Pulitzer Prize-winning Fatal Force Database updated with federal IDs of police departments involved in fatal shootings


The Washington Post’s Fatal Force Database, which has logged every fatal shooting in the United States by a police officer in the line of duty since 2015, has been updated to include federal IDs (formally called Originating Agency Identifiers, or ORIs) of police departments involved in fatal shootings. This update allows users to more easily combine Washington Post data with external sources of policing data, which typically include federal IDs as a standard identifier for departments. The Post’s database has logged nearly 8,000 fatal police shootings since its inception, uncovering an overall upward trend in the shootings and disputing federal records indicating fatal shootings by police have been declining nationwide since 2015.

The database update to incorporate ORIs increases transparency around The Post’s research and methodology. In addition to the ORIs, and the name and location of police departments previously included in the database, the database now includes the agency type (local, sheriff, state police, etc.) and total death records the agency has been involved with.

The dataset will continue to uncover demographic trends in the shootings and include more than a dozen details about each killing such as the race of the deceased, the circumstances of the shooting, whether the person was armed and whether the person was experiencing a mental-health crisis.

So far, the number of fatal police shootings for 2022 sits at 1,011 and will be continually updated through the end of the year. In 2021, The Post logged 1,047 fatal shootings, up 5% from the 994 fatal police shootings counted in 2015. Researchers at The Post identify and manually record data for fatal police shootings in the United States. Each record requires at least two sources and must be approved by Post editors before being publicly released.

The Post’s Fatal Force database was created in the wake of the 2014 police killing of Michael Brown in Ferguson, Mo. and a subsequent Post investigation found that the FBI undercounted fatal police shootings by more than half. FBI officials have acknowledged that their data is incomplete. Police departments have also failed to keep records of their fatal shootings as reporting is voluntary.

In 2016, after building the database, The Washington Post received the 2016 Pulitzer Prize for National Reporting “for a distinguished example of reporting on national affairs.” In 2020, the database received recognition from NYU Journalism as one of the top ten works of journalism of the decade: “the Washington Post set a new standard for real-time, data journalism and was a vital resource during a still-raging national debate.” In 2022, the database was honored by the Peabody Awards in a newly created category, Digital and Immersive Storytelling, intended to honor “a legacy cast of winners, acknowledging their historic, pioneering role in laying the groundwork for projects of today and tomorrow.” The database has been widely cited by newsrooms, researchers, educators and government officials across the country, and has largely informed reporting for The Post’s Policing in America series, an examination of policing in America amid the push for reform.


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