Police Shootings: Do We Have the Right Data?

imagesWith regard to police shootings, do we have the right data to make decisions?

Perhaps we don’t.

Take a look at the following article in the Sept, 30 issue of The New York Times by Michael Winesaug:

Race and Police Shootings: Are Blacks Targeted More?

“If anything good has come out of this month’s fatal shooting of Michael Brown in Ferguson, Mo., it is that the death of the black teenager shined a spotlight on the plague of shootings of black men by white police officers. And maybe now, the nation will begin to address the racism behind it.

“That is the conventional wisdom, anyway, and maybe it is true. Only a fool would deny that racial bias still pervades aspects of American society. The evidence is clear that some police law-enforcement tactics — traffic stops, to cite one example — disproportionately target African-Americans. And few doubt that blacks are more likely than whites to die in police shootings; in most cities, the percentage almost certainly exceeds the African-American share of the population.

“Such arguments suggest that the use of deadly force by police officers unfairly targets blacks. All that is needed are the numbers to prove it

“But those numbers do not exist. And because of that, the current national debate over the role of race in police killings is being conducted more or less in a vacuum.

“Researchers have sought reliable data on shootings by police officers for years, and Congress even ordered the Justice Department to provide it, albeit somewhat vaguely, in 1994. But two decades later, there remains no comprehensive survey of police homicides. The even greater number of police shootings that do not kill, but leave suspects injured, sometimes gravely, is another statistical mystery.

“Without reliable numbers, the conventional wisdom is little more than speculation…

“’It’s shocking,’ said Geoffrey P. Alpert, a professor of criminology at the University of South Carolina. ‘For 20 years, we’ve been trying to get the government to do something. We don’t have a clear picture of what’s going on in the use of lethal force. Are young black males being shot at a rate disproportionate to their involvement in crime? Are white officers shooting black males in areas where they’re not expected to have those sorts of interactions? Is this an aberration, a trend, routine, something going on for a long time? We don’t know.’

“Not only do we not know the racial breakdown of police homicides, we don’t know with any precision how many homicides occur, period.

“The F.B.I.’s Uniform Crime Reporting Program tabulates deaths at the hands of police officers. So does the National Center for Health Statistics. So does the Bureau of Justice Statistics. But the totals can vary wildly…

“A 2012 study by David A. Klinger, a former police officer and professor of criminology at the University of Missouri-St. Louis, compared 13 years of internal reports on homicides by Los Angeles police officers and sheriffs’ deputies with the figures published by the F.B.I. The result: the 184 homicides reported by the F.B.I. were 46 percent fewer than the 340 logged by the departments themselves…

“Whether or not racial bias is a significant factor in police homicides is very much an open question…”

[To read the full story CLICK HERE.]

Here is one way that citizens, using the internet, are beginning to answer the questions surrounding police shootings:

To find out, CLICK HERE.












  1. If I was an Afro-American male, I would be worry about being shot by both white police officers and Afro-American and Hispanc street gangs.


  2. David, I agree that it’s absurd that no one is tracking this; there should be an investigation, or at least a report, every time a police officer discharges a weapon. That should then be compiled by the FBI along with their other crime-related stats. Our police are meant to be accountable to us, and we can’t hold them accountable if we don’t know what they’re doing.

    I do grit my teeth every time someone says that blacks are unfairly targeted, when they conveniently overlook the fact that blacks are disproportionally involved in criminal activity, particularly violent crimes. It’s dishonest. Pretending that “teen” and “unarmed” equate to “harmless” is also dishonest. The people that screech about blacks getting shot by white police officers never make a peep if a white person gets shot by a black officer. The media is also more likely to ignore black on white crime, but portray white on black crime as racist, and label it a “hate crime”. My local paper won’t even state the race of a suspect if the suspect is black, but will if the suspect is white. Since my county is only about three percent black, stating that the suspect is black really narrows down the options. The people who yap on about racism in the US don’t seem to really want a dialogue about racism; they just want acknowledgement of black victimhood. Note, for example, that the store owners who got screwed by the rioting in Ferguson appeared to be mostly of Asian descent, but black people vandalizing, stealing, looting from them isn’t “racist”, somehow. The US certainly has some racial issues, and they do show up in law enforcement, but until people are willing to be honest about it, it will never get resolved, and the problem goes WAY beyond law enforcement.


    1. I really hope you are not in law enforcement after reading your comment Ms. Andrea. I am a black police officer in a mostly white department. I can assure you that men and women who are victims and suspects of crime and black employees at police departments are looked at and are treated differently in negative ways. If you are not black and have not experienced these things time and again firsthand, you will never know.


      1. Baker, I respectfully disagree. It is true that I will never face the discrimination that black people face, because I’m not black. However, that’s not the only discrimination there is. Lots of people get discriminated against in varying ways, but for some reason, it’s only discrimination by whites against blacks that gets any notice. In the jobs I’ve had, I’ve been discriminated against as the “dumb blond with the big tits”. I’ve seen women discriminated against, and obese people, and disabled people, and Asians, and Hispanics. I’ve also seen whites discriminated against by non-whites, but for some reason, it’s only white on black discrimination that garners media attention. This is dishonest. If people claim to want a dialogue about racism and discrimination, great! But let’s not pretend that white on black discrimination is all there is. Discrimination of any type harms the target.


      2. The only time white people understand about the abuse of police power is when the police violates their rights to protest on the streets or when they go on strike and the corporations and the wealthy people call in the police to bust up the strikes.

        White people have no history of how white people were murder by the people during the labor movements during the 19th centuary and early 20th centuries.


  3. There are actually several sources that keep track of this, or at least partially. I know that Wikipedia is one of them and at one point I glanced at it and it said it was incomplete but there were over three hundred deaths per year. The source you cite includes over six hundred which is almost certainly more complete at least for one year.

    I know the hyped up media stories aren’t statistically representative; but the most recent three highest profile shootings of cops in Cambridge Mass., Pennsylvania, Las Vegas and two prosecutors in Texas were all done by whit people but most of the high profile shootings by police are blacks. I could find a couple sources including Radley Balko that indicates that shootings of police are dropping despite th high profile ones but shootings by police are not.


    1. Yes mam; but in the world of policing where overwhelmingly young white adrenalin filled and often uneducated males between the age of lets say 22 and 32 are hired as police officers and given the legal authority to take the properties and lives of young black men, we have a serious problem as being witnessed played out all over this great country in places like Missouri and South Carolina.


      1. Police officers have the legal authority to take the lives of young black men, and old white women, and middle aged Asians, and everyone else. And that’s all police officers, not just white ones. Young men, black or otherwise, often takes the lives and property of others without any legal authority whatsoever. That’s often how police officers and young black men end up clashing in the first place. In my county, there are very few black people. Do you think the police just skip the guns? Of course not; they shoot people who aren’t black. Oddly enough, the people they end up shooting are generally *criminals*, which seems to matter more to police than melanin enhancement. There are several high profile dash camera videos available on youtube of police interactions with black people that are trotted out as “proof” of police brutality. I would NEVER behave the way the people in those videos behave. It’s not because I’m white; it’s because if I acted like that, I’d expect to get shot.

        We really don’t get to just blow off legal commands, refuse to show ID, refuse to comply, refuse to sign the ticket, drive away from a traffic stop, resist arrest, hit the officer, flee, draw a weapon, etc, and have the police just shrug, give up, and go home. I’m sure there really are racist officers out there. I’m also dead certain that racism is not behind every police shooting of a black person. And what of Eric Garner? No shots fired there. He didn’t die of racism, he died because he committed a crime and resisted arrest while in a very poor physical condition. If I resisted arrest, I assume I would get treated the same way, whether I died or not, and there would be no Sharpton or Jackson or anyone else pleading my cause.


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