We’ve heard a lot recently about the militarization of police in the United States, but little about the secretization. Would you believe it if I told you that there are very limited statistics kept on police shootings? Believe it:
“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.”
“University of South Carolina criminologist Geoff Alpert, who has long studied police use of deadly force, said the FBI’s limited database underscores a gaping hole in the nation’s understanding of how often local police take a life on America’s streets — and under what circumstances.
”There is no national database for this type of information, and that is so crazy,” said Alpert. “We’ve been trying for years, but nobody wanted to fund it and the (police) departments didn’t want it. They were concerned with their image and liability. They don’t want to bother with it.”
The only statistic kept by the FBI is one called “justifiable homicide” by police, defined as “the killing of a felon by a law enforcement officer in the line of duty.” Those numbers for 2008-2012:
Fortunately, other countries do keep such a stat. I guess their police aren’t as concerned with image as is American law enforcement.
England and Wales for 2012 and 2013—Zero.
Australia—41 in 8 years.
Germany—6 in 2011.
Just for another way of comparison, in Canada there were 598 homicides in total for 2011. The same year there were 404 “justifiable homicides” by police in the US.
There are roughly 900,000 law enforcement officers in the US–federal, state, and local. The population of Canada is somewhere around 35 million. Something seems askew.