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  • Ryan Wittler

Over Half of Police Killings in the U.S. Are Mislabeled as Another Cause of Death

The New York Times

According to a new study out of the University of Washington School of Medicine, from 1980-2018, an estimated 55% of deaths from police violence in the U.S. were either misclassified or unreported.

The study compared data from the U.S. National Vital Statistics System, an inter-governmental data-sharing system that collects various important stats, including death certificates, to three “non-governmental, open-source databases on fatal police violence” from 1980 to 2018.

The analysis found of an estimated 30,800 deaths from police violence over that period, 17,000 were either mislabeled or not reported at all.

It gets worse:

When analyzed by race, the researchers found Black Americans “experienced fatal police violence” (an interesting way to say “death”) at a rate 3.5 times higher than White Americans, with almost 60% of those deaths being misreported.

Data on Asian Americans wasn’t included in the study, but Latinos and Native Americans suffered higher rates than White Americans, as well. Overall, from the 1980s to the 2010s, rates of police violence went up by 38% for all races.

Why is it happening?

According to the researchers, it’s a couple things. In some states, information regarding whether police were involved in a person’s death isn’t included on death certificates. In others, medical examiners aren’t trained to include or keep the information.

However, the researchers also say none of that is an excuse. According to a statement released with the study, many medical examiners are trained to include such information. Common sense says to do it too.

According to The New York Times, it’s not just a lack of training though, as the “cozy relationship” between forensic pathologists (the people who actually investigate and determine a cause of death) and law enforcement has also been criticized as a reason.

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