said Philip M. Stinson, a criminologist at Bowling Green, who studies arrests of police. “It also has to be a case that prosecutors are willing to hang their reputation on.”
In an overwhelming majority of the cases where an officer was charged, the person killed was unarmed, said the analysis, which was based on a wide range of public records and interviews with law enforcement, judicial and other legal experts.
In cases where charges were made, The Post analysis found other factors typically made them exceptional, including, “a victim shot in the back, a video recording of the incident, incriminating testimony from other officers or allegations of a coverup.”