The murder charges filed on Tuesday against a white police officer after a video surfaced showing him shooting and killing an apparently unarmed black man while the man ran away have raised a question about policing that not even the Justice Department can answer: How often do officers fire their weapons?
Under current federal laws, there is nothing requiring any of the 18,000 police departments and other law enforcement agencies across the U.S. to report anything about shootings involving officers.
Roughly 91 percent of departments in the country voluntarily report crimes like murders, rapes, car thefts and burglaries to the FBI, which releases an annual report.
But under the current reporting systems there is no category for episodes in which the officer’s use of force was not deemed legally justified, and there is no category to report police shootings in which the officer has not killed a person. There are categories for “justifiable” or “excusable” homicides by officers.
The National Law Enforcement Officers Memorial Fund keeps data on how often people shoot police officers, but statistics on the police shooting people are harder to find.
Attorney General Eric Holder and FBI Director James Comey have advocated changing reporting requirements. A White House task force made similar recommendations in a report released in March.
So far, though, those efforts have not provoked much interest on Capitol Hill.
New York Times