Op-Ed: Are police killing more people?

Posted Oct 24, 2013 by Robert Weller
While a week hardly passes without a report of questionable shooting deaths by police, it is difficult to determine whether the number is increasing. There is no national data.
UC Davis Police Lt. John Pike pepper-sprays Occupy UC Davis protesters who were blocking the police ...
UC Davis Police Lt. John Pike pepper-sprays Occupy UC Davis protesters who were blocking the police from removing arrested protesters from the quad
Photo: Jasna Hodzic / © The California Aggie
City after city, from coast to coast, is reporting such deaths increasing, but the national numbers are not kept by the FBI or anyone else.
What is known is that shooting deaths of a more militarized police is declining. Last year it was down by a third, to 49.
Asked why the FBI doesn’t track the number of citizens killed by police the FBI’s William Carr told the Las Vegas Review Journal: “We don’t have a mandate to do that. It would take a request from Congress for us to collect that data.”
Former police officer David Klinger, now an associate professor of criminology and criminal justice at the University of Missouri-St. Louis, says the numbers that are offered cannot be trusted.
“The data is dirty; it is not valid or reliable, there are all sorts of missing information. When I and other researchers compare what is there with what is in local police internal files, it just doesn’t add up. So we don’t have a national system for recording deaths at the hands of police. And we don’t have information about police who shoot people who survive or who shoot at people and miss,” he told the Cap Times.
Taser deaths also are not recorded. The Christian Science Monitor reports taser use by police has doubled in recent years.
Questions were being raised after the shooting death of a 13-year-old at a school in Santa Rosa, Calif. He was carrying a toy assault rifle.
“I don't know for sure that in the event of an emergency, would the police really help me or jeopardize the safety of my community,” Alma Flores, a mother of three who lives in east Santa Rosa, told the Santa Rosa Press Democrat.
A day earlier, just across the border in Sparks, Nev., a 12-year-old shot and killed a teacher and wounded another student with his family’s semi-automatic pistol before killing himself.
In the vast majority of cases police who kill people are cleared by local district attorneys, who only have the word of the police because the victim is dead. With more people filming such events on their mobile phones it is becoming difficult to ignore questionable shootings.
Perhaps police should wear helmet video cams that could record video and audio. Many in Russia have such cameras on their dash boards because police and other drivers violate laws so frequently, often resulting in accidents.
Given the incidence of alleged mistaken shootings by extensively trained police, should teachers be armed if they have a few weeks training?