Summary: Many things show the evolution in America of police into security services. Such as their frequent disconnect from the communities they patrol, and their increasing use of military equipment and methods. Perhaps we see this most clearly in their casual use of force, often disproportionate to the situation, with a near-total lack of accountability. Here we examine the grim numbers. We know little, but what we know should disturb us. But it doesn’t, which is an ugly symptom of the Republic’s weakness.
The number of law enforcement officers killed as a result of criminal acts:
- 2004: 57
- 2009: 48
- 2012: 49
- 2013: 27
Number of civilians shot and killed by police:
- USA: 409 (in 2012, per FBI, plus one death by “other weapon”)
- Japan + Britain + Germany = 8
- The US population is 17% larger; US police killed 51x more civilians
In 1994 Congress instructed the Department of Justice to “acquire data about the use of excessive force by law enforcement officers” and “publish an annual summary”. They’ve ignored this, unlike their lavishly detailed account of law enforcement causalities. The total of 409 comes from voluntary reporting by the 18 thousand US law enforcement agencies. This article at FiveThirtyEight by Reuben Fischer-Baum and Al Johri explains why that is certainly far too low (more details here), and points to more accurate numbers. But we don’t know if the total is rising, or how rapidly.
Given this vacuum, attention has recently turned to some excellent nongovernmental attempts to compile this data, including the Fatal Encounters database, the recently created Gun Violence Archive and a new database created by Deadspin.
But one recent effort stood out for its apparent comprehensiveness: The Killed By Police Facebook page, which aggregates links to news articles on police-related killings and keeps a running tally on the number of victims. The creator of the page does not seek to determine whether police killings are justifiable; each post “merely documents the occurrence of a death.” …
Killed by Police had listed more than 1,450 deaths caused by law-enforcement officers since its launch, on May 1, 2013, through Sunday. That works out to about three per day, or 1,100 a year. … By the narrowest measure possible — in which we give police every benefit of the “cause of death” doubt in incidents where they Tasered or restrained suspects – 85% of the sampled incidents were the sort of police killings the government might be expected to keep track of. If we include other arrest-related deaths (and they’re included in Bureau of Justice figures), then 93% of incidents qualified as police killings.
Applying these percentages to the total count at Killed By Police would imply that officers acting in the line of duty have killed in the neighborhood of 1,250 to 1,350 people since May 1, 2013. That’s about 1,000 deaths per year.
So the graph at the top of this post should be redrawn so that the big blue circle is 2.5x larger. Yes, America is exceptional in many ways. The always interesting AntiMedia.com draws a logical and important conclusion from these numbers:
Unfortunately, the most important implication of the FBI report is the simple fact that the report exists. When the FBI takes the time to construct a meticulous report (you can read more details here) of all the ways that a tiny percentage of cops were killed
–but cannot be bothered to officially count civilian deaths at the hands of cops, the reality is obvious:
The government places a higher priority on their own than on the lives of those they claim to “serve,” “protect,” and “work for.” It cares more about exonerating the police of their crimes than providing justice to those they abuse. There is no justice when the criminal is the cop.
One of the many bits of evidence that Ferguson has changed nothing: “Obama resists demands to curtail police militarisation calling instead for improved officer training“, The Guardian, 1 December 2014.
Update: supporting evidence from the Wall Street Journal
Today they ran “Hundreds of Police Killings Are Uncounted in Federal Stats“. Their survey confirms the above information. Excerpt:
FBI Data Differs from Local Counts on Justifiable Homicides
… A Wall Street Journal analysis of the latest data from 105 of the country’s largest police agencies found more than 550 police killings during those years were missing from the national tally or, in a few dozen cases, not attributed to the agency involved. The result: It is nearly impossible to determine how many people are killed by the police each year.
For More Information
(a) See all posts about…
(b) About police, law enforcement, and the security services:
- How to Fund an American Police State (aka Weaponizing the Body Politic), 5 March 2012 — Militarizing the police
- We are alone in the defense of the Republic, 5 July 2012
- Do not talk to the police (important advice in New America), 4 August 2013
- Look at the protests in Wisconsin to see how America has changed, 31 August 2013
- Murder by police. If these incidents do not anger us, then what will?, 19 January 2014
- Why America has militarized its police and crushes protests, 16 August 2014
- Police grow more powerful; the Republic slides another step into darkness. Can cellphone cameras save us?, 28 August 2014
- The shame of Alaska: vast wealth, but little spent to protect its people, 15 September 2014
(c) About justice in America:
- Sparks of justice still live in America – cherish them and perhaps they’ll spread, 11 September 2009
- An opportunity to look in the mirror, to more clearly see America, 10 November 2009 — About our prisons
- Being a third world nation is a state of mind, as we will learn (about prison rape), 19 March 2011
- Our prisons are a mirror showing the soul of America. It’s not a pretty picture., 28 March 2011
- The Collapse of American Criminal Justice System — Excerpts from The Collapse of American Criminal Justice by William J. Stuntz
- More about the collapse of the American Criminal Justice System, 20 September 2011
- Final thoughts about America’s Criminal Justice System, 21 September 2011
- Richard Castle shows us the dark reality of justice in 21st C America, 28 May 2014