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WSJ: Police-Related Deaths Go Unreported to FBI

By    |   Wednesday, 03 December 2014 01:22 PM

Hundreds of Americans were killed by police officers between 2007 and 2012, but the FBI has no record of their deaths, according to a Wall Street Journal analysis.

Data from 105 of the nation's largest police departments show more than 550 people were killed by the police during that time period, reports the publication, but many of them are either missing from the national count or not attributed to the agency that was involved, meaning it is not possible to know how many are killed every year.

Transparency advocates say there has been a lack of information on such killings for years. Meanwhile, the public has been clamoring for more information following the death of 18-year-old Michael Brown in Ferguson, Missouri.

Ferguson has been damaged by rioting and protests after the shooting and after a grand jury's decision decided that police officer Darren Wilson should not face criminal charges for Brown's death. That community's police department reported just one justifiable homicide by police incident between 1976 and 2012, the records show.

"When cops are killed, there is a very careful account and there’s a national database," said Columbia University law professor Jeffrey Fagan. "Why not the other side of the ledger?"

There are three sources of information about such deaths, including the FBI, the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention, and information provided by the Bureau of Justice Statistics, and they can vary widely, said University of Missouri-St. Louis criminologist David Klinger.

To conduct its analysis, the Journal requested internal records from 110 police departments, with 105 providing records. The figures showed there were 1,825 killings during the 2007-2012 period, but the FBI records showed a tally of just 1,242.

Almost all the deaths caused from deadly force by police were deemed justifiable by either the departments or local authorities.

Meanwhile, the Journal reports, most of the nation's 18,000-plus law enforcement agencies did not report any killings at all, while 753 departments reported around 2,400.

Bureau of Justice Statistics statistician Alexia Cooper said the FBI does not know that not every agency that could report has chosen not to, but "what we know is that some places have chosen not to report these, for whatever reason."

For example, the Washington, D.C., police did not report police-related deaths for 10 years, beginning in 1998, when The Washington Post reported the city's officer-related deaths were the highest in the United States.

The department did report five police-related deaths in 2011, but none in 2012.

D.C. Metropolitan Police Chief Cathy Lanier was not the chief in 1998 and did not make the decisions, and even when she took over in 2007, reporting statistics "was a nightmare and a very tedious process."

The FBI shows almost no records of police shootings from three key states: Florida, New York, and Illinois.

The Florida Department of Law Enforcement's records don't conform to FBI requirements and have not been included since 1996. And in New York, a spokeswoman for the State Division of Criminal Justice Services said her agency is looking to "modify our technology so we can reflect these numbers."

In Illinois, crime statistics started being reported to the FBI only in 2010, although Chicago and Rockford do provide the FBI with information.

Meanwhile, local agencies are not required to turn over reports about deaths to the FBI.

Some turn over their crime statistics, but not detailed records on homicides, which is how the FBI tracks them. Instead, the records are sent from local police agencies to state agencies, which forward the information.

Justifiable police deaths from a full 35 of the 105 agencies contacted did not show up in the FBI's records, and some agencies said they do not view such incidents as anything that needs to be reported.

For 28 other of the agencies, the FBI did not have records of police killings in at least one of the years, but two departments said their officers had not killed anyone during that time period.

And, about 12 agencies said their tallies did not match the FBI records because incidents are reported by the jurisdiction where they occurred, not by the department where the officer is employed.

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Hundreds of Americans were killed by police officers between 2007 and 2012, but the FBI has no record of their deaths, according to a Wall Street Journal analysis.
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Wednesday, 03 December 2014 01:22 PM
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