There needs to be compulsory collection of data regarding any fatal shootings or serious injuries sustained by individuals by police. I am hoping that this essential need to compile this type of data is covered in the upcoming, expected DOJ critical report regarding the Ferguson police. When I started to do research on this subject of unarmed people of color being fatally shot by police which was preventable, I was shocked to learn that consistently accurate data on this subject does not exist.
In my research, I found a published 2/16/15 paper, tiled, “Excessive or reasonable force by police? Research on law enforcement and racial conflict in the wake of Ferguson.” This is a Journalist Resource by Harvard Kennedy School Shorenstein Center on Media, Politics and Public Policy. The following are some excerpts discussing the issue of data collection regarding fatal shootings of individuals by police:
“Allegations of the use of excessive force by police departments in America continue to generate media headlines, more than two decades after the 1992 Los Angeles riots brought the issue to mass public attention and prompted law enforcement reforms. In Ferguson, Mo., a St. Louis suburb, the fatal shooting of teenager Michael Brown by a police officer, Darren Wilson, in August 2014 and a grand jury’s decision not to indict Wilson, has continued to trigger unrest and protests. In New York, the July death of Eric Garner because of the apparent use of a “chokehold” by an officer has also sparked outrage. This follows other recent incidents and controversies, including: an April 2014 finding by the U.S. Department of Justice (DOJ), following a two-year investigation, that the Albuquerque, N.M., police department “engages in a pattern or practice of use of excessive force, including deadly force, in violation of the Fourth Amendment”; and a similar DOJ finding in December 2014 with regard to the Cleveland police department.”
“A 2014 Pew Research Center survey confirms stark racial divisions in response to the Ferguson police shooting, as well, while Gallup provides insights on historical patterns of distrust. According to a Pew/USA Today poll conducted in August 2014, Americans of all races collectively “give relatively low marks to police departments around the country for holding officers accountable for misconduct, using the appropriate amount of force, and treating racial and ethnic groups equally.”
“But as the FBI points out, police departments and officers sometimes do not handle the aftermath of incidents well in terms of transparency and clarity, even when force was reasonably applied, fueling public confusion and anger. In 2013, 49, 851ssaulted in the line of duty, with an injury rate of 29.2 percent, according to the FBI. Twenty-seven were murdered that year.”
FBI Director: No “reliable grasp” of problem
“How common are such incidents of police use of force, both lethal and non-lethal, in the United States? Has there been progress in America? The indisputable reality is that we do not fully know. FBI Director James B. Comey stated the following in a remarkable February 2015 speech.”
“Not long after riots broke out in Ferguson late last summer, I asked my staff to tell me how many people shot by police were African-American in this country. I wanted to see trends. I wanted to see information. They couldn’t give it to me, and it wasn’t their fault. Demographic data regarding officer-involved shootings is not consistently reported to us through our Uniform Crime Reporting Program. Because reporting is voluntary, our data is incomplete and therefore, in the aggregate, unreliable.”
“I recently listened to a thoughtful big city police chief express his frustration with that lack of reliable data. He said he didn’t know whether the Ferguson police shot one person a week, one a year, or one a century, and that in the absence of good data, “all we get are ideological thunderbolts, when what we need are ideological agnostics who use information to try to solve problems.” He’s right.”
“How can we address concerns about “use of force,” how can we address concerns about officer-involved shootings if we do not have a reliable grasp on the demographics and circumstances of those incidents? We simply must improve the way we collect and analyze data to see the true nature of what’s happening in all of our communities.”
“The FBI tracks and publishes the number of “justifiable homicides” reported by police departments. But, again, reporting by police departments is voluntary and not all departments participate. That means we cannot fully track the number of incidents in which force is used by police, or against police, including non-fatal encounters, which are not reported at all.”
“For perhaps the best overall summary of police use-of-force issues, see “A Multi-method Evaluation of Police Use of Force Outcomes: Final Report to the National Institute of Justice,” a 2010 study conducted by some of the nation’s leading criminal justice scholars.”
Available statistics, background on use of force
“The Justice Department releases statistics on this and related issues, although these datasets are only periodically updated: It found that in 2008, among people who had contact with police, “an estimated 1.4% had force used or threatened against them during their most recent contact, which was not statistically different from the percentages in 2002 (1.5%) and 2005 (1.6%).” In terms of the volume of citizen complaints, the Justice Department also found that there were 26,556 complaints lodged in 2002; this translates to “33 complaints per agency and 6.6 complaints per 100 full-time sworn officers.” However, “overall rates were higher among large municipal police departments, with 45 complaints per agency, and 9.5 complaints per 100 full-time sworn officers.” In 2011, about 62.9 million people had contact with the police.”
“In terms of the use of lethal force, aggregate statistics on incidents of all types are difficult to obtain from official sources. Some journalists are trying to rectify this; and some data journalists question what few official national statistics are available. The Sunlight Foundation explains some of the data problems, while also highlighting databases maintained by the Centers for Disease Control (CDC). The available data, which does not paint a complete national picture, nevertheless raise serious questions, Sunlight notes:
[A]ccording to the CDC, in Oklahoma the rate at which black people are killed per capita by law enforcement is greater than anywhere else in the country. That statistic is taken from data collected for the years 1999-2011. During that same time period, Oklahoma’s rate for all people killed by law enforcement, including all races, is second only to New Mexico. However, Oklahoma, the District of Columbia, Nevada and Oregon are all tied for the rate at which people are killed. (The CDC treats the District of Columbia as a state when collecting and displaying statistics.) In Missouri, where Mike Brown lived and died, black people are killed by law enforcement twice as frequently as white people. Nationwide, the rate at which black people are killed by law enforcement is 3 times higher than that of white people.
As mentioned, the FBI does publish statistics on “justifiable homicide” by law enforcement officers: The date show that there have been about 400 such incidents nationwide each year. However, FiveThirtyEight, among other journalism outlets, has examined the potential problems with these figures. News investigations suggest that the rates of deadly force usage are far from uniform. For example, Los Angeles saw an increase in such incidents in 2011, while Massachusetts saw more officers firing their weapon over the period 2009-2013.
Researchers continue to refine analytical procedures in order to make more accurate estimates based on police reports and other data.”
Characteristics of suspects
“A widely publicized report in October 2014 by ProPublica, a leading investigative and data journalism outlet, concluded that young black males are 21 times more likely to be shot by police than their white counterparts: “The 1,217 deadly police shootings from 2010 to 2012 captured in the federal data show that blacks, age 15 to 19, were killed at a rate of 31.17 per million, while just 1.47 per million white males in that age range died at the hands of police.”
“Research has definitely established that “racial profiling” by law enforcement exists — that persons of color are more likely to be stopped by police. FBI Director James Comey’s 2015 comments are again relevant here:
[P]olice officers on patrol in our nation’s cities often work in environments where a hugely disproportionate percentage of street crime is committed by young men of color. Something happens to people of good will working in that environment. After years of police work, officers often can’t help but be influenced by the cynicism they feel.”
“Further reading: The coverage of such incidents by mass media has been studied by researchers, some of whom have concluded that the press has often distorted and helped justify questionable uses of force. A 2012 study in the Criminal Justice Policy Review analyzed the patterns of behavior of one large police department — more than 1,000 officers — and found that a “small proportion of officers are responsible for a large proportion of force incidents, and that officers who frequently use force differ in important and significant ways from officers who use force less often (or not at all).” Other research also finds that officers with more experience and education may be less likely to use force, while a review of case studies suggests that specific training programs and accountability structures can lower the use of violence by police departments. Finally, survey data continue to confirm the existence of undercurrents of racism and bias in America, despite demonstrable social progress; a 2014 Stanford study shows how awareness of higher levels of black incarceration can prompt greater support among whites for tougher policing and prison programs.”
As per a 3/2/15 U.S. News & World Report, “Obama’s Policing Task Force Releases Report” by Tierney Sneed, here are the bullet points:
“A task force appointed by President Barack Obama to address the tensions between law enforcement officials and the communities they serve released a report Monday recommending, among other things, more data collection regarding police-citizen interactions, an end of racial profiling in policing tactics and independent investigations into officer-involved injuries or deaths.”
“The task force also encouraged external, independent investigations in cases of officer-involved shootings or deaths in custody, and suggested that local departments mandate the use of outside prosecutors for those cases…The task force emphasized that school resource officers should focus on positive interactions with youth and that their involvement in student discipline should be limited.”
“The report discouraged local law enforcement from using military equipment and tactics during mass demonstrations unless they are truly necessary.”
UPDATE 3/4/15: Link to entire DOJ Ferguson PD investigative report is footnoted below.
A task force appointed by President Barack Obama to address the tensions between law …
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