U.S. police officers fatally shot at least 461 people last year, the most in two decades, according to a new FBI report. USA Today says the justifiable homicide count, contained in the FBI’s annual Uniform Crime Report, has been scrutinized in recent months over questions about the use of lethal force by law enforcement. National attention has been drawn to controversial police shootings in New York, Albuquerque, and Ferguson, Mo.
The 2013 count of justifiable killings represents the third consecutive increase in the annual toll. Criminal justice analysts said the inherent limitations of the database — the killings are self-reported by law enforcement, and not all police agencies participate in the annual counts — continue to frustrate efforts to study the use of lethal force by police. University of Nebraska-Omaha criminologist Samuel Walker said the incomplete nature of the data makes the recent spike in deaths difficult to explain. “It is irresponsible that we don’t have a complete set of numbers,” Walker said. “This is a scandal.”