FBI Database Shows Local Police Involved in 400 Killings Per Year

FBI Database Shows Local Police Involved in 400 Killings Per Year

Critics say the flawed database hugely underestimate the number of fatal police-involved shootings.

Published August 15, 2014

Data from an FBI database suggests that the fatal shooting of 18-year-old Michael Brown in Ferguson, Missouri, last weekend was not an anomaly in American policing.

From 2005 to 2012, a white police officer killed a Black person almost two times a week in the U.S., according to a recent USA Today report. Witnesses of the Brown shooting have claimed that Darren Wilson, the officer who Ferguson police say shot and killed brown, is white. 

The death of a Black person at the hands of a white police officer constitutes 96 of at least 400 police killings each year that were reported to the FBI by local police. Additionally, victims under age 21 make up 18 percent of the Blacks killed during those seven years, compared to 8.7 percent of whites. 

The data was attributed to an FBI database that contains the most recent accounts of justifiable homicide reported to the agency.

Yet, many have complained that the database, which remains the most complete nationwide account of police-involved killings, is limited and grossly underestimates the actual number of deaths.

As USA Today reports:

-- The killings are self reported by law enforcement.

-- Only about 750 of the 17,000 law enforcement agencies in the U.S. participate.

-- The number of deaths are not audited after they are submitted to the FBI.

-- The statistic on “justifiable” homicides have conflicted with independent investigations of police-involved fatalities.

''There is no national database for this type of information, and that is so crazy," University of South Carolina criminologist Geoff Alpert told USA Today. "We've been trying for years, but nobody wanted to fund it and the (police) departments didn't want it. They were concerned with their image and liability. They don't want to bother with it.’'

Alpert also pointed out that the database can confirm that a death has occurred but is good for little else.

"I've looked at records in hundreds of departments,'' Alpert said, "and it is very rare that you find someone saying, 'Oh, gosh, we used excessive force.' In 98.9% of the cases, they are stamped as justified and sent along.’’

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(Photo: Blue Images Online/Corbis)

Written by Patrice Peck


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