Use of Force

Number of Killings By Police Doubles Because Feds Finally Put Some Effort Into Counting Them

Turns out the Justice Department is capable of accurately reporting on police use of force, it just never tried before.


The feds know what we're doing now.
Will Vragovic/ZUMA Press/Newscom

The federal govermment's revamped program for counting the number of people killed by police every year has revealed what several journalistic outfits had already reported — that the FBI had been vastly under-reporting the number of deaths in police custody for years.

The Justice Department's Bureau of Justice Statistics (BJS) released a new study last week, detailing their new methodologies which go far beyond the previous practice of relying on states and local law enforcement agencies to voluntarily self-report their data regarding deadly use of force.

The rebooted Arrested Related Death (ARD) program — launched in 2003 but temporarily suspended in 2014 because the government had been sufficiently embarrassed about its failure to accurately document the many instances of government employees exercising the ultimate in government power — now "reviews open information sources, including news outlets and official agency documents, to identify potential arrest-related deaths," according to the summary attached to BJS's study.

That part of the program looks a lot like what news agencies like The Washington Post and The Guardian have been doing for the past few years to calculate the number of deaths in police custody. What differentiates the new program is the overdue implementation of the federal government's unique access to other government agencies. The study explains, "BJS surveys law enforcement agencies and medical examiner/coroners' (ME/C) offices to confirm all arrest-related deaths occurring in their jurisdiction and collect additional information about those deaths."

The Guardian notes that the new iteration of the ARD program "recorded 270 homicides by officers in three months last year. The FBI said earlier this year that it had counted just 442 in all of 2015." The ARD program always required local agencies to report their deaths in custody, but the federal government never penalized any of them with the loss of grant money for lack of compliance. Now that the federal government does its own investigating, it has found that the number of people killed by police last year is more than twice what was previously reported.

It has taken some time, but this actually is an appropriate use of government resources. Transparency of both the number of people killed by police—as well as the circumstances that led to the use of deadly force—is a necessary early step toward improving police-community relations and promoting conversations about criminal justice reform.

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  1. And thanks to the left’s effort to make this all about race, nothing will be done.

    1. “It has taken some time, but this actually is an appropriate use of government resources”

      Regardless of the left’s misguided political approach, this is a good thing. If it’s a result of BLM, then at least that’s a plus to the misguided movement.

      But the police and other government employees invested in the system are taking advantage of it. Thanks to big government statists on both sides of the aisle, the police have gotten outside their mission of protecting us, and instead many policemen target easy convictions rather than doing their work, target victimless crimes rather than people who harm others, and the system abuses a lot of the poor to the detriment of taxpayers among others.

      Abuse by police/prisons that result in death, should be investigated and prosecuted when government employees break the law. And it should be done by the feds prosecuting local police. There’s no one else watching them. If cities find they are spending a lot of money defending bad cops, that creates pressure to get rid of bad cops.

  2. The best ways to improve community-police relations:

    (1) Abolish all immunity for individual police officers;

    (2) Abolish all immunity for the employers, i.e., counties, municipalities, regional task forces, and states, of police officers;

    (3) Abolish police unions;

    (4) Abolish all SWAT teams and operations;

    (5) Require all police officers to carry comprehensive liability insurance the premiums of which to be paid by each officer;

    (6) Publish all contact information regarding of all police officers, including cell phones, e-mail, and residential addresses;

    (7) Limit the duration of employment to ten years, i.e., a term-limit, if you will, of ten years (no career public sector employment).

    (8) Prohibit the employment of any veterans (sorry, no double-dipping and no career public sector employment);

    (9) Prohibit the employment of any person with a sub 125 IQ; and

    (10) NO FUCKING BUZZCUTS, evah!

    1. Some of these are pretty good but some would never work.

      For example, by definition IQ’s above 125 are in about the top ~10% of the population. Right now we have about a million police officers in the US and I think we can all agree here that is way too many but even cutting the total police force in half means that you would be required to get 2% of everyone in the country who has an IQ above 125 to become police

      1. What’s more, maybe we don’t want cops to be too smart.

        They already think they’re way smarter than Joe Public – the last thing we really need is for them to be right about that.

        1. True, particularly where intelligence is wed to malevolence.

        2. Seriously, no one with an IQ over 125 could be a cop for even a week.

          Avg cop and cop with 150 IQ on daily beat:

          Arrives at address reporting disturbance.

          Avg cop: Hey look! Oh boy, they have a dog!

          Cop with 150 IQ: So?

          Avg cop: What, you haven’t got to shoot a pet yet, you don’t know what you’re missing!

          Cop with 150 IQ: *crickets*

          Avg cop: Hey look, in the back yard, that’s marijuana!

          Cop with 150 IQ: Those are tomato plants.

          Avg cop: Hey, look! There’s the pot grower now, she’s got a gun!

          Cop with 150 IQ: That’s just some woman with a gardening tool.

          Avg cop: *bang* *bang* *bang* *bang* *bang* *bang* *bang* *bang* *bang*

          Avg cop: I’m out of ammo! You’ll have to shoot the dog!

          1. I like how you’re assuming that the police who do this kind of shit are just stupid rather than drunk on power.

            1. Because drunk on power is unique to cops, and an actual malady?

      2. Yeah, the IQ requirement brought me up short, too. It’s like the blather that was passed around in my youth about attracting the “Best and Brightest” to teaching. That’s all very well, but what are the odds that they best and the brightest have something they would rather do than try to educate a bunch of surly yard-apes?

    2. My Take:

      (1) End the Drug War

      (2) End all civil asset forfeiture

      (3) End all federal monetary incentives given to local/State police for arrest/conviction rates

      (4) Abolish police unions

      (5) Disband most SWAT teams and limit the employment of the remaining ones to active shooter/hostage situations (i.e. strictly limited to a reactive rather than active role)

      (6) Overturn Hudson v. Michigan making no-knock raids illegal

      (7) Require all use of force by police that results in injury/death to be subject to civilian review boards

      (8) Eliminate the 1033 program

      (9) Require all law enforcement to conduct ongoing civics classes and de-escalation training

      (10) NO GROSSMAN/KILLOLOGY Training, evah!

      1. Bob, I agree with all of your prescriptions, except that I think it better to be absolute about the SWAT operations because the “threat” of active shooter / hostage takings, like every other “threat” about which progressivism screams, is exiguous.

        1. Eh, it’s not something I am adamant about. I know the SWAT concept was born out of the University of Texas shooting in which the police were at a disadvantage and could have saved lives if they were better equipped/trained. I don’t see SWAT teams existence as a direct threat to liberty if it were used only in extremely limited circumstances. The problem is that the exiguous threat that you pointed out becomes the justification for their widespread proliferation and of course the state is going to employ a shiny toy whether it’s warranted or not. I get your point and don’t necessarily disagree.

    3. The police are the militia. What we have done in the US instead is to create a local version of a standing army to complement the national standing army and are gobsmacked that we have problems. All because we have chosen to ‘professionalize’ the obligation for self-defense to a select group of people. The 2nd amendment is not just about guns. It is about how a free people responds to a threat to the community – not just some bullshit petty threat to an individual.

      Do we feel empowered to run towards the threat and deal with it – or do we run away and abdicate responsibility to someone else? For both military/foreign – and criminal – and natural disaster – and pretty much every other threat we have chosen the latter – while still pretending that ‘rights of gun ownership’ have nothing to do with ‘existence of threat’.

      The history of ‘organized police’ in the US proves how quickly we lost all ideas of what it means to be a free people. In the North, cities decided they didn’t want the hassles of mustering/training militia and selecting ‘night watch duties’ from them. So they went ‘professional’ instead – and lost that basic accountability to a free people. In the South, the organized police was ALWAYS about oppressing freedom since it was founded on ‘slave watch’. And no surprise that idea (that the color of ones skin determines how one gets treated by the ‘night watch’) remains a serious problem today.

      1. Interesting perspective. It would be nice if we could restore the balance to accommodate both professional police and an armed, responsible citizenry, and it seems to me that the trend among states toward allowing both concealed and open carry of handguns is a small but welcome move in that direction. The cops seem to be pretty jealous of their monopoly, though. And the citizenry’s carefully cultivated attitude of dependence at the hands of the progs runs deep.

        1. I think the constitution wording points the way to it. We call police ‘officers’ and naming officers is a purely state-level function. Seems to me that’s the function they should perform with a restored militia – organizing/running the muster. Those musters are the ideal recruiting pool for FT police (and FT military as well) – and restoring those musters would provide some evidence as to how far removed current police recruitment is from actual local community. A universal muster (for maybe 16-30 or somesuch) also gets police in regular contact with the crime-prone age group in a non-crime situation which helps undermine the current vacuum that is being filled by gangs and the most moronic age-peers.

          And for those who see universal muster as a slippery slope to the coercion of conscription, offer tax discounts instead. A 2% reduction in sales/income tax burden for each week of annual duty is the rough equivalent of paying compensation for what would be very part-time obligation – and that could easily expire/renew every muster until the following one.

    4. Not so sure on #9. I’ve seen a fair number of stories where veterans showed a lot of restraint and quality as officers.

      Probably because they’ve been properly trained on how to determine whether or not violence is actually needed in a situation, and healthy combat vets usually have the mental tools to deal with fear.

      1. Yup…

      2. Yep! I spoke to a good friend of mine who is a cop, and also served in both Afghanistan and Iraq. He said that the rules of engagement in both those war zones were far stricter than what police in the U.S. operate under, and that the consequences of violating the rules are far worse for military personnel than cops. We might actually do better with more veterans, as long as they are psychologically healthy.

        1. Radley Balko addresses this in ‘Rise of the Warrior Cops.’ He argues that veterans shouldn’t be barred from being LEO’s but that they shouldn’t have hiring preference either. I guess I’m kinda ambivalent because as far as I know there isn’t any empirical evidence that veterans make better/worse cops. Like you I’ve heard/read anecdotal evidence that military veteran police officers keep a cooler head in stressful situations and are better conditioned to follow strict ROE’s. I’ve never heard a story about a veteran LEO going all PTSD and killing someone but I wouldn’t be surprised if it’s happened.

          1. they shouldn’t have hiring preference either

            You make it sound like police departments have a choice. They take who they can get, because when it comes down to it, few people in their right mind want that job.

    5. (9) Prohibit the employment of any person with a sub 125 IQ; and

      Why would anybody with an IQ above 90 even want to take such a shitty job? Police departments take who they can get.

      The best ways to improve community-police relations…

      is to replace most police with private security firms, with the usual civil liabilities that such firms operate under.

    6. Don’t force people who don’t want police to pay for them.

  3. You just made us a cop free society with 9.

    I would have made #1, end the war on drugs.

      1. The average score nationally for police officers is 21 to 22, the equivalent of an IQ of 104, or just a little above average.

        Which means that if you set the IQ requirement at 125, you would end up excluding about 80% of the applicants all things being equal, and probably 95% of all applicants taking competition from other professions into account. How exactly are you going to recruit a police force that way?

  4. /is

  5. Excellent.

    Haven’t enjoyed a good, solid nut-punch in the longest time ….

    1. Just wait until Mr. law and order candidate gets sworn in. You’d better get the titanium nut protector now before they sell out.

  6. …this actually is an appropriate use of government resources.

    Using the government’s love of databases against it! Genius!

  7. 442? In what Universe?

    We’ve been killin’ about 1000 per year for many years.

    I’ve seen the 1000 # bandied about in any # of reliable places

    iow, not the feds

  8. Math is ARD!

    -FBI Barbie

  9. But but but but but…. Heroes! Need to go home to their families! Protect and serve! Back the blue!

  10. “It has taken some time, but this actually is an appropriate use of government resources.”

    No. It is not. What makes federal oversight over state and local police operations any more effective or desirable than federal oversight over every other state and local governmental function? Some consistency from libertarians is definitely in order here.

    I’m all for holding police accountable for their actions and strongly reasserting their status as public servants as opposed to micro-tyrants with tin shields and licenses to kill. But this can be most effectively accomplished through things like eliminating public employee unions and similar reforms at the state and local level.Top Men are not required, and in the larger scheme of things, are counter to libertarian principles.

    1. This, this, this. This. All that really needs to happen is police being held to at least the same standards as everyone else. I think they pretty clearly ought to be held to higher standards, but I’d settle for the slightly less crazy idea of equal treatment under the law.

  11. Police commit 7% of homicides in the US–about 1,000 out of 14,000.

    1. Is that a plurality? seems awfully close to negating any benefits of having police at all.

  12. I have newsprint (still on google news archives) claiming over 1000 dry killer victims and a Brazilian paper in 1927 reported with some schadenfreude that 47 prohibition agents had by then been shot to death. Senator Tydings of Maryland published “Before and After Prohibition” in an effort to uncover dry murders covered up by federal fascisti. But none of that even matters. What mattered was when “The Economic Results of Prohibition” came out. Dry zealots immediately fled from debates like so many Global Warming pseudoscientists today.

  13. This web page maintained by the Philadelphia Police Department shows all officer involved shootings from 2007 to the present, including the police report of the incident.

    Officer Involved Shootings

    This is an excellent start on what every police force should be doing.

    There are still some shortcomings, like membership of Use Of Force Review Board being entirely police. Also, I would like to see the Use Of Force Review Board findings and and any criminal charges filed against police linked to each incident.

    Still, this is far beyond what many police departments are doing.

    Officer Involved Shootings

  14. Hmm. So the government’s been lying about police killings for years, but this time they’re being honest and open? Color me skeptical.

  15. And Perhaps, “some people just need killing”.

  16. “But, but, BLM, Chicago”

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  18. Your article is very confusing.

    ‘Homicide’ is defined as the unlawful and deliberate of killing of one person by another; murder.

    What is a ‘potential arrest related death’ and how is it differentiated from a homicide?

    Are you claiming the police murdered 442 people in 2015; and 270 people in the first three (3) months of 2016?

    These ‘murders’ all occurred while the suspect was in police custody?

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  22. Cops killed (at least… the list may not be complete) 1209 people in 2015 and 1143 as of Dec. 28. It’s a national disgrace and 90% of those cops should be sitting on death row.

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