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Why It’s Hard to Tell How Many People Are Killed by Police Each Year

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Hundreds of police killings between 2007 and 2012 weren’t included in official records kept by the FBI, making it nearly impossible to tell how many people are killed by the police each year.

According to a Wall Street Journal analysis of data from the 105 largest police agencies around the country, more than 550 police killings were missing from the national FBI tally between 2007 and 2012.

Internal figures at the 105 largest departments show 1,825 police killings in those years, which is 47% more than the FBI’s tally for justifiable homicides. But the total number of police slayings is unquantifiable: though 753 police entities reported 2,400 police killings from 2007 to 2012, the majority of the nation’s 18,000 law-enforcement agencies didn’t report any.

A statistician for the FBI told the Journal that the FBI isn’t concealing information, but that “some places have chosen not to report… for whatever reason.” Many agencies don’t report their homicides to the FBI and in other cases the FBI was missing records, the Journal reports.

There has been widespread demand for data on police killings in the wake of the August shooting of 18-year-old Michael Brown by police in Ferguson.


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