Do you know many officer-involved shootings there were in America this past year? I don't. Neither does any federal agency or independent watchdog. Not even the FBI could tell you how many of its agents discharged their weapons in the field this year.
Meanwhile, the government keeps track of exactly how many shark attacks there are each year. It knows how many pigs live on farms in the U.S., and it knows how many officers are killed in the line of duty.
In the wake of extremely high-profile events like in Ferguson, Missouri, more and more people want to know the extent of police use of force. The Justice Department oversees 17,000 police agencies in this country. It does keep track of self-reported statistics, but only 750 out of 17,000 actually reported shootings this year. Also, some question the reliability of those numbers. One journalist who's trying to quantify the number of police shootings said it like this:
Don't you find it spookey? This is information, this is the government's job. One of the government's major jobs is to protect us. How can it protect us if it doesn't know what the best practices are? If it doesn't know if one local department is killing people at a higher rate than others? When it can't make decisions based on real numbers to come up with best practices? That to me is an abdication of responsibilities.
Now there's some new technology that could one day allow all police departments to track firearm use without hindering the officers in the field or creating more paperwork for them to do. It's a little device that will soon be in the guns of officers in Santa Cruz, California, and Carrollton, Texas.