The FBI does release annual statistics for a category entitled “justifiable homicide by weapon, law enforcement,” defined as “the killing of a felon by a law enforcement officer in the line of duty.” This figure remained around 400 per year from 2007 to 2011. The number of such killings so far in 2012 is estimated at 525 or more.
The FBI’s “justifiable homicide” statistics far understate the true scale of violence. For example, these statistics do not include many deaths from tasers, restraint, or beatings, particularly inside the massive US prison system, as coroners often attribute such deaths to “natural causes” or “excited delirium” on the part of the victim, instead of homicide.
Many police departments are known to underreport their “justifiable homicides” to the FBI. For example, the Los Angeles Police Department was compelled to admit in a lawsuit that there were 79 fatal police shootings from 2000 to 2005, while it had reported only 38. Naturally, the FBI statistics also do not account for episodes of police violence in which the individual survives, even if the person sustains permanent disfiguring or disabling injuries.
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