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Lies, Damn Lies and Statistics: Police Killings Underreported – Ethnicity Factor

Posted by Joseph Tully | Nov 28, 2016

Even those used to reports of police misconduct are shocked by a recent report in the San Francisco Chronicle. As many as 25 percent – one out of four – fatal police shootings have gone unreported in California in the past decade. The San Francisco Chronicle estimates that's at least 439 people killed by police in that time period whose deaths were left off official statistics. In San Francisco last year, six people were killed by police officers. None – yes, 100 percent – were reported to the state. The city was aware of these deaths, but failed to pass the information on to state authorities. California isn't alone in this egregious underreporting. Suspicious of FBI data regarding police killings, the Washington Post launched its own investigation, coming up with a total of 991 people shot dead nationwide by police last year. In California, the Washington Post concluded 189 people were killed by police in 2015. Of those, 177 were male and 12 female. The racial/ethnic background breaks down to 57 white, 34 black, 76 Hispanic, 15 “other” and 7 unknown. Fifty of these people exhibited obvious signs of mental illness. The overwhelming majority of those killed were between the ages of 18 to 44. Of the 189 killed, 22 were unarmed, 11 reportedly used motor vehicles as a weapon, nine were found to have a toy weapon and seven were unknown. The rest reportedly had a deadly weapon.

CA Demographic Statistics Tell a Horrific California Police Killings Story

According to California's official demographics statistics, Hispanics make up 39 percent of the state's population, with whites at 38 percent, Asians at 13 percent and African-Americans at less than 6 percent. The number of black people killed by police in 2015 was 18 percent of the total, more than three times their proportion in the population. The number of known Hispanic individuals killed by law enforcement mirrors the state's demographic numbers, at close to 40 percent. White made up approximately 30 percent of those killed by police, less than their demographic representation in California. Depending on the color of your skin, demographics is destiny when it comes to odds of dying at the hands of a police officer. These numbers reinforce the perceptions of racial and ethnic minorities that police single them out because of their skin color – and are more likely to kill them. Class and age factor into this perception, but many Californians of color harbor a distrust of the police.

Use of Force Incident Reporting – New CA Reporting System Starts 2017

Earlier this year, California Attorney General Kamala Harris reported the creation of a new online program, dubbed URSUS for Use of Force Incident in Reporting. The system goes live on January 1, 2017. Legislation for the URSUS originated in Assembly Bill 71, signed into law by Governor Jerry Brown in October, 2015. The new law requires “each law enforcement agency to annually furnish to the Department of Justice a report of specified incidents when a peace officer is involved in the use of force.”

Use of Force Reporting Requirements to California Dept. of Justice

Police departments must report the following incidents annually to the California Department of Justice:

  • Shooting of a civilian by a peace officer
  • Shooting of a peace officer by a civilian
  • Use of force by a peace officer resulting in death or serious bodily injury – the latter defined as “a substantial risk of death, unconsciousness, protracted and obvious disfigurement, or protracted loss or impairment of the function of a bodily member or organ.”
  • Use of force by a civilian resulting in death or serious bodily injury.

Additional required information includes the gender, race, age of any individual shot, killed or injured, as well as the location, date and time of the incident.

Accurate Statistics – At Tully & Weiss we Hope So, Finally

We can only hope URSUS helps break the police code of silence and allows Californians to really know the extent of deadly force by law enforcement.

About the Author

Joseph Tully

Founding Partner, Criminal Law Specialist Our founding attorney, Joseph Tully, is sought out for his expert legal advice throughout California. With over 20 years of experience as a criminal lawyer, in 1000+ felony and other cases, Tully served as felony trial counsel as a public defender before...