The Ferguson, Mo., killing of Michael Brown and similar incidents have raised questions about shootings by police in the U.S. and homicides that are ruled justifiable. Unfortunately, it's nearly impossible to answer some of those questions due to incomplete data, says the Wall Street Journal. The FBI's Uniform Crime Reporting Program collects data from more than 18,000 law enforcement agencies to provide statistics about crime and law enforcement. We know that there were 14,827 homicides and non-negligent manslaughters in 2012, the latest year for available data.
It isn't required that agencies submit justifiable homicide data in the “Supplementary Homicide Report.” This makes the largest database of justifiable homicides in the U.S. very incomplete. Among the missing states is New York, which had 684 killings in 2012. The third-most populated state, which likely had a number of justifiable homicides, doesn't report justifiable homicide data, says the FBI. Data from other highly populous states are missing or compromised as well. Agencies from Florida don't follow Uniform Crime Reporting guidelines when submitting justifiable homicide data and Illinois submits only limited data. Various other agencies at multiple levels don't submit justifiable homicide data for other reasons, resulting in fewer than half of the 18,000 agencies contributing this information. California has the most reported justifiable homicides by law enforcement; Texas the most by private citizens. Not all jurisdictions within the state report their data, so we can't be sure of where states stand overall. Meanwhile, one must assume that if all law enforcement agencies were required to submit justifiable homicide data, these numbers would be much higher. New York would likely be high on the list instead of missing.