US Drastically Underreporting Number Of Deaths At Hands of Law Enforcement

A recent story in the Guardian highlighted that an average of 545 people killed by local and state law enforcement officers in the United States went undocumented in the country’s most prominent crime statistics every year for nearly a decade. This unprecedented attempt to estimate the number of “law enforcement homicides” revealed that the FBI’s data only shed light on less than half of the real story. The new estimates reported 928 deaths per year during a period of 8 years, compared to the 383 deaths per year originally published by the FBI.

Revelatory to say the least, these developments illustrate the government’s inability to track how many people US police officers kill. The new estimates come at a time when criminal justice issues are at the center stage of political discussion, right when a federal report published on Wednesday exposed repeated civil rights abuses committed by police in Ferguson, Missouri.

It’s high time for more police accountability, but one shouldn’t hold their breath for anything fruitful to come out of these investigations. The reality is that it should be no shock that the FBI fudged its data, given its bureaucratic nature. Government bureaucracies are inefficient and not subject to market forces. In effect, they are ever-expanding and will do what it takes to justify their very existence, in spite of their mediocre to abysmal performance.

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In the same vein, the Obama administration will very likely go through an overbearing array of processes and sluggish proceedings that ultimately will ultimately overlook the core issue at hand: the every-increasing militarization of police. Ironically, this very problem of police abuse that the US government is investigating is the result of policies that it has actively pursued.

What used to be a respected institution that handled local matters through local means, American law enforcement is now looking more and more like an appendage of the military-industrial complex. The Pandora’s box was originally opened up by president Richard Nixon’s campaign to combat the drug trade in the early 1970s, and has galvanized local police departments to work in tandem with the DEA and other federal agencies to combat drug trafficking. Tantalizing government grants and military equipment has made police departments willing accomplices in this unjust endeavor. The results have been devastating to say the least — some of the highest incarceration rates in the world, violations of civil liberties, and the destruction of basic private property rights through asset forfeiture.

In the same vein, the creation of the DHS in 2003 has created an even bigger pig trough of federal grants for police departments to consume from. Reports indicate that over $34 billion in federal grants have been awarded to police departments from 2001 to 2011, which is surely not going to end anytime soon. All of this is done under the guise of counterterrorism, when in reality this equipment is generally used for routine drug enforcement operations.

The moral of the story here is quite simple: “Power corrupts; absolute power corrupts absolutely” in the words of the ever powerful Lord Acton.

Any institution, no matter how innocuous it is, can easily be corrupted. The case of police abuse is merely a microcosm of the American state’s intrusions on economic and civil liberties over the past century. This disrespect at the federal level ultimately seeps down and infects all local institutions. Add in the erosion of states rights and the inability to nullify unjust federal laws, and you have local institutions that are absolutely indistinguishable from federal institutions.

To solve this problem, reasserting basic states rights is a good start. But this is the 21st century, an age filled with market solutions to everyday problems. Recent reports from Sharpstown, Texas indicated a 61% decrease in crime ever since the town hired SEAL Security Solutions in 2012. Government-run institutions, whether they be at the federal, state, or local level, are primitive institutions that are lagging with the times. The market’s truly progressive nature through the profit and loss mechanism is best equipped to solve the problems that we face.

Like any human institution, the market is not perfect, but it is a much better alternative to the dead hand of the State. It’s time to start scaling back the federal government and looking for more decentralized alternatives to the current law enforcement apparatus.

Let’s give liberty a chance.


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