In a year that saw a social justice movement, a pandemic, and an increase in violent crime, police related shooting deaths in Florida in 2020 were up 51.5 % when compared to the previous five years. In contrast, police related shootings nationwide were up just 3.4%.
The numbers come from The Washington Post police related shooting database which began logging information in 2015. The data show that from 2015 to 2019 Florida averaged approximately 61.4 police related shooting deaths per year. In 2020, there were 93 police related shooting deaths, a 51.5% increase.
Nationwide from 2015 to 2019 there were an average of 985.6 police related shootings. In 2021 there were 1,021 police related shootings, a 3.4% increase.
In addition, no other state reported anywhere near the increase that was reported in Florida. For example, among the other states with more than 50 police related shootings in 2020, California had an increase of 0.3% in 2020 when compared to the 2015-2019 average and Texas had a 6.3% decrease.
Explaining the Increase
It would be easy to conclude that the increase in police related shootings in Florida was, in part, due to the increase in violent crime. The Florida Department of Law Enforcement (FDLE) reported that murders were up 16.2% and aggravated assaults were up 6.5% in 2020. However, national reports indicate violent crime was up nationwide.
A closer look at the numbers reveals that the increase in police related shootings in Florida can be attributed to more cities reporting shootings rather than major increases in large cities. For example, during the 2015-2019 time period, an average of 45 Florida cities reported a police related shooting death. In 2020 a total of 63 Florida cities reported at least one police related shooting death.
Also, only one of the major Florida population centers – Jacksonville – had a significant increase in police shootings in 2020 when compared to the previous five years. Jacksonville averaged four police related shootings from 2015-2019 and reported nine shootings in 2020. However, some smaller cities reported significant increases in shooting deaths. For example, Cocoa, Florida reported a total of two shooting deaths from 2015-2019 but reported four in 2020. Similarly, Tallahassee reported a total of three shooting deaths from 2015-2019, but reported four in 2020.
The Florida Capital Star will continue to investigate the police related shooting data in search for a detailed explanation to the 2020 increase.
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Steve Stewart is the Managing Editor and a contributor at The Florida Capital Star. Email tips to [email protected]