Harvard Calls for Better Publication of Police-Related Death Data

A study from HSPH says all law enforcement-related deaths should be reported to and published by the CDC.


CDC photo via Shutterstock/Katherine Welles

As of now, there is no official count of annual law enforcement-related deaths in the United States. The Harvard School of Public Health (HSPH) is calling for that to change.

A new study from HSPH says that recording and publicizing the numbers of both civilians killed by police and officers killed in the line of duty could help prevent future casualties and increase understanding of the issue. The study says that each police-related fatality should be reported to the CDC, with a summary of killings published weekly.

Police departments have historically been hesitant to publish the kind of data HSPH is looking for, the study says. But its authors argue that law enforcement-linked deaths should be treated no differently than the huge range of disease-related mortalities that the CDC already collects and publishes data about:

“It is time to bring a public health perspective to this longstanding and terrible problem, from a standpoint that emphasizes prevention and health equity, as opposed to treating these data as if they solely belong to the police and are a matter of criminal justice only,” said Nancy Krieger, professor of social epidemiology and lead author of the study.

In addition to the charge for publication, HSPH’s report found—perhaps unsurprisingly, given recent news—that black Americans are about three times more likely to be killed by police than white Americans. It also noted that New York and Cleveland are among the U.S. cities with the highest disparity between white police-related deaths and black police-related deaths.