WASHINGTON: Police in the United States have killed nearly 1,000 this year, says a report published on Sunday.

Thirty-six police officers have also been shot and killed in the line of duty this year.

In a yearlong study, The Washington Post found that the kind of incidents that have ignited protests across the country — white police officers killing unarmed black men — represent less than 4 per cent of fatal police shootings.

The great majority of the 965 people killed by police this year fit at least one of three categories: they were wielding weapons, they were suicidal or mentally troubled, or they ran when officers told them to halt.

But the Post also reports that while black men make up only 6 per cent of the US population, they account for 40pc of the unarmed men shot to death by police this year.

In the majority of cases in which police shot and killed a person who had attacked someone with a weapon or brandished a gun, the person who was shot was white. But a hugely disproportionate number — 3 in 5 — of those killed after exhibiting less threatening behaviour were black or Hispanic.

In more than a quarter of cases, the fatal encounter involved officers pursuing someone on foot or by car.

The report points out that the widespread availability of video of police shootings has been a primary factor in the rising number of indictments of officers.

Prosecutors cited video evidence against officers in 10 of the 18 felony cases filed against officers this year — twice as often as video played a role in prosecutions over the previous decade.

As protests have increased pressure for transparency about fatal shootings, police departments across the US are equipping officers with body cameras. But police often refuse to publicly release video. In more than half the cases in which body-cam footage was available, police declined.

The FBI is charged with keeping statistics on police shootings, but a Post analysis of FBI data showed that fewer than half of the nation’s 18,000 police departments report their incidents to the agency.

The Post documented well more than twice as many fatal shootings this year as the average annual tally reported by the FBI over the past decade.

Almost one-quarter of those killed in police shootings were mentally ill. Officers fatally shot at least 243 people with mental health problems: 75 who were explicitly suicidal and 168 for whom police or family members confirmed a history of mental illness.

The analysis found that about 9 in 10 of the mentally troubled people were armed. But most of them died at the hands of police officers who had not been trained to deal with the mentally ill.

Published in Dawn, December 28th, 2015