How many people did the police kill this last year? Double it. According to The Guardian, local and state law enforcement officers killed twice as many people as they reported.
An average of 545 people killed by local and state law enforcement officers in the US went uncounted in the country’s most authoritative crime statistics every year for almost a decade, according to a report released on Tuesday.
The first-ever attempt by US record-keepers to estimate the number of uncounted “law enforcement homicides” exposed previous official tallies as capturing less than half of the real picture. The new estimate – an average of 928 people killed by police annually over eight recent years, compared to 383 in published FBI data – amounted to a more glaring admission than ever before of the government’s failure to track how many people police kill.
And this is still short. The discrepancy is due to the fact that many police departments and enforcement agencies in the United States simply don’t keep count of officer involved homicides. It isn’t a secret: the FBI admits these gaps in its own data. Despite insufficient data the FBI figures are often presented by the mainstream media as a full tally.
We can’t only include officer involved homicides and exclude all other deaths resulting from law enforcement. When a man is arrested with a bag of heroin, swallows it in a jail cell and dies of an overdose – that’s the fault of the police, too. The circumstances would not exist in the first place, thus the overdose would not exist, if men were not captured and confined in an unjustifiable war on drugs.
The same is true for men and women who are bound and thrust into prisons or jails, only to be the victims of violence while in custody at the hands of fellow inmates. Then we have the inmates who die of relatively minor health problems due to substandard prison care. And you can’t forget to include the people who died of heat stroke in Arizona’s penal tent cities, nor any other enforcement-related deaths that don’t fall neatly into a category.
On top of that, we must also add every man and woman whose life went astray specifically due to the effects of prison confinement. This includes people experiencing the abuse of post-release supervision. Everyone who developed dysfunctional habits or failed to integrate into a society they were excluded from. These are also victims of artificial conditions created by the law enforcement and penal complex.
The mental illnesses that have developed as a result of contact with law enforcement, or those illnesses that have been exacerbated, and resulting suicides, must also be counted. The criminal justice system is on a hook for these; it is the causal factor. Every person who was prevented from receiving the treatment they needed by the penal institutions. Posttraumatic stress disorder-related suicides after a particularly violent encounter with law enforcement. The human beings forced to suffer in confinement because a jail or prison declines to provide them with the medicine they need to be well.
There is a blind spot when counting the deaths caused by modern law enforcement. But it is a bigger blind spot than the mere failure of departments to report cop homicides. It’s a blind spot that, in full, may be hard to quantify. The scope is larger than most persons even begin to imagine. It includes every life ended, every law enforcement encounter that led to a death as a consequence of the initial contact with police.