by Jon Guze
Senior Fellow, Legal Studies, John Locke Foundation
Last year, [Bureau of Justice Statistics] researchers found that the agency’s existing methods of counting arrest-related deaths — basically, asking police departments to report totals — were probably missing about half of all cases. … Thursday’s report builds on that research by trying to find the deaths that were missing from official counts, using several methods.
First, researchers used automated searches to identify media articles and webpages that might contain information on arrest-related deaths — including shootings and other intentional killings (which BJS classifies as homicides), as well as suicides, accidents and deaths by natural cause. They then sorted those reports manually to find the ones to investigate further. Researchers also took advantage of the BJS’s existing contacts with the 18,000 local law-enforcement agencies around the country to go further than the nongovernmental efforts can. They contacted local law-enforcement agencies and medical examiners or coroners involved with deaths over a three-month period to confirm that the deaths happened and determine whether they should be counted; agencies and the researchers sometimes disagreed. (For example, some agencies resisted counting suicides or accidents that killed someone being pursued by police officers.)
The researchers also asked local agencies whether there had been any deaths that weren’t reflected in media accounts. That allowed them to estimate how many deaths their media-based counts were missing — information that BJS then applied to a full year of data to arrive at its annual death-toll estimate of 1,900, including 1,200 homicides. …
FiveThirtyEight provides a helpful map that allows readers to see how the rate of arrest related deaths varies from one state to another. As you can see, the rate in North Carolina is lower than in most other states.
File this under “Glad to Be Here.”