News & Politics

FBI Admits Lack of Data on Police Shootings Is "Embarrassing," "Ridiculous"

Director Comey says The Guardian and Washington Post are doing a better job than the U.S. government.

At a private gathering of more than a 100 law enforcement officials and politicians, FBI Director James Comey addressed the FBI's lack of data on shootings by local police. 

"It is unacceptable that The Washington Post and the Guardian newspaper from the U.K. are becoming the lead source of information about violent encounters between police and civilians. That is not good for anybody." Comey said according to The Washington Post,

Currently, the FBI's tracking system for local police shootings is entirely voluntary. Only 18,000 police departments participate, or roughly 3% of the national total, rendering the system statistically meaningless. The Guardian's database shows 891 have been killed thus far in 2015 while The Washington Post currently shows the number to be 758.  This is more than double what the FBI's figures are.

"You can get online today and figure out how many tickets were sold to ‘The Martian,'" Comey said according to The Post. "The CDC can do the same with the flu, It’s ridiculous — it’s embarrassing and ridiculous — that we can’t talk about crime in the same way, especially in the high-stakes incidents when your officers have to use force.”

Despite the rhetoric, it's unclear if Comey recommends any specific legislation, though it appears the sentiment at the meeting was in favor of reform. The FBI, for its part, has been hesitant to use its authority to investigate local police shootings; they've yet to intervene in any high-profile police killings since the Black Lives Matter movement emerged in 2013. 

h/t The Washington Post 

Adam Johnson is a contributing analyst at FAIR and contributing writer for AlterNet. Follow him on Twitter @AdamJohnsonNYC.

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