Wednesday, November 19, 2014

Are the FBI and media underestimating police shootings by at least twenty-five percent?

According to a USA Today article cited by Think Progress there were 461 "justifiable homicides" by police in 2013 against "felony suspects;" and this was the highest in two decades; however according to a count by Jim Fisher there were 607 fatal police shootings in 2011, which is supposedly before they reached the more recent high.

The following is an excerpt from the Think Progress article:

Here’s What We Know About Who Police Killed In 2013 11/13/2014

Fatal shootings at the hands of police hit a two-decade high in 2013, according to a USA Today analysis of recent Federal Bureau of Investigation data.

A count of “justifiable homicides” in the FBI’s Uniform Crime Report found that 461 people were shot and killed by police in 2013. What that figure tells us, more than anything, is that 461 is the bare minimum number of people who were shot by police last year. And it is almost certainly a dramatic under-estimation.

Departments are not required to submit data for this count; it is voluntary. In fact, there are entire states including Florida that didn’t submit their death counts for years. So the increase in 2013 recorded shootings could simply be the result of more jurisdictions reporting. What’s more, the figure is only a count of “justifiable homicides,” which means those that are considered legally defensible. This means jurisdictions are least likely to include those shootings that are subject to criminal scrutiny in their reports.

A St. Louis Post-Dispatch report this week on police shooting data found that out of some 18,000 U.S. police departments, only 1,100 — or six percent of all departments — reported a single fatal police shooting that was considered justifiable between 2005 and 2012. We don’t know whether those who didn’t report simply opted not to report that information, or didn’t have any shootings. University of Nebraska criminologist Samuel Walker lamented that this incomplete and inconsistent data means we don’t even know what to make of the spike in FBI-recorded shootings. “It is irresponsible that we don’t have a complete set of numbers,” he told USA Today. “… This is a scandal.” Complete article

Months, if not years before this article coming out admitting that they didn't have adequate information on police shootings kept by well funded government organizations grass roots efforts with fewer resources began doing just that, although there is no guarantee that they have the resources to be as comprehensive as the government, assuming the government tried, which has access to better information. Kyle Wagner etal are compiling the most comprehensive list that I know of according to We're Compiling Every Police-Involved Shooting In America. Help Us; 08/20/2014 and they're setting it up so that others could help by doing their own search. They also cited Jim Fisher who wrote the following almost a year earlier; if USA Today had done their homework better they could have consulted with him and come up with more detailed information.

Police Involved Shooting Statistics: A National One-Year Summary for 2011 12/25/2013

In 2011, according to data I collected, police officers in the United States shot 1,146 people, killing 607. Between January 1, 2011 and January 1, 2012 I used the Internet to compile a national database of police involved shootings. The term "police involved shooting" pertains to law enforcement officers who, in the line of duty, discharge their guns. When journalists and police administrators use the term, they include the shooting of animals and shots that miss their targets. My case files only include instances in which a person is either killed or wounded by police gunfire. My data also includes off-duty officers who discharged their weapons in law enforcement situations. They don't include, for example, officers using their firearms to resolve personal disputes.

I collected this data myself because the U.S. Government doesn't. There is no national database dedicated to police involved shootings. Alan Maimon, in his article, "National Data on Shootings by Police Not Collected," published on November 28, 2011 in the "Las Vegas Review-Journal," wrote "The nation's leading law enforcement agency [FBI] collects vast amounts of information on crime nationwide, but missing from this clearinghouse are statistics on where, how often, and under what circumstances police use deadly force. In fact, no one anywhere comprehensively tracks the most significant act police can do in the line of duty: take a life."

Since the government keeps statistics on just about everything, why no national stats on something this important? The answer is simple: they don't want us to know. Why? Because police shoot a lot more people than we think, and the government, while good at statistics, is also good at secrecy. Complete article

A lot of attention has been drawn to the large number of African Americans that have been shot and killed by police, and rightfully so; however they're not the only ones that are being targeted; right or wrong. There are also a large number of veterans getting involved in many altercations with police, and there isn't a comprehensive database for this either. I have gone into this more in States with high murder rates have larger veteran populations and Teach a soldier to kill and he just might where I considered the possibility, if not virtual guarantee that one of the leading contributing causes for violence by veterans might be their training which may make them more prone to violence.

In Hazing and Bullying in the Police Academy David Couper explains that he believes that although strict disciplinarian training that includes hazing might be appropriate for training marines it is inappropriate for training police officers which are supposed to do a different job. I’m not so certain that it appropriate even for training the military. If the majority of the wars that we fight were based on accurate reporting of world news then it might be a different story, although even then I’m not so certain, but that isn't the case at all.

The vast majority of wars, if not all of them have been based on lies and the military hasn't been training people to question authority; instead they've been using hazing as part of a process to teach them to obey orders without question; and this training also desensitizes them to killing based on lies.

As I explained in Philip Zimbardo, Lucifer Effect, Stanford Prison Experiment and Corruption or Bias in the American Psychological Association the military has financed psychological research into Obedience to Authority experiments which they said they were trying to conduct so they could understand why the Nazi soldiers blindly obeyed orders and prevent that from happening again. But instead of teaching the majority of the public about this in the most effective way possible so that it could be prevented they used their research to help develop more effective ways to teach both veterans and police to obey orders.

Whether it is the hazing or other problems there are a high number of killings by both police and veterans. They don’t have the highest murder rates; that is almost entirely in many abandoned inner cities; but if they’re compared to anyplace else they are almost certainly above average more often than not. In the previous post cited about States with high murder rates have larger veteran populations I cited a report that indicated that veterans were half as likely to be in jail than non-veterans in the year 2004; however a closer look \at the report indicated that a large part of the reason for this was that they were recruiting from rural areas while the highest crime rates, including murders were in urban areas.

This report also indicated that the veterans that were in jail were more likely to be in jail for violent offences, even though they came from areas that tended to be less violent; and that 15% of the veterans from state prisons were in jail for murder. This came to more than 19,000 convicted veteran murders and if the percent for those in federal prison was the same then it would have been 21,000. If these veterans were convicted over a period of close to fifty years then this comes to an average of over 400 veterans convicted of murder per year; although this data is to limited to indicate whether or not that is going up or down. However some of the other reports cited in the same blog indicates that if it was going down prior to the war on terror that trend might have been reversed as a result of the escalating amount of violence from returning veterans.

If Jim Fisher’s figures are correct then the police probably shoot and kill even more than veterans. These figures count mostly what they consider justifiable homicides in the line of duty. The figures cited by the FBI appear to exclude many of the most questionable cases; and neither of these lists include shootings that don’t occur in the line of duty as a police officer, although they do include shootings that occur off-duty when police react to crimes that they encounter.

This doesn't include incidents of domestic violence by police officers or what they would consider clear cut murder, which is more common than most people think Several articles in the past including Police domestic violence nearly twice average rate and Police Have a Much Bigger Domestic-Abuse Problem Than the NFL Does have reported on the higher violence rates of police officers off duty.

Both police violence and violence of veterans are significantly under reported in the traditional media and when they do report it it is almost always much lower profile, and often quickly forgotten by a large percentage of the population, while the propaganda about how they’re defending our country is repeated over and over again.

After reviewing a significant number of reports about many of the murders conducted by veterans it is clear that the most common victims of these murders is probably other veterans, followed by domestic violence cases including many children. Several reports have also come out about the high rates of domestic violence towards children and that 118 deaths have occurred in the Army of children over a four year period

As Jim Fisher asks, “why no national stats on something this important? The answer is simple: they don't want us to know. Why? Because police shoot a lot more people than we think, and the government, while good at statistics, is also good at secrecy.” The same goes for the statistics on veterans killing each other children or cops killing veterans, and in some cases veterans killing cops, as well, although that seems to be less common. Reviewing many of the statistics that the government does keep makes it clear that it wouldn't be too difficult to organize the data they have in a more effective manner enabling people to understand how often this happens.

Fortunately there are some people at the grass roots level that are trying to address this problem and it includes some veterans and police, including David Couper, a former police chief from Wisconsin who reported about Police Shootings: Do We Have the Right Data?

As I reported previously in Grass roots efforts reduce crime; Politicians steal credit and several blogs on the root causes of crime it is much more effective to address them before the last minute when it becomes necessary to rely on the police to address crime when it is much more difficult to stop.

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