After years of guesswork — in which civil society groups and government stats bodies produced radically divergent estimates of killings by police in America — the Bureau of Justice Statistics has finally released a report that validates the civil society groups, admitting that killings by police in America are 1,100-1,400/year, more than double the official figure.
The reason for the shakiness of the statistics is that local police forces are not required to produce reliable statistics on the people killed by their officers, and so many produce no statistics and those that do often release meaningless, highly massaged numbers. The BLS overcame these statistical deficits by systematically mining news reports of police killings.
The civil society groups that produced the running — and now validated — estimates applaud the BLS project, but also express doubt that the proposed Trump Attorney General, the openly racist Jeff Sessions, will continue this kind of data gathering.
Activists worry that improving data on police killings, which has proceeded at a pace that many have found disappointing under President Obama, won't be a priority in a Trump administration. This past summer, Trump blamed Black Lives Matter, without any evidence, for instigating killings of police officers, an issue he emphasized much more strongly in his campaign than killings by police officers. Planty, when asked whether he sensed that the change of administrations would affect BJS's work in the area, said, "No."
Even if BJS does proceed with more complete data collection, it won't necessarily replace private estimates. Sinyangwe said he plans to continue his work regardless, because unlike BJS, which only aggregates deaths for statistical purposes, he and other independent counters provide details on individual deaths, allowing for more granular analysis.
The Government Finally Has A Realistic Estimate Of Killings By Police
[Carl Bialik/Five Thirty Eight]
(via Naked Capitalism)