In a study conducted by the Federal Bureau of Investigation, documents show that over a seven year period, local law enforcement officers shot and killed an average of 400 people a year, and that about one in four were black persons shot by white officers (approximately 96 per year). Of the African-Americans who died during the years of the study, one in five was under the age of 21. For white victims, one in twelve was under 21.

Critics point out that the data, however, may be totally unreliable. The FBI relies on police departments to self-report and admits that the vast majority of police departments simply do not participate-only about 750 of the approximately 17,000 law enforcement agencies in the United States reported to the FBI during the study. Accordingly, the report most likely understates the actual number of shooting deaths by a substantial margin. Critics also say that the determination of whether a shooting was justified or not is at the discretion of the reporting department.

Geoff Alpert, a criminologist at the University of South Carolina, says that government officials have no real meaningful understanding of the interaction between local police and communities. He says he has been trying for years to put measures in place that would give an accurate picture of what’s really happening, but has had no response. He also contends that, based on those departments with which he has worked, the tendency (99% of the time, in his opinion), is for a police department to conclude that the amount of force used was appropriate.

Proponents of law enforcement claim that excessive force is extremely rare. A spokesperson for the International Association of Chiefs of Police said that less than two percent of the people who had contact with police reported a threat of force or the use of excessive force.


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