Bureau of Justice Statistics release new, accurate police killing numbers that are double the historic estimates

Originally published at: http://boingboing.net/2016/12/17/bureau-of-justice-statistics-r.html


I’m surprised Florida isn’t higher, the press has pretty open access to police records for anyone that wants to look - at least that’s how I understand how Florida Man articles get posted with such regularity.


Florida man, Florida man,
Doin’ the things in Florida, man,
Is it ill? Do that shit.
Florida man.

OT, direct replies elsewhere.


This is a good first step.

  1. I am not a statistician, so maybe someone can help me with this. I know per capita estimates are decent for comparing things, but at the same time it seems to me they don’t always do a good job when the populations are soooo different. For example comparing Montana which barely even has a million people, with say New York with a population of nearly 20 million, with NYC alone having 8.4 million. Does something like this accurately show where the hot issues are? Like in the past I saw a per county statistic on suicide, and if you have 2 people commit suicide in a county of 10K people, it make it look like the suicide capital of the state, when compared to the next county over that has a large city and many more suicides, but far less per capita. What am I asking for?

  2. The next thing I’d like to see is a ranking analysis, with at least three categories - justified, possibly justified, not justified.

  3. So are these numbers still in the overall FBI lists of homicides deaths per year? Because that is like 10% of homicides.

  4. This means other private groups could do the same thing. If BoJ is using scripts or the like, they should share it as open source. I bet others might even improve on it.


Well this just shows how civilized New York is.
And, I guess, New Jersey too.


I sincerely don’t feel informed enough to have a position, but couldn’t police departments claim that the increase in police shootings attest to how much more violent citizens have gotten?

1 Like

Good Luck w/ that…

Police = Will argue they are Always Justified
Victims = Will argue the police are Never Justified
Reality = Justified Killing, hmmmm… What is even a reasonable justification for killing someone? Could they have been subdued by other means even if they had a weapon or were shooting? I’m kinda against it all together myself, and all for every other means possible. Are cops that kill murderers better then the murderers they kill? I don’t feel like “they started it” washes their hands clean. Sometimes lethal force might be called for to stop further killings, but even that is a shady shady place and a slippery slope.

A: "You KILLED Bob!"
B: "Don’t worry he deserved it. It was a justified killing."
A: "Oh, nevermind then"
Bob: “Wait what?!?!?!”


The Killing Fields revealed.


In precisely the same way that abusive partners can excuse themselves by blaming their partner’s behavior for their own actions.


They have a long history of crime statistics working against them.


Well no one will agree 100% on every categorization. It would need to be a third party with a set of perimeters. Even then it won’t be perfect, but it would be a start, and would help focus efforts on where the most abuse is.

Certainly not every police killing is justified. But to say no police killings are justified isn’t right either.

No, because the overall violent crime rate is down. So the citizens in general aren’t more violent.

One could use numbers such as actual number of police being killed or wounded (down, though that is partly due to better defense technology), and possibly the number of assaults on police officers (if one would weed out the “bogus” charges of assaults) to bolster the claim that citizens are more violent against cops. But I don’t think that statement currently has much evidence to back it up.


Interesting. I guess there IS an actual difference between North and South Dakota.


Between twenty and two hundred times the rate of countries of comparable wealth.

Do you think that a significant portion of that difference is due to Americans being much more likely to need shootin’?

Annual fatal police shootings per million residents. Data are based on most recent available. US: 2014; France: 1995-2000; Denmark: 1996-2006; Portugal: 1995-2005; Sweden: 1996-2006; Netherlands: 2013-2014; Norway: 1996-2006; Germany: 2012; Finland: 1996-2006; England & Wales: 2014.


So that means you have a 0.000005 percent chance of being killed by the cops in the U.S. I will take those odds.

1 Like

Neither of us can say for sure what the percentage of shootings are justified. It could very well be criminals are more likely to get violent with cops in the US vs elsewhere. Anecdotally, I have seen justified, non justified, and examples that I can’t fully say based on the evidence.

We can say for sure that the US has a much different culture than any of those countries, many different cultures with in the culture of the US, a rich and complicated history of crime, and in general our violent crime is higher in some aspects. But all of these facts are fairly well known.

But that doesn’t answer whether a majority of police shootings are justified or not. Clearly, even though violence is down overall, we still could do better. To understand any problem there must be both data gathering and analysis. While I am not an expert, it seems to me the next step would be to create an encounter scale and start rating each fatality as well as classifying it in to certain categories. Only then can we start to pin point the cause and work towards a solution.

Think you are off a bit there. If there 1348 deaths out of 318.9 million people, that comes to 0.00042% - so I think you added some zeros there.

1 Like

I’m pretty sure that’s not entirely necessary to working towards a solution when such a large proportion of the problem is due to a thoroughly dysfunctional police culture involving militarisation, bigotry, and departments, unions, prosecutors etc, that generally do their utmost to hold cops above the law.

It shouldn’t be fair to say that many cops are fucking jackbooted pigs who do as they please with impunity, but there it is.

Requiring body cams to be employed across the board, and treating failures to comply as evidence of wrongdoing by default might just send the message that they need to start considering themselves public servants…


US cops fatally shoot at least twenty times as many people as cops in comparable countries. One shooting in Foreignstan, twenty in the US. Nineteen extra.

For the majority of the US shootings to be justified, at least nine of those nineteen must be justified. Doing the math [1], this implies that Americans are justifiably shootable at least ten times as often as the citizens of Foreignstan.

I accept that cultural differences are a thing. But an order of magnitude? And if that is explainable by culture, does that not suggest that the culture is wrong?

[1] Unless you’re arguing that cops in Foreignstan are neglecting to shoot lots of people that they should have?


Gun ownership is far higher in the USA than most other countries. If a police officer shoots someone to avoid themselves being shot, that seems justified (in general, there may be better options). So it could be in part because there are far more people out there with guns

My gut instinct is that the US police officers make far more unjustified shootings than most other countries, but proving that is very difficult


What makes them comparable countries? You cherry pick some of the most stable, homogenized countries in the Europe. Try factoring the rest of the world and I bet one would see that the US has lots of room for improvement, but maybe is doing a lot better job than most places.

The US has more crime and violence. It has systemic issues that keeps some people down, and poor desperate people turn to crime. I certainly agree that some cops and the policies of some departments are a big part of the problem. The various social ills that cause people to turn to crime is part of the problem. The criminals themselves are part of the problem.

My point is “RAWR US COPS BAD! BE LIKE FINLAND COPS!” isn’t entirely helpful, because if you dropped in a bunch of cops from Finland into the US, they would be flummoxed that Americans don’t act like Fins.

Which brings us back to: this data is great. We need more analysis so we can zero in on the heart of the issue.

Certainly we can start cop reform NOW with such ideas as body cams. I wasn’t suggesting noting be done with out more info.


The 1:20 figure was based on Denmark, where the cops are ten times more murderous than the UK. And those stats are from before the revision that is the subject of the OP, so we should probably be doubling them.

The figure came from here, BTW:

Seems sensible.