Last year, the United States was rocked by the incident in Ferguson, Missouri between Darren Wilson and Michael Brown. The situation picked up more steam thanks to figureheads such as Al Sharpton and Louis Farrakhan utilizing the race card. Eventually, the situation became the linchpin for most people to see all police conflicts as a possible display of abusing police authority, leading up to police brutality, and in some instances, resulting in police killings.
However, one must wonder if the situations at Ferguson, Missouri and later on with Eric Garner in New York were blown up simply over the race. Are police killings a rare result to some police conflicts? From what an analysis shows, that may not be the case. From what statistics from the Federal Bureau of Investigation (FBI) show, hundreds of police killings are unaccounted for.
According to an exclusive by The Wall Street Journal which was followed up by ABC News, the analysis studied records of police killings from 105 of the biggest police forces in the nation. They found there were 1,825 officer-involved killings between 2007 and 2012. What is peculiar is that 550 of them were not included in the FBI statistics.
Alexia Cooper, a statistician with the Bureau of Justice Statistics, made a statement that almost 50 percent of police killings cannot be identified to a specific police agency.
“What we know is that some places have chosen not to report these, for whatever reason.”
The reason why there is such a high number of unreported police killings to the FBI is because state and police departments have developed their own policies. This includes granting permission to officers to use force when they reasonably fear imminent physical harm. That became the standard back in 1989 by the Supreme Court in which the use of force must be evaluated through the perspective of a reasonable officer on the scene rather than being judged afterwards. In short, the officers are given the benefit of the doubt pertaining to police killings.
Another reason why police killings haven’t been reported to the FBI is because it isn’t mandatory to do so. Local agencies are not required to provide such detailed records. This includes statistics showing which killings came at the hands of police officers.
In conclusion, Chicago lawyer Lori Lightfoot, who used to investigate police shootings for the Chicago Police Department, made it clear on why police killings are not reported to the FBI, and it has a lot to do with their position.
“A police officer is not like a normal citizen who discharges their weapon. There is a presumption that somebody who is a peace officer, and is thereby authorized to use lethal force, used it correctly.”
Now that you’ve read that almost 50 percent of all police killings go unreported to the FBI, what are your views? Should the policy change or is it okay just the way it is?