Michael Brown Shooting

Is Deadly Force by Police on the Rise? We Won't Know Until They Give Us the Stats

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Militarized police and the deadly use of force by cops are certainly making headlines in the wake of the shooting death of unarmed teen Michael Brown in Ferguson, MO, and the homicide-by-NYPD-chokehold death of Eric Garner, but Breitbart.com's Warner Todd Huston thinks both the left and the right are making too much of it:

SWAT on one
Flickr/Joe_13

It seems to be taken for granted by both the left and the right in America today that incidents of police brutality are growing even as crime itself is falling. But are they? At least one expert says no.

It is certainly a foregone conclusion to the left that police brutality is on the rise. Any look through the world of liberal opinion will find many voices saying that police brutality is growing in America today.

From the right it has also become a favorite theme among libertarians that police brutality is growing, even out of control. The libertarian website Reason.com is constantly publishing stories about America's increasingly militarized police forces and tales of police brutality.

Reason.com has indeed regularly published stories on the growing militarization of police, which include training tactics, the proliferation of war equipment handed over to local police departments by the Department of Defense, and the exponential increase in SWAT team deployments. These are quantifiable facts. 

Less quantifiable is the evidence Huston presents, in the form of a quote from a Wall Street Journal article where John Jay College of Criminal Justice professor, Maria Haberfeld, states, "There is no escalation in the use of deadly force. What we are seeing is a proliferation of cellphones and cameras."

It is perfectly reasonable to suggest the ubiquity of cameras and social media have made the public far more aware of police misconduct and thus helped foster the impression of a growing epidemic of brutality. But neither Huston nor Haberfeld cite any national statistics or study to back up the claim that the use of deadly force is not on the rise, because they can't. There is no national database, nor anything close to resembling one, which details the use of deadly force by police.

Former Reasoner and author of "Rise of the Warrior Cop," Radley Balko, examined why that is in 2012:

Both private police groups and the FBI keep close statistics on the number of cops killed and assaulted while on the job. What you won't see is a slate of stories about the number of citizens killed by police in 2012. Those data just don't exist at a national level. Here's the New York Times, back in 2001:

"Despite widespread public interest and a provision in the 1994 Crime Control Act requiring the attorney general to collect the data and publish an annual report on them, statistics on police shootings and use of nondeadly force continue to be piecemeal products of spotty collection, and are dependent on the cooperation of local police departments. No comprehensive accounting for all the nation's 17,000 police departments exists."

The problem is that while the 1994 law requires federal government to compile data on policing shootings, there's no requirement that police departments actually provide them. And so most don't.

Even if the use deadly force is not increasing, the unwillingness of police departments to provide comprehensive statistics on the use of force increases the perception that it is. 

University of St. Louis criminologist David Klinger, a former cop himself, has argued that greater transparency by police departments regarding the use of deadly force could make for better relations with their communities and sees nothing strange about the public taking special note of the deaths of fellow citizens at the hands of police:

[Americans] are drawn to police shootings not just because they are violent acts but also because they are the most dramatic instance of government doing battle with the bad guys that threaten us. And we are repulsed by them not only because of the damage they inflict but also because they are the ultimate form of government intrusion.

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  1. Maria Haberfeld, states, “There is no escalation in the use of deadly force.

    A definitive statement of fact for which there is no basis.

    In some circles, that is known as “fraud”.

    1. In this circle, I’m willing to settle for “intellectual dishonesty.”

    2. Since the passing of Andrew, Breitbart.com has become a cesspool of far right boot-licking apologists and propagandists. The erection and evisceration of strawmen and the torture of facts and statistics to score political points has become commonplace on the site.

    3. Even if it’s true, why should people not be outraged at what is accepted as standard.

  2. From the right it has also become a favorite theme among libertarians

    One of these words does not belong in the same sentence as the other.

    1. What, there are no libertarians on the right side of the dividing line?

      1. He’s saying the left-right divide is bullshit. Check out the Nolan Chart.

      2. When you start calling libertarians right wing because they want to cool down paramilitary police actions the left-right paradigm not only begins to break down but is blasted into a billion indistinguishable pieces.

        1. So the left is admitting it’s ceding the issue of police abuse? Fine.

          1. Oh, it’s Brietbart commenting, so the right is refusing to take up the issue? Fine too

            1. what the fuck are you babbling about?

              1. I took the quote to be from Salonesque left wing writer before seeing it was from Brietbart. If neither the left or right wants to be concerned over police brutality the fine, we’ll take it.

    2. Right and Left have lost any real sense of meaning. Liberal and conservative is even difficult to pin down. Statist and non-statists probably makes more sense. The left right stuff is for partisan hacks.

      1. No, there is importance in using the Left designation, because it was a label that many wore with pride and the current bhnch, no matter what they call themselves (are they still using Progressive? Or have gheir opponents out the stink on it?) are dragging whatever good the old Left may imagine it did through the mud. A lot f the Old Left morphed into the new Western Intellectial Establishment. They are thoroughly delusional scoundrels and a lot of what is wrong with the world can be laid at their feet.

        Terms like “statist” may be more accurate, but they carry less weight.

        1. I think his point is that authoritarians do not just come from the left.

  3. I wish the media would get their story straight on whether we libertarians aren’t talking about police militarization at all, or whether we just won’t shut up about it.

    1. Yes.

  4. I am still reeling from watching the official Doraville SWAT video.

    In case anyone missed it: https://reason.com/blog/2014/08…..ees-itself

    Infuckingcredible.

    1. The punisher stuff and the music was edited in by by the utube poster. Not that they need a tank.

  5. The stats we get will be juked anyway.

  6. Slightly on-topic…

    I read this today. http://www.cityofchicago.org/c…..172014.pdf

    What pooped by eyes was the unanimity in every case. Except one. And in that one, they had to break into a smaller group so they could get unanimity.

    1. “popped” my eyes, although maybe poop was apropos.

      1. Pooped my eyes is awesome. I’m going to start using that.

  7. Police brutality could very well be going down and only appears to be increases due to the is of cheap reporting and video…

    That only means the brutality was hidden…probably intentionally and so colors attempts to claim improvement as nothing more then cover-up campaigns.

    “Institutionalized murder assault and violent repression is down by 10%…nothing to see here please move along”

    1. If it was going down, wouldn’t the police forces be happy to be rid of the few bad apples that are left instead of going to ridiculous lengths to protect Kelly Thomas’s murderers?

    2. Who cares if police brutality isn’t increasing? There’s entirely too goddam much of it irrespective of the trend.

  8. What we are seeing is a proliferation of cellphones and cameras.”

    And a proliferation of police attempts to suppress evidence.

    1. Also, it’s a bullshit meme with conservatives now.

      Lately when there is accusation of excessive force, conservatives like to pretend the accusations are baseless because third party cell phone video hasn’t shown up – as if everything happening everywhere is being filmed by dozens of cop haters.

      1. In this time of near ubiquitous smart phones, the absence of video isn’t conclusive, but it is suggestive.

        Of course it is especially suggestive when there SHOULD be video, but there isn’t … Officially. It just suggests something else.

  9. Breitbart is against Big Government except when it comes to authoritarianism.

    1. Breitbart has become a cesspool.

      1. This. They’ve spent 90% of their space on crazy xenophobic rants in the last two months.

      2. Uh yup this and this article is not even that bad compared to the retarded hysteria over unauthorized immigration that has consumed that site and a sizeable portion of cons.

        1. Admittedly it is a big issue…and we all know which way the cons were going to go.

          1. Are you referring to immigration? At least some cons aren’t going insane. Grover Norquist and his ATR are a fount of reason on immigration.

    2. Breitbart is against Big Government except when it comes to authoritarianism beating darkies.

      Breitbart actually is basically a racist website.

      Some examples: Muslim firefighter who died on 9/11 was initially accused of being involved in the attack. Recently, New York named a street after this heroic man. Pamela Geller was so fucking pissed.

      Residents and elected officials came together to formally rename 204th St. at 35th Ave. ‘Salman Hamdani Way’ after Mohammed Salman Hamdani, the son of Muslim immigrants from Pakistan who lived a block from the Bayside street.”
      Endless concessions and accommodations to Islamic demands only give way to more.

      Yes, if we keep praising these people, we might end up with more heroic Muslim firefighters. The horror.

      Geller also wrote an article saying that the government should spy on all Mosques after the Boston Marathon bombing.

      1. Hmmm.. Hypothetical: So you are a Muslim defendant in a trial and the jury foreperson is either Pam Geller or Robert Spencer. Who do you prefer?

        I’m sure the comments for the article you link are a bastion of reason and thoughtful commentary but I’m not going to check because I’ve already taken a shower today.

        1. I’ll do it for you!

          Here’s the problem. The liberal socialist fascists brainwashed the children into thinking that they are on the side of good, by being tolerant to the most intolerant religion on earth. They actually teach that Islam is the “religion of peace”. That Osama Bin Ladin was not a real “Islamic”. I kid you not!

          This guy was so fucking intolerant he died trying to save Christians and Jews from a burning building.

          Where’s the mosque? At the corner of Islamic Terrorist lane and Behead an Infidel way

          Indeed.

          HOLY FUCKING SHIT!

          At the time of the attack, if he wasn’t in on it, then he had no idea that fellow Muslims were the perpetrators. Maybe if he had, he wouldn’t have gone in to save anyone. The guy is being honored for doing what all his first-responder peers did. The street should be named after the station that lost the most rescuers.

          WHAT THE FUCK. That has 14 upvotes.

          1. I remember there was once a BB article attempting to portray Sheriff Arpaio as some kind of victim. Turned out the information was bullshit and BB tried to memory-hole it but a liberal site, to its credit, kept a screenshot on file.

            There was also the ‘bronies are wrecking America article’. For realz, and that was while Andrew was still alive.

      2. Nailed it on BB and Geller is a pseudoscholar fraud whose only talent is telling people the BS they want to hear in a profitable manner.

  10. I guess they’re not counting all the dog shootings.

  11. Although in the end it is kind of irrelevant, because I can safely tell you that there is TOO MUCH police brutality, because it just shouldn’t fucking happen. And if it does happen? The officers involved should be dismissed and charged. Since we know they often aren’t, at least in the many stories reported on these pages, we can safely conclude there is too much, regardless of what fucking direction it is heading in.

    1. I’d like to ask one of these tubby-blue-line apologists what the appropriate amount of police brutality is.

      1. I’d like to ask one of these tubby-blue-line apologists

        Ah, I see that you’re already familiar with Mr. Huston.

  12. “There is no escalation in the use of deadly force. What we are seeing is a proliferation of cellphones and cameras.”

    What we are seeing is the true extent of police brutality which people just did not have the technology to expose before. This isn’t an exonerating statement in any way, it’s actually a flat out admittance that there is extensive police brutality.

    Luckily she is too stupid to understand that and said it anyway.

    1. Of course, if we get legit stats and the trend is downward, we can CREDIT cellphones for the drop.

    2. thanks for saying what i wanted to say but completely failed in my attempt up above.

    3. lol… so true.

      It is a very good sign so many people are actively sneering and dismissing the ‘libertarians’. What that old saying? ignore, dismiss, fight, win?

      1. Our enemies are dumb enough that we might win before they past dismissal.

  13. “Oh no, police brutality isn’t up. We just can’t keep it hidden anymore because of all you plebes and your camera phones. Why don’t you just go back to your blissful ignorance and let the Top Men get back to your lives.”

  14. (Americans) are drawn to police shootings not just because they are violent acts but also because they are the most dramatic instance of government doing battle with the bad guys that threaten us the peasantry. And we are repulsed by them not only because of the damage they inflict but also because they are the ultimate form of government intrusion nothing else happened, ever.

    FTFY

  15. Is Deadly Force by Police on the Rise? We Won’t Know Until They Give Us the Stats

    Why don’t they go fuck themselves and see if the stats are up their arse?

  16. Im tellin you now, Amerika is NOT the place to be. Get out.

    http://www.AnonWays.tk

    1. Anonbot, you’re the Cassandra of our age. You’re right, but no one will listen until our fates are sealed.

      1. When the nuclear bombs start dropping, I shall remember the noble, unheeded anonbot warning me the way only he knew how: “Taht sounds real to me dude. Wow.”

  17. Why no mention of Cato’s “Police Misconduct Reporting Project“?

    Also – re: this

    “statistics on police shootings and use of nondeadly force continue to be piecemeal products of spotty collection, and are dependent on the cooperation of local police departments. No comprehensive accounting for all the nation’s 17,000 police departments exists

    However – ‘non-comprehensive’ sources are not necessarily ‘useless’

    Is it not possible to at least refer to other existing data sources, and see if there’s any relevant ‘ratio-trend’ that can be determined?

    Even when the formal systems for ‘data collection’ are complicated and inconsistent, there are very often proxy sources for information which can at least provide some kind of qualitative insight. (e.g. # of claims filing suit against police departments per year / relative to crime rate?)

    I am always skeptical of arguments which claim the “data doesn’t exist”. There’s always data. People who insist it is fatally flawed probably have some problems with the parts of it that *arent*. They tend to benefit from the ability of the Argumentum ad Ignorantium.

    (see typical ‘gun control’ arguments which desperately avoid some data and celebrate others; or the GMO people who insist “we dont know what the effects *might* be!…”)

    1. “we dont know what the effects *might* be!…”

      So precautionary principle all the way and thank mighty Jesus our caveman ancestors never heard of it, or there’d still (not really) be a few thousand humans waiting to be wiped out by the next turn of bad weather.

    2. as an example of ‘other ways to skin the (data) cat’

      e.g. = here’s a sample

      “”Citizen Complaints about Police Use of Force””

      They have data from the “”Law Enforcement Management and Administrative Statistics (LEMAS)”” surveys…

      apparently done between ~1987-2007

      in my former ‘number monkey’ days, what i’d generally do is phone up the resident responsible stats guy (“‘Brian Reaves, Statistician, BJS””)… and chew the fat for a while.

      They’d usually help you figure out how to read what was there, what wasnt’, why, and where to look for what you want.

      There’s *always* data. I’d think state level records of ‘police misconduct’ complaints would also be available

      1. Another broken link!

    3. Cato link is broken.

  18. There is no national database, nor anything close to resembling one, which details the use of deadly force by police.

    I suspect the insurance companies might have some useful statistics, if they would be willing to share them.

    Of course, an all too common feature of legal settlements is a gag order.

  19. I’m sure Huston could have gotten a nice “Police misconduct is a myth” quote from that authoritarian cunt Heather MacDonald if he had bothered to ask.

  20. Check out this TED TALK on non-lethal weapons:

    http://www.ted.com/talks/stephen_cole…..al_weapons

    IT turns out that if you give COPS non-lethal weapons, legal contact goes up by over 1000 percent.

    1. Am I correct in assuming “legal contact” is a euphemism for something generally worse than “Carry on, have a nice day” and better than being riddled with 13 bullets?

    2. What I don’t understand is guns can be non-lethal.

      Lots of police forces world wide will shoot people in the legs if say the perp is wielding a knife.

      With law enforcement in the US it is almost always a center mass kill shot.

      1. With law enforcement in the US it is almost always a center mass kill shot.

        Also I find odd the repeated shots.

        If you fire a gun you know almost instantly if you hit your target. If you can’t tell you probably should not be firing.

        Why the fuck are cops unloading full clips into people let alone blindly into buildings or cars?

      2. I’m not defending cops here, but it seems to me if someone is dangerous enough to need shooting, they’re dangerous enough to need shooting properly. Trick shots might be fine for the Terminator, but I wouldn’t try if my life was in danger.

        1. If a soldier demonstrated the kind of fire “discipline” routinely exhibited by police officers that soldier would find himself working in the mess hall in perpetuity.

          1. But do soldiers routinely try to shoot people in the legs? I don’t know if we’re disagreeing or agreeing that people who need to be shot in the legs don’t need to be shot at all.

            1. I’m thinking you missed the thrust of my point entirely. Iwas directed towards the far-too-common police practice of firing their gun dry. I agree that shooting people in the ____ is in order not to kill them is movie shit. A line of reasoning that also ignores the fact that gunshot wounds to the extremities can easily be quickly fatal as well.

              1. I think the confusion is due to me not placing that comment under Corning’s like I should have.

                1. Thanks, that clears things up. Also, I fucking hate movie shit when people who have never fired a gun in their lives ask “Why didn’t they just shoot him in the leg?” as if that was easy, no danger to anyone who might be behind the target, and can always be fixed up with a couple of hours in the ER.

                  1. And silly me thinking about the backstop. If the cop happened to miss and shoot someone behind, they’ll just charge the “perp” with the murder, assuming he survives.

                    1. Doubtless. Kind of what I was getting at with the slide-locking by 10 cops at a car in the middle of a street, for example. It drives me nuts every time I read about it.

        2. Trick shots might be fine for the Terminator, but I wouldn’t try if my life was in danger.

          Bullshit.

          You may as well be saying cops Have to unload their clip into people otherwise it is a trick shot.

          Also cops make more intentional head shots then leg shots…heads are easier to hit then legs? On what planet?

          1. On the planet of [citation needed]. And I never said anything about firing until the magazine was empty. Unless the cops are in a circle around the shootee, then I might be okay with that.

          2. Also, FFS, never point the muzzle at something you aren’t willing to destroy. It’s like one of the four rules or something, probably written a hundred years ago or more.

            1. Also, FFS, never point the muzzle at something you aren’t willing to destroy.

              Like on that show COPS, where officers regularly point the muzzle at unarmed women and children, just to get them to comply out of sheer terror.

              Do they not care about that rule, or are they ready to destroy unarmed women and children?

              1. Fucked if I know. Do they keep their booger-picker off the bang lever? Or are they, I don’t know, just somehow immune to all the rules of firearm safety that govern responsible gun owners everywhere?

                1. In the episode of cops where the asshole pulling people over never bothered to go to the door, but instead trained his pistol on the occupants one by one and ordered them out of the car, he did have his booger-picker fully extended along the side of his weapon.

                  1. The new professionalism!!!!!11111!!!eleven!!

      3. Shooting a leg is not trivial, especially if the perp is moving. Part of the reason you aim for center of mass is because it’s still an effective stopper if you miss by a few inches.

      4. “”Corning|8.14.14 @ 6:45PM|#

        What I don’t understand is guns can be non-lethal””

        No.

        From a legal POV, never. From a practical standpoint – see James Yeager on more specifics.

      5. What I don’t understand is guns can be non-lethal.

        Lots of police forces world wide will shoot people in the legs if say the perp is wielding a knife.

        Guy in my hometown accidentally shot himself in the leg while cleaning one of his guns (moron didn’t observe Rule #1…or, well, any of the other ones, either). He called an ambulance. When the ambulance got there, he was dead.

        A femoral artery bleed can kill you just as fast as getting shot in the heart.

        That’s why you don’t just “shoot for the legs”. The likelihood of simply killing the person is high, and if you aren’t justified in killing them you shouldn’t be shooting at them in the first place. And if you are justified in killing them, which would only be because they’re an immediate threat to your life, you shouldn’t go for a high-risk shot like that, because the legs are hard to hit, particularly when someone is moving.

  21. Why the fuck are cops unloading full clips into people let alone blindly into buildings or cars?

    It’s called panic fire for a reason.

    Why didn’t the cop release his “vascular neck restraint” when the guy went limp?

    1. The suspect could have totally been faking not breathing to the chok– er, uh, restraint maneuver had to be maintained for another five minutes, just to be safe.

    2. Because they can. And because they about it everynight. Abnd because they can.

    3. I’ve overheard drunk cops talk about choking people. They love it. They just love to choke people. The power gives them an erection.

    4. I respond to emergencies with cops all the time in a shitty part of the Bronx. The precinct where Diallo was shredded. Whenever things get heated between the cops and locals, what I mostly see on the faces of the cops is fear. Sure there are a lot of swinging dick cops like the one that choked out Garner in SI, but lots of these shootings by cops is because of panic, and the fact that they are scared shitless.

      1. Knock Knock !!!
        Who’s There ???
        Amado !!!
        Amado Who ???
        Amado EXACTLY WHAT THE POLICE TELL ME TO DO NEXT TIME !!!

        1. I laughed.

  22. Question: Is “excited delirium” still routinely used as the cause of death when cops murder someone by means other than shooting?

  23. Idle possible thoughtcrime: I wonder how much scratch Balko is going to pull in from all the free pub his book is suddenly getting.

  24. Is deadly force by police on the rise?

    Are more officers going home safely each night? Let’s just stick with the questions that really matter, people.

    1. Is it just me or did you Ebloa the link?

      1. For me it goes to the Newseek article I intended, though I can only see the headline because I’ve reached my article limit this month.

    2. ‘Ebola symptoms’ can mean anything flu-like at this stage. Unless there’s bleeding, nothing can be said.

  25. You mean police departments ignore a law that says they must report what they are doing?

    Police ignoring the law?

    I’m shocked!

    Shocked I tell you!

  26. “There is no escalation in the use of deadly force. What we are seeing is a proliferation of cellphones and cameras.”

    Now lets look at SWAT raids/year and dead dogs/year.

  27. Not sure the distinction matters much for purposes of discussing brutality. Even if we assume that the police were just always as arrogant and brutish as they now appear, that just means we now have better evidence for it.

    It’s commonly pointed out that the rise in statistical cancer rates is probably attributable to better detection and screening. But that just means you have more information about treating the disease.

    If we have more information today about police abuse and brutality, then we have more reason to agree to reduce it.

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