A new study claims that more than half the deaths caused by police violence over nearly four decades were not reported in the U.S.
The Lancet, a peer-reviewed journal, found that the US National Vital Statistics System (NVSS), which collects and organizes all death certificates in the U.S., failed to accurately classify and report 17,100 deaths caused by police violence out of a total 30,800 deaths between 1980-2018 — or 55.5 per cent of all deaths at the hands of police.
The study also said that Black Americans were 3.5 times more likely to die from police violence than white Americans over that same time period, and are the race most likely to face fatal police violence.
It came to its conclusions by comparing the NVSS’s data with three non-governmental, open-sourced databases — Fatal Encounters, Mapping Police Violence and The Counted — which collect their data from news reports and public record requests.
“Recent high-profile police killings of Black people have drawn worldwide attention to this urgent public health crisis, but the magnitude of this problem can’t be fully understood without reliable data,” said co-lead author Fablina Sharara in a statement.
“Inaccurately reporting or misclassifying these deaths further obscures the larger issue of systemic racism that is embedded in many US institutions, including law enforcement. Currently, the same government responsible for this violence is also responsible for reporting on it.”
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Sharara praised the value of open-sourced data and recommended that it be used to influence policies, rather than solely relying on government data.
The study doesn’t give a clear reason as to why the deaths have been unreported but did note that often medical examiners and coroners are embedded within police departments, which can lead to “substantial conflicts of interest,” in which certifiers do not label the cause of death as from police violence.
The study outlined in detail the deaths unreported among different races, saying that the NVSS missed nearly 60 per cent of deaths from police among Black people (5,670 unreported deaths out of an estimated 9,540 deaths total), 56 per cent of non-Hispanic white people (8,540 deaths out of 15,200) and 50 per cent of Hispanic people of any race (2,580 deaths out of 5,170).
Between the 1980s and 2010s, the study said that rates of police violence increased 38 per cent for all races.
“Our recommendation to utilize open-source data collection is only a first step. As a community we need to do more,” said co-lead author Eve Wool.
“As our data show, fatal police violence rates and the large racial disparities in police killings have either remained the same or increased over the years.”
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