FBI data show police committed 410 “justifiable homicides” in 2012, but only a fraction of agencies report

KTVZ.com, August 18, 2014

Tyler Keinonen

Tyler Keinonen

After an unarmed Missouri teenager was shot and killed by a police officer, the question now is: Was the officer justified in killing Michael Brown?

“This is the universal code for I surrender,” said Michael Brown’s cousin Eric Davis while on his knees and holding up his hands.  “I can hear my cousin’s voice right now saying ‘don’t shoot’, yet still the officer stepped to him and shot him is what we’re hearing and that is wrong.”

In 2012, there were 410 reported cases nationwide of justifiable homicide by a law enforcement agent.

According to experts, these numbers only represent a fraction.

“We just need a database, so we know,” University of South Carolina criminologist Geoffrey Alpert told NewsChannel 21 in a phone interview Monday. “I mean, it’s amazing how much we know about labor statistics and how much we know economic statistics — and how little we know about justice statistics.”

Of the 17,000 law enforcement agencies nationwide, only 750 are providing such data to the FBI.

“Without the data that we’re looking at, we don’t know if there are any patterns, if there are any trends,” said Alpert.

What about Central Oregon?

The Deschutes County Sheriff’s Office didn’t get back to us before our deadline.

Oregon State Police did not have data available.

The Bend Police Department’s most recent case of what was deemed justifiable homicide was back in November 2013, when Officer Erick Supplee shot and killed Bend resident Tyler Keinonen in the backyard of a home that was the subject of an earlier drug raid.

“Thankfully, it’s very rare that an officer has to use deadly force. And so unfortunately, we had that happen last year, and then before that it was 2008,” said Lt. Nick Parker.

In Portland, Kendra James was fatally shot in 2003. And in 2006, mentally ill James Chasse died from blunt force trauma to the chest, which prompted the Portland Police Bureau to require training for all officers in crisis intervention.

“Our officers train every day on force options, and of course always focusing on methods that don’t involve the use of force — especially the use of deadly force,” Parker said.

Officers find themselves in deadly situations quite often. So far in 2014, 27 officers have died of gunshot wounds nationwide.

Experts say the fear for their lives is what explains the high use of deadly force in this country.

“It’s a threat issue,” Alpert said. “So if the officers are in fear of their lives, objectively, and have good reason to be, then deadly force would be reasonable.”