Later On

A blog written for those whose interests more or less match mine.

Killings by cops apparently going up; killings of cops going down

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“Apparently” because the data are poorly collected. Radley Balko notes in the Washingtn Post:

From USA Today:

The number of felony suspects fatally shot by police last year — 461— was the most in two decades, according to a new FBI report.

The justifiable homicide count, contained in the FBI’s annual Uniform Crime Report, has become increasingly scrutinized in recent months as questions continue to be raised about the use of lethal force by law enforcement.

It’s the third straight year we’ve seen an increase. If you’ve been reading The Watch regularly, you’ll know that we hit that figure in the same year that killings of police officers reached a 50-year low. Last year also saw a drop in violent crime. There are about eight to nine killings by cops for every killing of a cop. (The FBI reported 48 felonious deaths of police officers in 2012, the last year for which data were available.)

The article also mentions another problem we’ve discussed here: It’s difficult to say just how much the figure is rising because police departments are historically bad at actually reporting this data.

University of Nebraska criminologist Samuel Walker said the incomplete nature of the data renders the recent spike in such deaths even more difficult to explain.

“It could be as simple as more departments are reporting,” Walker said.

The Nebraska criminologist has been among the most vocal advocates calling for an all-inclusive national database to closely track deadly force incidents involving police.

“It is irresponsible that we don’t have a complete set of numbers,” Walker said. “Whether the numbers are up, down or stable, this (national database) needs to be done. … This is a scandal.”

University of South Carolina criminologist Geoff Alpert, who has long studied police use of deadly force, said the latest number of justifiable homicides, while increasing, still likely represents a significant under-counting.

He said most major agencies have strongly supported close tracking of deadly force incidents. But he said the majority of police agencies in the country are small — with fewer than 50 officers — and their reporting practices involving such cases are not always uniform.

As FiveThirtyEight points out, unofficial attempts to compile a more thorough count of killings by police have put the figure much, much higher —as many as 1,700 since May 2013, and more than 900 so far in 2014.

Of course, one way to look at this story is to conclude that the cops are killing lots of bad guys, and that’s why both general violent crime and killings of cops are falling. That’s a convenient argument, because it justifies the use of lethal force by police whether they’re doing it more or less often, and whether crime is rising or falling.

One other point: . . .

Continue reading.

It’s good that the police are in less danger of being shot, but I am concerned that they are shooting more, particularly with the number shot to death on flimsy grounds—e.g., the Utah incident in which Darrien Hunt was shot six times in the back, fleeing from the police (whose report of what happened is contradicted by the autopsy results). He had done nothing wrong. He was carrying a toy sword, but Utah is an open-carry state, so even carrying a loaded firearm is perfectly okay, much less a toy sword.

Written by LeisureGuy

13 November 2014 at 11:41 am

Posted in Law Enforcement

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