Statistics may not be as reliable as we think, especially when it comes to homicides and police killings in America.
A report by The Wall Street Journal revealed hundreds of homicides, some of them involving police officers shooting individuals, aren’t reported by the FBI.
An estimated total of 550 homicides from 2007 to 2012 went unreported to the Federal Bureau of Investigation. Overall, the plot holes make it harder to determine how many crimes occur every year.
Three sources of information about deaths caused by police—the FBI numbers, figures from the Centers for Disease Control and data at the Bureau of Justice Statistics—differ from one another widely in any given year or state, according to a 2012 report by David Klinger, a criminologist with the University of Missouri-St. Louis and a onetime police officer.
To analyze the accuracy of the FBI data, the Journal requested internal records on killings by officers from the nation’s 110 largest police departments. One-hundred-five of them provided figures.
Those internal figures show 1,825 police killings in those 105 departments between 2007 and 2012, 47% more than the FBI’s tally for justifiable homicides in those departments’ jurisdictions, which was 1,242, according to the Journal’s analysis. Nearly all police killings are deemed by the departments or other authorities to be justifiable.
Police killings and homicides have been the focus of many news articles and activist groups due to the death of Michael Brown in Ferguson, Mo. It was recently revealed only one homicide was ever reported to the FBI from the Ferguson Police Department between 1976 and 2012. This comes as a surprise, as St. Louis was named the fourth deadliest city in America by, you guessed it, the FBI.
Alexia Cooper, a statistician with the Bureau of Justice Statistics, didn’t give a complete answer as to why some crimes aren’t reported, but says it stems from the state police departments.
“What we know is that some places have chosen not to report these, for whatever reason.” Cooper says.
Some states have cited outdated software and incomplete reports from Florida and New York as reasons why hundreds of homicides weren’t documented. Washington D.C. went for a decade not reporting murders, including the death of Jermaine Payton, who was shot by police after he allegedly pointed a knife at them.
Police in Washington, D.C., didn’t report to the FBI details about any homicides for an entire decade beginning with 1998—the year the Washington Post found the city had one of the highest rates of officer-involved killings in the country. In 2011, the agency reported five killings by police. In 2012, the year Mr. Payton was killed, there are again no records on homicides from the agency.
D.C. Metropolitan Police Chief Cathy Lanier said she doesn’t know why the agency stopped reporting the numbers in 1998. “I wasn’t the chief and had no role in decision making” back then, said Ms. Lanier, who was a captain at the time. When she took over in 2007, she said, reporting the statistics “was a nightmare and a very tedious process.”
Investigations have been launched in a few states, but many homicides will never be solved due to incorrect or incomplete paperwork.
Check out the full report here.
SOURCE: The Wall Street Journal | PHOTO CREDIT: Getty