Multiple news sources ranging from 2 years ago to now, such as CNN, NBC, New York Magazine, PBS, Salon, Vox, and NPR mention that between 2005 and May 2017, around 80 police officers have been charged with murder or manslaughter resulting from on-duty shootings. These sources consistently attribute a Philip Stinson's research. From NPR (last link):

Since 2005, Stinson says, 80 officers were charged with murder or manslaughter and just a third were convicted.

Stinson has published various articles on bgsu.edu (his institution) alleging such facts. From a May 31, 2017 article published by Philip Stinson himself (emphasis added):

Since 2005, there have been 82 police officers across the country charged with murder or manslaughter resulting from an on-duty shooting. That includes 18 officers charged in 2015, 13 in 2016, and three charged with murder or manslaughter resulting from an on-duty shooting so far in 2017. ... In the past 13 years, only 29 officers have been convicted and most of those convictions were for lesser manslaughter offenses. Only one officer has been convicted of intentional murder during that time period.

This article isn't peer-reviewed (and peer-review isn't perfect). Furthermore, Stinson has not published such statistics in any scientific journal (peer-reviewed or not) despite publishing his article two years ago. I would expect such important results to be in the literature, yet cannot find any. Additionally, the Washington Post disagrees. From the Washington Post (emphasis added):

Among the thousands of fatal shootings at the hands of police since 2005, only 54 officers were charged, a Post analysis found. In the resolved cases, most were cleared or acquitted.

The Washington Post article included the names of the charged police officers and was published April 11, 2015. Even with the 2 year time difference between the Washington Post article and Stinson's article, the numbers don't match up. Assuming that both Stinson and the Washington Post are correct, 12 additional police officers will have to have been charged in 2015 after April 12, 2015, 13 officers in 2016, and 3 officers in 2017 before May 31, 2017. I could not find enough officers for this to be true.

  1. Have 82 police officers been charged with murder or manslaughter "resulting from an on-duty shooting" since 2005? If yes, which 82 officers? (i.e. link to news article detailing charge for each officer. A good place to start is this Washington Post case summary detailing 54 officers. If the claim is true, 28 news links would be perfect.)

  2. Have there been 29 convictions?

  3. Were a third of all officers charged in a 12 year timespan (2005—2017) charged in just two years (2015—2017)?

Do you have any reason to doubt the numbers?

From Stinson's estimate of 1,000 police shootings per year, there were an estimated 12,000 shootings between 2005 and 2017. 82 charges in 12,000 shootings would mean .683% of shootings result in a charge. In my mind, that is a very small number. Also, reason 2 is Washington Post found 54 charges between 2005 and 2015. If Stinson is correct, there were 28 charges in 2 years, which is more than half of all charges in the preceding 10 years. Was there an exponential increase in the number of charges? (As you can see, part of me believes the number to be higher. Part of me believes it to be lower.)

I will award a 100 rep bounty for a referenced answer to question 3.

  • 4
    Do you have any reason to doubt the numbers? Jun 15, 2019 at 11:56
  • 1
    It's entirely consistent with what I've read over the past couple of decades -- the possibility of a cop being charged for abusive behavior has traditionally been almost zero, but social pressures have been changing this of late (offsetting pressures from the police unions, et al). Jun 15, 2019 at 19:26
  • Here are some of the more notable cases: cbc.ca/news/world/list-police-related-deaths-usa-1.4438618 Note that the largest fraction of abuse cases (mostly against African-Americans) do not attract much public scrutiny and hence are "buried" by police departments/unions, however. Jun 15, 2019 at 19:42
  • " In my mind, that is a very small number." That is reporting your doubt, not providing a reason for it. Jun 16, 2019 at 1:06
  • 3
    It's nice to have firm reasons why a questioner believes a number to be wrong - it allows an answerer to directly correct the source of the errors (if any) in their understanding. But we generally don't require that here. "It sounds hinky" is enough.
    – Oddthinking
    Jun 16, 2019 at 12:28

1 Answer 1


Stinson has led research on this question under the auspices of the Department of Justice and is transparent about his methodology and its limitations. Here is a lengthy technical report published in 2006. It clearly states the central problem that leads to the small inconsistencies seen above:

There are no comprehensive statistics available on problems with police integrity, and no government entity collects data on all criminal arrests of law enforcement officers in the United States.

Stinson is also behind the Henry A. Wallace Police Crime Database which documents 165 cases of charges for "Murder and Nonnegligent Manslaughter" brought against police officers between 2005 and 2014. However this includes murders committed off-duty as well as on-duty.

The Department of Justice collects official and detailed data on arrest-related deaths, just not charges brought against police. However according to another statistician at the Department of Justice:

From 2003 through 2009, a total of 4,813 deaths were reported to the Bureau of Justice Statistics’ (BJS) Arrest-Related Deaths (ARD) program. Of these, about 6 in 10 deaths (2,931) were classified as homicide by law enforcement personnel, and 4 in 10 (1,882) were attributed to other manners of death.

This works out to an average of more than 400 homicides committed by police each year in the line of duty. Clearly only a fraction of those lead to charges.

TL;DR: The estimates by Stinson are unfortunately the best we currently have.

  • Where did the 400 come from. 2931/6. If so, It’s 488 and closer to 450 or 500 than just 400. Jun 18, 2019 at 6:32
  • @BarryHarrison It's 7 years not 6, so the average is about 419.
    – Brian Z
    Jun 18, 2019 at 11:22
  • That's right! 7 not 6. Stinson wrote "About 1,000 times each year, an on-duty police officer shoots and kills someone." That's different from the Bureau of Justice Statistics’ (BJS) Arrest-Related Deaths (ARD) program statistics. In this case, would you say Stinson is wrong? Jun 19, 2019 at 2:19
  • 1
    1,000 per year is accurate for more recent years. See washingtonpost.com/graphics/national/police-shootings-2016 and bjs.gov/content/pub/pdf/ardprs1516pf_sum.pdf
    – Brian Z
    Jun 19, 2019 at 23:47
  • Then twincities.com is wrong. "Between 2005 and 2017, there were an estimated 12,000 police-involved shootings nationwide." I really don't want to edit this into the question (it wouldn't be the same question). Is there a better estimate? Jun 20, 2019 at 3:01

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