October 8, 2015
James Comey tells crime summit that ‘it’s ridiculous’ Guardian and Washington Post have more information on civilians’ deaths at hands of US police than FBI
The head of the FBI has said it is “ridiculous [and] embarrassing” that the federal government has no better information on police shootings than databases compiled by the Guardian US and the Washington Post.
“It is unacceptable that the Washington Post and the Guardian newspaper from the UK are becoming the lead source of information about violent encounters between [US] police and civilians. That is not good for anybody,” said James Comey, the FBI director, on Wednesday.
“You can get online and figure out how many tickets were sold to The Martian … the CDC [Centers for Disease Control and Prevention] can do the same with the flu,” he continued. “It’s ridiculous – embarrassing and ridiculous – that we can’t talk about crime in the same way, especially in the high-stakes incidents when your officers have to use force.”
Comey was speaking at a summit on reducing violent crime convened by the US justice department, a private gathering of more than 100 politicians and top law-enforcement officials, the Washington Post reported.
The Guardian is counting all deaths caused by police and law enforcement in 2015, and collecting extensive details on each incident and those killed. A total of 891 deaths this year have been recorded by The Counted, a crowdsourced investigative project. The Washington Post, which has a similar project, has documented 758 deaths this year.
On Monday, the US attorney general, Loretta Lynch, announced a pilot open-source programme to count killings by police around the country. It is the most comprehensive official effort so far to accurately record the number of deaths at the hands of US police. The move follows calls from campaigners and lawmakers for better official data on police killings, after a nationwide debate about racism and policing was sparked by protests in Ferguson, Missouri, in 2014.