The U.S. Bureau of Justice Statistics (BJS) confirmed that the government's own data on police-involved deaths have been off for more than a decade by more than 100 percent, The Marshall Project reports. BJS estimated that there were “an average of 928 law-enforcement homicides per year” from 2003-2009 and 2011, which means that previous yearly tallies by the BJS and the FBI included fewer than half of all such deaths. The FBI reported an average of only 383 “justifiable homicides by law enforcement” per year over the same period. The BJS was slightly closer to reality, averaging 454.
These numbers do not include the deaths of bystanders, deaths during vehicular pursuit, or deaths at the hands of federal agents. President Obama himself said, “Right now, we do not have a good sense…of how frequently there may be interactions with police and community members that result in death.” Last month, FBI Director James Comey admitted, “It's ridiculous that I can't tell you how many people were shot by the police in this country — last week, last year, the last decade. It's ridiculous.” The dearth of reliable statistics shows why Congress has reauthorized the Death in Custody Reporting Act. It requires BJS to compile data on killings by law enforcement and in prisons. That data is to be gathered from a wide range of sources, including coroner's reports, direct reports from police, media reports, Google alerts, and analysis by staff. The notion is that this will offer a more complete picture than the FBI data, which rely mainly on self-reporting by the police.