FBI Director Says Agency Will Track Police-Involved Killings Better By Not Changing Any Of Its Current Methods

from the mistaking-stasis-for-progress dept

After years of not giving a damn and letting the public do its job for it, the FBI is apparently ready to get serious about collecting stats on "police-involved shootings." In a statement released along with the FBI's 2014 Crime Report (tl;dr: most crime down again), FBI director James Comey says the agency will be doing… something… to ensure more comprehensive reporting of citizens killed by police.

[T]o address the ongoing debate about the appropriate use of force by law enforcement, we plan to collect more data about shootings (fatal and nonfatal) between law enforcement and civilians, and to increase reporting overall. Currently, the UCR program collects the number of justifiable homicides reported by police as well as information about the felonious killing and assault of law enforcement officers. These data are available in Crime in the United States and Law Enforcement Officers Killed and Assaulted. As helpful as this information is, however, we need more law enforcement agencies to submit their justifiable homicide data so that we can better understand what is happening across the country. Once we receive this data, we will add a special publication that focuses on law enforcement’s use of force in shooting incidents that will outline facts about what happened, who was involved, the nature of injuries or deaths, and the circumstances behind these incidents. We hope this information will become part of a balanced dialogue in communities and in the media—a dialogue that will help to dispel misperceptions, foster accountability, and promote transparency in how law enforcement personnel relate to the communities they serve.
There's a lot not to like about this statement.

First off, the FBI is only now getting around to "addressing the debate," after doing the bare minimum for the past several years. Currently, the data is "collected" via voluntary reports from law enforcement agencies and is limited to justifiable homicides, and then only those where someone was shot during the commission of a felony. This is why the FBI's yearly totals are, at best, half of what's tallied by private efforts.

Comey's statement basically says nothing's going to change. The collection will still be limited to "justifiable" homicides and will still be voluntary. Comey says he wants more law enforcement agencies to submit data, but there's no directive being issued to force the issue.

If anything's going to mobilize a more complete collection of shooting data, it will likely be new legislation. But the only recent effort towards a more comprehensive database of police-involved killings is languishing in Washington, having gone no further than being assigned to the Senate Judiciary Committee.

If any expanded reporting does result from Comey's announcement, it will still be heavily-skewed in favor of law enforcement agencies and their use of force. Because it will only contain information on homicides deemed to be justified, the report will not provide any further information on unjustified uses of deadly force. This will do nothing to further the conversation on law enforcement use of force, much less increase the level of trust in the communities they serve.

Comey is correct that continuing to serve up incomplete statistics won't result in positive change. But his statement contains nothing that indicates substantive changes in reporting is on the way. The only difference here is that the FBI is finally acknowledging the public's growing disgruntlement with the nation's law enforcement agencies. But Comey's light touch -- designed not to offend his agency's brothers-in-arms -- suggests the only thing he's willing to throw at the problem is a few extra words.


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  • icon
    That One Guy (profile), 5 Oct 2015 @ 3:34am

    'Conflict of interest', clearly a term beyond government and police comprehension

    Seems to me you could use the same logic to drastically cut down on all other forms of crime, simply by letting those that perform the acts judge whether or not their actions are justified, and letting them choose what they want to report.

    Murders by non-cops? Simply don't happen, every last reported incident is found to be an act of self-defense by the one who committed the action.

    Assault? Not reported or justified.

    Robbery? Not reported or justified.

    Fraud? Not reported or justified.

    Arson? Not reported or justified.

    And so on.

    The FBI and police actions here are exactly the kinds of behavior that leads to loss of trust from the public. They are blatantly indifferent to the problem, and show no interest in anything more than the most transparently laughable 'solutions' that don't involve merely brushing it under the rug, and people see this. And when people see that those in charge, whether government agency or police, have no interest in holding their own accountable, it's not hard to understand why people would lose any trust towards those in charge.

    reply to this | link to this | view in chronology ]

  • identicon
    Michael, 5 Oct 2015 @ 4:35am

    we plan to collect more data about shootings (fatal and nonfatal) between law enforcement and civilians

    Just the fact that there is "more data" than they are currently collecting is a complete failure of the system. These are the shootings that we should be able to collect the data on most easily - considering a LEO is present on the scene when it happened.

    And let me tell you where this is going - a reduction in the number of shootings, but a rise in the number of beatings, tazings, stompings, and vehicular vs. person incidents - because they don't require all this extra paperwork...

    reply to this | link to this | view in chronology ]

    • identicon
      Just Another Anonymous Troll, 5 Oct 2015 @ 4:57am

      Re:

      Nah, they only collect justifiable homicides, so they're free to shoot as much as they like; it's either justified or unreported.

      reply to this | link to this | view in chronology ]

  • icon
    orbitalinsertion (profile), 5 Oct 2015 @ 5:20am

    I still enjoy the use of the term "civilians" in these contexts.

    reply to this | link to this | view in chronology ]

  • identicon
    Anonymous Coward, 5 Oct 2015 @ 5:40am

    "civilians" because using the term human-being would traumatize law enforcement officers , better to not humanize the cattle.

    reply to this | link to this | view in chronology ]

  • identicon
    Capt ICE Enforcer, 5 Oct 2015 @ 5:59am

    James Comey vote

    I vote James Comey for funniest of the week comment. I know his quote is not a comment for Techdirt, but damn that shit made me laugh.

    reply to this | link to this | view in chronology ]

  • icon
    TruthHurts (profile), 5 Oct 2015 @ 6:12am

    That explains the missing data...

    "Currently, the UCR program collects the number of justifiable homicides reported by police as well as information about the felonious killing and assault of law enforcement officers."

    See - we're missing the "felonious killing and assault of victims by criminal law enforcement officers"

    That most certainly explains the "missing data", they just assumed all officer shootings of children to be justifiable.

    reply to this | link to this | view in chronology ]

  • icon
    Spaceman Spiff (profile), 5 Oct 2015 @ 6:59am

    Meh, doesn't matter!

    Murder of innocent, unarmed "civilians" by police? Meh, it doesn't matter, after all it wasn't "justifiable", hence not collected data...

    reply to this | link to this | view in chronology ]

  • identicon
    Anonymous Coward, 5 Oct 2015 @ 7:10am

    "Justifiable homicide" qualifier is not a problem

    As Techdirt previously covered, every kill is a righteous kill, so every killing is a justifiable homicide. Thus, there are no non-justifiable homicides to be left out due to use of this qualifier.

    reply to this | link to this | view in chronology ]

  • identicon
    Anonymous Coward, 5 Oct 2015 @ 7:25am

    There's a huge conflict of interest here. Because the FBI works hand-in-hand with state, county, and local police, the FBI is one federal agency that's not going to risk alienating the very people it depends on every day. Yet somehow the FBI gets assigned the job of to be "policing tghe police"?

    For the goal of keeping tabs on excessive police killings to have any chance of fairness, any police "oversight" agency must be one that has absolutely nothing to do with any aspect of law enforcement.

    reply to this | link to this | view in chronology ]

  • identicon
    Anonymous Coward, 5 Oct 2015 @ 7:31am

    Considering they're only recording deaths at the hands of police that they submit, coupled with the fact that the officer gets to justify their actions makes this seem more like propaganda then anything. I can't say that the process won't be used truthfully by some officers, but others... well...

    Overall honestly it will give us a slightly better (if more biased) number. Just have to remember to keep doing personal collecting and compare the two ourselves.

    reply to this | link to this | view in chronology ]

  • identicon
    Anonymous Coward, 5 Oct 2015 @ 8:18am

    A police Officer is a civilian..they tend to forget that. Civilians serving civilians.. Not matter How much they try to pretend that they are soldiers.

    reply to this | link to this | view in chronology ]

    • identicon
      Anonymous Coward, 5 Oct 2015 @ 9:09am

      Re:

      a thousand times this.

      Police are civilians.
      Civilians are police.
      The moment they start to think of themselves as the sheepdogs (or wolves) instead of members of the flock is the moment that the 'apple' starts to go bad.

      reply to this | link to this | view in chronology ]

    • identicon
      GEMont, 8 Oct 2015 @ 4:14pm

      Re:

      Due to the 9/11 re-interpretation of the US Constitution and in support of the current efforts in the War on the Adversary, that particular definition of police officer - civilian - may have changed.

      It is quite possible that, due to the Wars against the US Public - War on Drugs, War on Terror - the US police forces may have been secretly conscripted into military service by the federal government to aid in the war effort.

      This would indeed explain the current trend of equipping the police with military gear and deploying them in a military fashion, as well as their immunity from prosecution in cases where they murder civilians.

      ---

      reply to this | link to this | view in chronology ]

  • identicon
    Anonymous Coward, 5 Oct 2015 @ 8:24am

    John F. Banzhaf, a professor of public interest law at George Washington University, theorized that the "anti-snitch" mentality of some neighborhoods makes it harder for police to charge suspects, and also suggested that police can talk a victim out of reporting less serious crimes.

    "Murders, you can't cover up," Banzhaf said, referring not specifically to Baltimore's situation, but to crime statistics in general. As for other crimes, "there's a natural reaction to step back and not want to risk a possible indictment," he said. "Less assertive police response means more guns on the streets."

    reply to this | link to this | view in chronology ]

  • icon
    Padpaw (profile), 5 Oct 2015 @ 9:40am

    Maybe they meant police killed and assaulted by people will now include giving cops dirty looks. They assaulted me with their eyes so I bashed their head in with my nightstick.

    reply to this | link to this | view in chronology ]

  • identicon
    Anonymous Coward, 5 Oct 2015 @ 11:18am

    justifiable homicide

    Just wondering... if the police could shoot even worse and had killed those people would this cound as justifiable?
    http://www.nytimes.com/2013/12/05/nyregion/unarmed-man-is-charged-with-wounding-bystande rs-shot-by-police-near-times-square.html?_r=0

    reply to this | link to this | view in chronology ]

  • icon
    Wyrm (profile), 5 Oct 2015 @ 3:00pm

    My understanding of Comey's statement.

    Comey: We decided to address to "police killings" issue that everyone is talking about.
    People: Great. What are you going to do?
    Comey: Gather irrelevant data on "justified killings" from LEO on a purely voluntary basis. Well, we already do, but we'll ask again.
    People: And then?
    Comey: That's it, really. Well, we'll also write a report to fix "miscommunications". The police can't be wrong, so the problem is obviously with the public misunderstanding them.

    reply to this | link to this | view in chronology ]

  • identicon
    Anonymous Coward, 5 Oct 2015 @ 7:10pm

    Will they ever come out of the closet and tell all?

    If at first you don't succeed (at stonewalling), try again and again and again. In other words, we reserve the right to keep our closets firmly shut.

    reply to this | link to this | view in chronology ]

  • identicon
    JB Smith, 7 Oct 2015 @ 12:26pm

    Check out the Active Denial System at William & Marys PIP site

    They can murder without leaving a mark according to Virginia State Police - and they do.The American Reinvestment and Recovery Act and the brain initiative are the worst scams ever perpetrated on
    the American people. Former U. S. Surgeon General Regina Benjamin Warns: Biochips Hazardous to Your Health: Warning, biochips may cause behavioral changes and high suicide rates. State Attorney Generals are to revoke the licenses of doctors and dentists that implant chips in patients. Chip used illegally for GPS, tracking, organized crime, communication and torture. Virginia state police have been implanting citizens without their
    knowledge and consent for years and they are dying! Check out William and Mary’s site to see the torture enabled by the biochip and the Active Denial System. See Terrorism and Mental Health by Amin Gadit or A Note on Uberveillance by MG & Katina Michael or Safeguards in a World of Ambient Intelligence by Springer or Mind Control, Microchip Implants and Cybernetics. Check out the audio spotlight by Holosonics. The truth is the biochip works like a sim card. It received pulsed modulated laser beams and millimeter wave which it converts into electromagnetic waves that your brain interprets into digital images and sound. It then takes what your brain sees and hears and converts electromagnetic waves into digital and acoustic waves that a computer translates into audio and video. In other words, it allows law enforcement to see what you see, hear what you hear and communicate directly with your brain.
    “Former Defense Advanced Research Projects Agency (DARPA) director and now Google Executive, Regina E. Dugan, has unveiled a super small, ingestible microchip that we can all be expected to swallow by 2017. “A means
    of authentication,” she calls it, also called an electronic tattoo, which takes NSA spying to whole new levels. She talks of the ‘mechanical mismatch problem between machines and humans,’ and specifically targets 10 – 20 year olds in her rant about the wonderful qualities of this new technology that can stretch in the human body and still be functional. Hailed as a ‘critical shift for research and medicine,’ these biochips would not only allow full access to
    insurance companies and government agencies to our pharmaceutical med-taking compliancy (or lack thereof), but also a host of other aspects of our lives which are truly none of their business, and certainly an extension of the removal of our freedoms and rights.” Google News
    The ARRA authorizes payments to the states in an effort to encourage Medicaid Providers to adopt and use “certified EHR technology” aka biochips. ARRA will match Medicaid $5 for every $1 a state provides. Hospitals are paid $2 million to create “crisis stabilization wards” (Gitmo’s) where state police torture people – even unto death. They stopped my heart 90 times in 6 hours. Virginia Beach EMT’s were called to the scene. Mary E. Schloendorff, v. The Society of New York Hospital 105 N. E. 92, 93 (N. Y. 1914) Justice Cardozo states, “every human being of adult years and sound mind has a right to determine what shall be done with his own body; and a surgeon who performs an operation without his patient’s consent, commits an assault, for which he is liable in damages. (Pratt v Davis, 224 Ill. 300; Mohr v Williams, 95 Minn. 261.) This case precedent requires police to falsely arrest you or kidnap you and call you a mental health patient in order to force the implant on you. You can also be forced to have a biochip if you have an infectious disease – like Eboli or Aids. Coalition of Justice vs the City of Hampton, VA settled a case out of court for $500,000 and removal of the biochip. Torture is punishable by $1,000 per day up to $2 million; Medical battery is worth $2.05 million. They told my family it was the brain initiative. I checked with the oversight board, and it is not! Mark Warner told me it was research with the Active Denial System by the College of William and Mary, the USAF, and state and local law enforcement. It is called IBEX and it is excruciating.

    reply to this | link to this | view in chronology ]

    • identicon
      GEMont, 8 Oct 2015 @ 4:04pm

      Re: Check out the Active Denial System at William & Marys PIP site

      Oh dear!!

      Dark Helmet is gonna giggle his self into a stupor over this one.

      I'll bet he already has a detrimental label for this conspiracy type too.

      Can't piss on a parade without a loopy label.

      Go get him DH. Show him the error of his ways and means.

      Tell him it just can't happen here, because....

      ---

      reply to this | link to this | view in chronology ]


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