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The Shocking Reason Death By Cop Just Surged 428 Percent Above 20-Year High

If you believe all life is sacred, it might be tough to understand how the United States has failed so hard at coming up with a figure for how many people have been killed by a police officer, or while in police custody, each year. Thanks to the one-two punch of Mother Jones’ Brandon Patterson and the 2000 Death in Custody Reporting Act finally being given some teeth in back 2014, though, the nation will finally begin to get a better look at just how many people lose their lives to cops each year.

Reviewing the numbers in the latest Department of Justice report, Patterson writes in the Mother Jones article “More People Die In Police Encounters Than We Thought” that “police-related fatalities in the U.S.” are much higher than previously thought. He writes:

“And this new DOJ number is the fullest—I won’t say complete because it is an estimate—but the fullest, and likely the most accurate, estimate that we have at this point of how many of these deaths occur every year.”

death by cop goes up! up! up!

Death by cop was already up to a 20-year high back in 2014, when roughly 444 police shootings were reported to the FBI (a time period that also showed a decrease in law enforcement fatalities behind the thin blue line). That data came on the cusp of the 2000 Death In Custody Reporting Act finally receiving a long-necessary enforcement component in 2014, which threatens to take away 10 percent of any police department’s federal funding that fails to report a death. Now that there are consequences for not reporting the death of a civilian by law enforcement, that 444 figure has shot up—way up, by nearly 428 percent. The latest DOJ report estimates some 1,900 people actually lost their lives to police officers “in the 12 months ending in May of 2016.”

Patterson writes:

“Essentially, the number was significantly lower than the new estimate because law enforcement agencies simply were ignoring the reporting mandate because there were no consequences under the old law.”

Should enough data, such as the latest DOJ report offers, exhibit a strong trend of continual executions at the hands of law enforcement over enough years, perhaps the country will finally begin to reconsider not only how it goes about policing its communities, but also how to respect and honor the rights of the members of those communities, as well as how to support police officers in dealing with the trauma they experience on the job.

Such hopes may prove all for naught right around the corner, though, as Patterson also writes:

“Both Trump and his pick for attorney general, Jeff Sessions, have been critical of the Department of Justice’s involvement in local policing issues, and have indicated that they would sort of pull back on that under a Trump administration.”

Facing a looming administration that feels the need to close its Ethics office does not bode well in this regard. Though all hope is not lost just yet for maintaining transparency when it comes to death by cop in this country, it might be tough to ignore that voice in the back of your mind sardonically quipping, “So much for progress.”

H/T: El Paso Herald-Post / Mother Jones | Featured image by Scott Olson via Getty News Images

Dylan Hock is a writer, educator, and social activist. He serves as a board member of The James Jackson Museum of African American History and volunteers as an officer for the Ezra Pound Society. He is published in Star Power: The Impact of Branded Celebrity.