I apologize if this issue has already been addressed, but I wanted to take a moment to clarify why the FBI data is so different from the other databases available.
While there is a federal law mandating the reporting of all police shootings and deaths at the hands of police, the numbers themselves are a political football. The justice department has been very aggressive during the Obama administration, and has repeatedly used statistics to “prove” abuse by police departments, and extract consent decrees including DOJ mandates that have seriously disrupted municipal budgets. Cities and departments argue that the feds are overstepping their authority, and many have routinely withheld shooting data out of legitimate fear that data will be used against them. Consequently there is no reliable and complete national data base on police shootings and police related deaths. On the opposite end of the political spectrum, the FBI over the past several years has slowed or halted the release of crime statistics by race of the perpetrator reported by victims or witnesses. The numbers are so skewed the FBI and DOJ appear concerned about the negative consequences should the numbers be widely shared. Social justice activists have been making quite a few claims that don’t stand up to the available facts. At the same time, municipalities and their police departments protect themselves from punitive and expensive intervention by the DOJ, and the FBI can only report the data that’s shared with them. And lastly the press had a well documented history of selective reporting anything at odds with their chosen talking points on the issue.
Frankly I don’t know the answer to this problem. We need factual data in order to draft effective justice policy, but as long as the DOJ punishes departments for doing so, honesty is a lose-lose proposition for even squeaky clean departments, and there is the thorny issue of just how much authority the feds have to second guess the actions of local governments.
Moving past the data issue and trying to understand what is driving people’s anger in the absence of demonstrable shooting bias, my take is that it’s a class issue rather than a race issue. Over the past several decades, municipal governments have shifted away from seeing themselves as servants of the citizenry, to seeing the citizenry as marks to be fleeced. Local government spending has gotten broader, they’re trying to do more things, while at the same time, citizens are balking at paying the tax rates necessary to support the spending levels. That has led to a shift in the mission of police departments away from a public safety cost center to a view of departments as revenue sources municipal politicians can use to generate revenue.
Since shit runs downhill and the poor and disenfranchised don’t have the means to fight back, the result is departments preying on minorities and the poor, especially for fine revenue.
The report on the Michael Brown shooting and the city of Ferguson could serve as defense exhibit A should that officer ever be charged, the report is a stunning indictment of municipal government policies that’s been abusing the disenfranchised for decades. I urge you to read the report. That report, combined with a few reports detailing the abuses of the asset forfeiture system, and then extrapolated across thousands of communities all over the country paint a horrifying picture of just how expensive it is to be poor in America. They are literally being treated as marks to be harassed and fleeced for the primary purpose of filling city coffers. If anyone is interested I posted several documents on the subject a few months ago and I’ll be happy to track them down and repost them. From what I’ve found, my “marks to be fleeced” remark is easily backed up by the facts, and those facts help explain a great deal of anger.