Over the last few years, strain between police-community relations has intensified greatly as incidents have come to light (e.g., officer-involved shootings, protests) showing hostility between the police and the communities. Although circulation of “viral” videos of police incidents has increased, officer-involved shootings are still a relatively low-occurring event overall. Though, media exposure may make this problem seem more exacerbated than it is. Regardless, lack of transparency on official numbers contributes to contention over police. At present, there is no official number of the number of people killed by police annually. Still, unreliable government numbers fail to portray the true scope of officer-involved shootings and fatalities. The National Use-of-Force Data Collection is the first national-level dataset to offer big-picture insights on police use of force but it is still in its infancy.
Otherwise, one of the closest things to an official source regarding officer-involved fatalities is collected by the U.S. National Vital Statistics System (NVSS), which tracks death certificates and causes of death in the country. Unfortunately though, these results may be undercounted by more than half, per a recent study in The Lancet. The study compared data from NVSS with data from three of four major publicly available, open-source databases compiled by various researchers (i.e., “Fatal Encounters,” “Mapping Police Violence,” and “The Counted”). The information in these databases is collated from news reports, department websites, and in some cases, public records requests. However, the data sources vary in where and how they collect their data (and how successful they were), so it is difficult to know whether any of these databases adequately represents the United States.
Update: As of December 9, 2021, law enforcement participation in the use-of-force data collection has remained quite low, which may cause the database to shut down.
Continue reading . . .