Washington (AFP) - US police have killed people at a rate of more than two a day this year, The Washington Post reported Sunday, using its own tally for lack of complete federal statistics.
The federal government must rely on partial data because the country's 17,000 or so state and local police agencies are not required to report such killings.
The newspaper is tracking the deaths as a national debate rages over police use of deadly force, especially in black and other minority communities.
The Post found that relative to the overall population, blacks were killed at three times the rate of other minorities or whites in the police killings it analyzed this year.
The report noted that most of the people killed were armed with potentially lethal objects -- mainly guns, but also knives and other items. Sixteen percent were carrying a toy or were unarmed.
The Post found that so far this year, at least 385 people have been shot and killed by police across the United States -- a rate of more than two a day.
“These shootings are grossly underreported,” former police chief Jim Bueermann, head of a nonprofit organization dedicated to improving law enforcement, told The Post. “We are never going to reduce the number of police shootings if we don’t begin to accurately track this information.”
One of the most prominent recent cases to fuel the ongoing debate about police violence is that of Michael Brown, an 18-year-old who was fatally shot last year in Ferguson, Missouri.
The death and subsequent lack of legal action against the police officer who shot him prompted widespread riots in the St Louis suburb.
In Baltimore last month, riots broke out following protests over the death of Freddie Gray, 25, who died from injuries sustained in the back of a police van.
The Post found that many of the killings stemmed from minor interactions between police and community members that escalated into sudden violence.
In one case, for instance, police in the Florida city of Miami Gardens killed a schizophrenic man who was waving a broomstick. His mother had called police because she couldn't persuade him to come in from the cold.