Sunday, February 11, 2018

Most Justifed Homicides are not Recorded by the FBI UCR

Most justified homicides, both by police and by private citizens, are not recorded in the FBI Uniform Crime Report (UCR).

The Washington post has been collecting information on fatal police shootings from published sources and social media for the last three years. They have found that police in the United States consistently shoot and kill about a thousand people each year. Virtually all of them are justified homicides.  From the Washington Post:
For the third year in a row, police nationwide shot and killed nearly 1,000 people, a grim annual tally that has persisted despite widespread public scrutiny of officers’ use of fatal force.

Police fatally shot 987 people last year, or two dozen more than they killed in 2016, according to an ongoing Washington Post database project that tracks the fatal shootings. Since 2015, The Post has logged the details of 2,945 shooting deaths, culled from local news coverage, public records and social-media reports.

The FBI Uniform Crime Report (UCR) for 2015 reports 442 justifiable homicides by police Almost all, 441, were shootings.  In 2016, 435 justifiable homicides were recorded in the UCR by police. 429 were shootings.

The Post only records fatal police shootings, instead of justifiable homicides.

The ratio of the Post recorded shootings vs. the justifiable homicide shootings, recorded by the FBI Uniform Crime Reports, is 45%.

Only 45% of fatal police shootings are officially recorded by the FBI in the UCR.

Police have strong incentives to record justifiable shootings by their officers.

There are significant incentives to not record justifiable shootings by private citizens.

One reason is  that justification is often decided by the courts. If the shooter is charged with a crime, the shooting will be recorded as a crime, rather than as a justified homicide.  The UCR records arrests, not convictions. Here is a recent example.
Twenty-four-year-old Alex Wittenberg was found not guilty Tuesday night of second-degree murder and first- and second-degree manslaughter in the death of 39-year-old Jonathan Puttmann. The two men fought when Wittenberg accompanied Puttmann’s estranged wife who was dropping off the couple’s children at Puttmann’s house on Nov. 15, 2016.
Wittenberg was charged with murder/manslaughter and arrested. That arrest goes into the FBI UCR as a murder. 14 months later, Wittenberg is found to have been justified, by a jury. The FBI UCR has no mechanism for retroactively changing the murder statistic to a justified homicide.

Another reason is that many justified homicides are recorded as murders under the felony murder rule.  Under the rule, people who participate in violent felonies can be charged with murder if anyone dies as a result of the felony.

The reporting system for the FBI Uniform Crime Report (UCR) is voluntary. Most justified homicides are not recorded.

According to studies, the FBI UCR only catches about 20% of the justifiable homicides by private citizens.

FBI Recorded 338 justified homicides by private citizens in 2015, and 331 in 2016.

It is likely there were 1,600 to 1,700 justified homicides by private citizens in each of those years. 

©2017 by Dean Weingarten: Permission to share is granted when this notice and link are included.

Gun Watch

No comments: