” If a police officer fatally shoots an unarmed citizen in the United States – and it was happening on average more than twice a day even before the killing of Michael Brown seven months ago in Ferguson, Missouri – most people find out about it not from law enforcement but from the 24-hour news cycle.
The best counts America currently has of killings by police are the work of activists and journalists – online databases like Fatal Encounters, Facebook compilations like Killed By Police, or Operation Ghetto Storm, which estimates that one African American is killed by police, security guards or vigilantes at least “every 28 hours”.
Citizen activists keep the best national counts. But there are corners of the country where the police track use-of-force more closely than any outside activist could. For example if an officer intentionally fires a gun in Montgomery County, Maryland – even if no one is hit or hurt – the police department posts a detailed description of the circumstances on its home page, usually within 24 hours. It is policy.
But transparent police departments are by no means the norm: the United States has no uniform count of people killed by police officers. The problem of missing data stems from more than just police obstructionism or oversight. A national infrastructure for data collection has never been built. Instead a confusing mosaic of city, state and county reporting leaves too many cracks for data to fall through, without imposing consequences for local police failing to report when they kill those they are sworn to protect.
“ The reality is that there is not a good national data – or even a regional, state or local data on officer-involved shootings,” Laurie Robinson, a professor of criminology at George Mason University and co-chair of Barack Obama’s task force on community policing, told the Guardian.”
Read more as the Guardian continues to do the job that the US MSM refuses to do … namely , report facts and not serve as a state-run propaganda machine and be sure to check out this companion piece “The Uncounted” that deals with efforts to create a TRUE national database of police killings …
Keeping an accurate count of citizens killed by police should not be a daunting task for a government that is so good at counting:
” The federal government counts many things very well. It counts the number of children who die each week from flu (11 during the week ending 17 January). It counts the average number of hours American men spend weekly on lawn care (almost two). It counts the monthly production of hens’ eggs (8.31bn in November). It counts nut consumption by non-Hispanic white men over the age of 20 (42.4% enjoyed nuts on any given day in 2009-2010). It counts how many women aged 15-44 use contraception (60.9 million, or 61.7%).
The US government is a virtuoso counter. So why can’t it count people killed by police?
Some people think Washington already does keep count. The government publishes two statistics every year that look an awful lot like, and are regularly mistaken for, comprehensive counts of deaths from interactions with police. The first is the FBI’s count of “justifiable homicides by law enforcement”, based on police reports submitted by state and local agencies.
The second is the Centers for Disease Control’s count of “deaths by legal intervention”, based on medical records and death certificates. Considerable scholarly exertion has gone into describing the flaws in each count. Not all police agencies participate in the FBI’s count, which is limited to deaths involving a weapon, for example, while the CDC misses cases, among others, in which medical examiners certify a homicide but fail to note police involvement.”