Skip to main content

Sign up for our newsletter.

Quality journalism. Progressive values. Direct to your inbox.

Protesters in Madison, Wisconsin want to know "how many more?" after the shooting death of local teenager Tony Robinson. (Photo: Light Brigading/cc/flickr)

Protesters in Madison, Wisconsin want to know "how many more?" after the shooting death of local teenager Tony Robinson. (Photo: Light Brigading/cc/flickr)

Mimicking Media Outlets, DOJ Will Finally Attempt Tally of Killings by Police

Database will not require police to report people they kill

Sarah Lazare

Mimicking major media outlets, and following pressure from Black Lives Matter campaigners, the Department of Justice announced Monday that it will bolster its efforts to record killings by police using information compiled from multiple sources.

The undertaking, however, will not require police departments to report people their officers kill, and is strikingly similar to the approach employed by the Guardian, which in June launched its own database, The Counted.

The Bureau of Justice Statistics (BJS), which will house the initiative, said it will improve its data by "surveying police departments, medical examiners' offices and investigative offices about the reports that it identifies from open source and using data from the multiple sources to obtain a more accurate factual account of each incident." The agency claims it will "complete its methodology study by late 2015/early 2016 and then begin to stand up a national program on arrest related deaths."

Similarly, The Counted combines "Guardian reporting with verified crowdsourced information," including tips and media reports, to monitor police killings.

According to the Guardian, the BJS program is "seen internally as a more robust version of the currently defunct Arrest Related Deaths Count, which published annual data between 2003 and 2009 using statistics supplied by some of the United States' 18,000 law enforcement agencies."

The system will not make BJS reliant solely on voluntary reports by police, which dramatically under-represent the number of killings. The FBI, which currently only collects data on so-called "justifiable homicides" by police based on voluntary reporting from departments, identified just 444 killings in 2014. This compares with 884 killings cited by The Counted in 2015 alone.

The Washington Post and Guardian began recording police killings earlier this year after nationwide protests highlighted the U.S. government's failure to maintain any meaningful records of the killings—which disproportionately impact black and brown communities.

According to the Guardian, 27 percent of the people killed by police in 2015 had mental health issues. And according to the Washington Post, one in 13 people shot dead by guns in the United States are killed by police.


Our work is licensed under Creative Commons (CC BY-NC-ND 3.0). Feel free to republish and share widely.

We've had enough. The 1% own and operate the corporate media. They are doing everything they can to defend the status quo, squash dissent and protect the wealthy and the powerful. The Common Dreams media model is different. We cover the news that matters to the 99%. Our mission? To inform. To inspire. To ignite change for the common good. How? Nonprofit. Independent. Reader-supported. Free to read. Free to republish. Free to share. With no advertising. No paywalls. No selling of your data. Thousands of small donations fund our newsroom and allow us to continue publishing. Can you chip in? We can't do it without you. Thank you.

Advocates Applaud as FTC Sues to Stop Microsoft-Activsion Mega-Merger

Biden's FTC, said one consumer campaigner, "is showing, once again, that it is serious about enforcing the law, reversing corporate concentration, and taking on the tough cases."

Brett Wilkins ·


Press Freedom Champions Renew Call for DOJ to Drop Charges Against Assange

"It is time for the Biden administration to break from the Trump administration's decision to indict Assange—a move that was hostile to the media and democracy itself."

Jessica Corbett ·


Oral Arguments Boost Fears of SCOTUS Buying Theory That Would 'Sow Elections Chaos'

"This reckless case out of North Carolina could explode the unifying understanding that power ultimately rests with the people of this country," one campaigner said of Moore v. Harper.

Jessica Corbett ·


War Industry 'Celebrating Christmas Early' as House Passes $858 Billion NDAA

"There is no justification to throw... $858 billion at the Pentagon when we're told we can't afford child tax credit expansion, universal paid leave, or other basic human necessities," said the consumer advocacy group Public Citizen. "End of story."

Brett Wilkins ·


GOP Florida Lawmaker Behind 'Don't Say Gay' Law Charged with Covid Relief Fraud

"It does not surprise me that someone who exploits queer kids for political gain would be charged with exploiting taxpayers for personal gain," said one Democratic state lawmaker.

Julia Conley ·

Common Dreams Logo