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We need a law establishing a uniform reporting requirement for police killings

Cross posted from the Frederick Leatherman Law Blog

Friday, November 14, 2914

Good morning:

We need a law that establishes a mandatory uniform classification and reporting requirement for all police killings.

They have increased each of the past three years. The FBI’s Uniform Crime Report for 2013 listed 461 justifiable killings of felony suspects by police. That is the highest number of killings in the past 20 years.

Inspired in part by the Michael Brown killing, USA Today reviewed the FBI’s database of justifiable killings for the past seven years involving a white cop killing a black suspect. They found an average of 96 killings per year.

Whether those killings were truly justifiable or falsely deemed to have been justifiable due to racist thinking and/or to cover-up a murder is impossible to determine due to incomplete record keeping. For example, I was shocked to discover that no law requires the creation and maintenance of a national database of police killings and no law requires police agencies to report killings according to a uniform procedure. Instead, the FBI relies on agencies to voluntarily report their self-described ‘justifiable’ killings.

This situation is intolerable and must be fixed. Congress is going to have to pass a law establishing a uniform classification and reporting system.

We also need a law that establishes independent civilian review boards to investigate and transparently review police killings because police investigating fellow officers is an inherent conflict of interest that cannot reasonably be expected to produce a just result.

Unfortunately, I cannot imagine an evidence averse Republican Congress passing such a law even though it’s desperately needed.

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Frederick Leatherman

Frederick Leatherman

I am a former law professor and felony criminal defense lawyer who practiced in state and federal courts for 30 years specializing in death penalty cases, forensics, and drug cases.

I taught criminal law, criminal procedure, law and forensics, and trial advocacy for three years after retiring from my law practice.

I also co-founded Innocence Project Northwest (IPNW) at the University of Washington School of Law in Seattle and recruited 40 lawyers who agreed to work pro bono, assisted by law students, representing 17 innocent men and women wrongfully convicted of sexually abusing their children in the notorious Wenatchee Sex Ring witch-hunt prosecutions during the mid 90s. All 17 were freed from imprisonment.