As there are no official numbers, the best available data comes from independent news agencies like the Guardian, who reported that 1,058 Americans have been killed by police in 2015. For African Americans, the number of law enforcement-related deaths per capita is twice as high as it is in the white population.
The summary points of the proposal from Harvard outline both the problem and a solution:
During the past year, the United States has experienced major controversies—and civil unrest—regarding the endemic problem of police violence and police deaths.Making police killings a notifiable condition would require Police Departments to report each killing to their corresponding Public Health Department. Medical and public health professionals would then report law-enforcement related deaths in real time.
Although deaths of police officers are well documented, no reliable official US data exist on the number of persons killed by the police, in part because of long-standing and well-documented resistance of police departments to making these data public.
Law-enforcement–related deaths, of both persons killed by law enforcement agents and also law enforcement agents killed in the line of duty, are a public health concern, not solely a criminal justice concern, since these events involve mortality and affect the well-being of the families and communities of the deceased; therefore, law-enforcement–related deaths are public health data, not solely criminal justice data.
We propose that law-enforcement–related deaths be treated as a notifiable condition, which would allow public health departments to report these data in real-time, at the local as well as national level, thereby providing data needed to understand and prevent the problem.