California's system for tracking deadly police shootings is plagued by confusion and inadequate oversight, clouding public knowledge of an officer's greatest power, reports the Orange County Register. At least one in every five fatal shootings across Southern California isn't counted in official statewide and national homicide reports, a Register investigation found. Police shoot and kill more often than the numbers reflect.
The newspaper identified widespread reporting flaws by comparing state data and district attorney records from hundreds of shootings between 2007 and 2011, the latest year available. At least 67 fatal shootings weren't disclosed as required by state law. The unreported shootings involved 31 law enforcement agencies, most of which were unaware the cases hadn't been counted in official reports until contacted by the newspaper. Most acknowledged error and promised an internal review of reporting practices. By failing to report so many shootings, agencies have impaired the public's ability to monitor broad trends in deadly force. A comprehensive account of shootings could be used to pinpoint patterns in policing generally or at individual agencies.