2016 April 16

Washington Post Wins Pulitzer for Path-Breaking Reporting on People Shot by the Police


The Washington Post on this day won a Pulitzer Prize for National Reporting for its series of stories establishing the true number of people shot and killed by the police every year. The Post’s project, which involved 70 different reporters, found that in 2015 the police shot and killed 986 people. The official FBI data had indicated that the police were killing about 400 people every year, half the actual number.

The Post’s reporting was prompted by the national police crisis that began on August 9, 2014 with the fatal shooting of Michael Brown by a Ferguson, Missouri, police officer. The shooting was followed by massive protests that eventually escalated into riots and violence. In response to the Ferguson events, President Barack Obama appointed a President’s Task Force on 21st Century Policing, which released a report recommending sweeping reforms of the police on March 4, 2015.

The lack of a complete data set on persons shot and killed by the police was due to the inaction of the FBI. The FBI data set that does exist was voluntary, and many police departments do not submit their data. The failure of the FBI to develop a fully accurate count persisted despite great public concern about police shootings.

Read the Washington Post’s “Final Tally” on the 2015 shootings: https://www.washingtonpost.com/national/final-tally-police-shot-and-killed-984-people-in-2015/2016/01/05/3ec7a404-b3c5-11e5-a76a-0b5145e8679a_story.html

Don’t miss: Wesley Lowery, “They Can’t Kill Us All:” Ferguson, Baltimore, and a New Era in America’s Racial Justice Movement (2016)

Study Black Lives Matters’ police reform program, Campaign Zero: http://www.joincampaignzero.org/#vision

Read the definitive new book on police shootings: Franklin Zimring, When Police Kill (2017)

Learn more about police accountabilitiy: Samuel Walker and Carol Archbold, The New World of Police Accountability, 2nd ed. (2014)

Read the President’s Task Force report on policing: http://www.cops.usdoj.gov/pdf/taskforce/taskforce_finalreport.pdf

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