Police acts of violence unbiased, controversial new data say

(CNN)Debate over police sometimes using excessive force in black and Latino communities has been an ongoing theme in America's narrative long before this month's high-profile police shootings of two black men, Alton Sterling and Philando Castile.

However, when it comes to a scientific look at such police actions, the data seem to be lacking. There is no universally accepted and scientifically backed data source for when injuries or deaths occur during police interactions -- and many scientists say there's an important need for one.
    "This is a very old problem that we have been trying to solve since the Civil War, through the civil rights movement, the riots of the 1960s, the Rodney King riot," said Ted Miller, principal research scientist at the Pacific Institute for Research.



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    Miller, lead author of the new paper, said he was surprised to find that, on a typical day, about three people die and 150 are injured during incidents involving police nationwide.
    However, the paper shows that injuries in general are more likely to be severe if they result from another person assaulting you than an officer.
    "This study adds a clearer picture of the broader range of injuries associated with police action," Miller said. "In showing that injuries in assaults are much more likely to result in hospital admission than injuries during legal intervention, it suggests that police are not typically out of control when they injure someone, although undoubtedly they sometimes are, which is inappropriate."

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    David Klinger, a professor of criminology and criminal justice at the University of Missouri-St. Louis, agreed that the paper offers an interesting assessment but said there are limitations.
    For instance, the paper measures injuries but doesn't take into account whether these injuries may have resulted from resisting arrest, he said. "I don't know about the validity of that data."
    Klinger also added that the data didn't include injuries from police dog bites.
    "That would be interesting to track that, because there is some research from a number of years ago that reported black suspects were much more likely to be bitten by police dogs," Klinger said. "There may be some racial effect that is not being uncovered because they don't have the dog bites."

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    All in all, the authors have done the best they can on the limitations of the data that exist, said Alex Piquero, the Ashbel Smith professor of criminology at the University of Texas at Dallas.
    "Miller and his colleagues are dealing with a world of very imperfect data, and they are trying to put together that data," he added. "What we should do at the federal level is to get people to put into and populate a database where we can get this information. ... That, to me, is the moral of the story."
    For instance, on the city level, the Dallas Police Department was one of the first to publicly release data on officer-involved shootings, Piquero said. "In my mind, when we're having these discussions, we have to have the latest data at the table."

    Read more: http://www.cnn.com/2016/07/25/health/police-use-of-force-study/index.html