Nav: Home

New data from national violent death reporting system shed light on law enforcement officer deaths, their use of lethal force

October 13, 2016

Ann Arbor, MI, October 13, 2016 - Violence-related deaths, including homicides and suicides, are an urgent public health problem, according to Alex E. Crosby, MD, MPH, James A. Mercy, PhD, and Debra Houry, MD, MPH, from the National Center for Injury Prevention and Control, Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC), Atlanta, GA. Their commentary and contributions by other noted experts in the supplement to the November American Journal of Preventive Medicine provide valuable insights into new data from the National Violent Death Reporting System (NVDRS), which can help inform current debates about violence, prevention, and public policy.

Homicides and suicides account for the deaths of more than 160 people every day in the United States. Violence-related injuries claim more than 55,000 people per year. The suicide rate rose for 9 straight years from 2005 to 2014. While homicides have been declining over the long term, estimates of the economic impact stand at $26.4 billion.

The three main goals of the NVDRS are to:
    1. Collect detailed information about violent deaths in the U.S., including when, where, and how they occurred

    2. Link information from vital statistics (death certificates), coroner/medical examiner reports, and law enforcement reports into the reporting system

    3. Provide information to help public health officials, violence prevention groups, law enforcement, and policymakers better understand the problems and guide national, state, and local actions to prevent violent deaths

Creation of the NVDRS was inspired by a 1999 Institute of Medicine report calling for a national fatal intentional injury system as well as efforts from the U.S. Public Health Service's Surgeon General's Office and others. Although the NVDRS does not cover all 50 states, it was the first multistate system to provide detailed information on circumstances precipitating violent deaths, the first to link multiple source documents on violence-related deaths to enable more complete understanding of each death, and the first to link multiple deaths that are related to one another (e.g., multiple homicides, multiple suicides, and cases of homicide followed by the suicide of the suspected perpetrator).

Using data from the NVDRS, two contributions to the issue can help inform the current national debate about policing. One article, by Janet M. Blair, PhD, MPH, and colleagues at the Division of Violence Prevention, CDC, examines the details of the 128 law enforcement officers (LEOs) killed between 2003 and 2013. Key findings showed that 21% of LEOs were killed during an ambush, 19.5% were killed during traffic stops or pursuits, and 15.6% were killed responding to domestic disturbances. 90% of LEO homicides were committed with a firearm. The authors explain, "Systems such as NVDRS are critical to ongoing surveillance of LEO homicides. The current study affords an opportunity to inform policy makers and individuals involved in training federal, tribal, state, and local law enforcement personnel about the circumstances surrounding LEO homicides in order to prevent deaths and serious injuries among this population."

Sarah DeGue, PhD, and Katherine A. Fowler, PhD, CDC, and Cynthia Calkins, PhD, of the John Jay College of Criminal Justice, analyzed NVDRS data for 812 deaths resulting from the use of lethal force by law enforcement officers while on duty. Key findings showed that while the majority of victims were white (52%), a disproportionate number, compared with the U.S. population, were black (32%), and the fatality rate was 2.8 times higher among blacks than whites. Most victims were reported to be armed (83%); however, black victims were more likely to be unarmed (14.8%) than white (9.4%) or Hispanic (5.8%) victims. Fatality rates among military veterans/active duty service members were 1.4 times greater than among their civilian counterparts.

DeGue, Fowler, and Calkins discuss in detail how their findings could be applied to many of the current conversations about racial disparities and violence. They conclude, "The current study is one of the first to examine the nature and circumstances of deaths due to the use of lethal force by law enforcement in the U.S. using data from a multistate public health surveillance system. Findings reinforce concerns about racial/ethnic inequities in these cases and identify incident characteristics and scenarios with important implications for prevention." They also note that, "Further research is also needed to examine the effectiveness of training programs and policy initiatives aimed at reducing the use of lethal force while maintaining the health and safety of officers and communities."

The remaining articles in the supplement analyze multiple aspects of suicides, homicides, and other violent deaths using the NVDRS. This supplement will be a valuable resource for public health professionals, law enforcement officials, federal, state, and local governments, and the general public - anyone concerned with violence in society in the U.S.
-end-


Elsevier Health Sciences

Related Violence Articles:

Where climate change is most likely to induce food violence
While climate change is expected to lead to more violence related to food scarcity, new research suggests that the strength of a country's government plays a vital role in preventing uprisings.
New study shows youth violence on decline
Contrary to popular perception, a new study by Boston University professor Christopher Salas- Wright finds that youth violence is declining -- and at noteworthy rates.
Self-harm linked to violence towards others
There is a link between self-harm and the risk of violent criminality, according to a Swedish registry study carried out by researchers at Karolinska Institutet and published in the scientific journal JAMA Psychiatry.
Join forces to reduce US violence, says UK expert
Violence in the US can be reduced if police and health agencies join forces, says a leading UK expert.
Reducing severe violence among adolescents
A special section of the journal Child Development includes new research exploring severe youth violence.
The connection between child marriage and domestic violence
A new study published in the International Journal of Epidemiology indicates that women across 34 countries are at increased risk for domestic violence if they marry before age 15.
Tampon makers could help reduce violence against women
Manufacturers of feminine hygiene products, including tampons and sanitary products, could dedicate a part of their revenues to support public health programmes that prevent violence against women, argues an expert in The BMJ this week.
Conference on gender and social violence
An international conference entitled A gender prospective on social violence will be held in Rome, Italy on Tuesday 21 June.
Is firearm violence greater among the mentally ill?
A new study finds that the majority of mental health professionals believe firearm safety issues are greater among mentally ill people, yet they do not screen their clients for firearms or provide firearm safety counseling.
Are money problems and violence related?
University of Iowa researchers find an association between financials stress and severe domestic abuse, but the discovery doesn't prove one leads to the other.

Related Violence Reading:

Best Science Podcasts 2019

We have hand picked the best science podcasts for 2019. Sit back and enjoy new science podcasts updated daily from your favorite science news services and scientists.
Now Playing: TED Radio Hour

Anthropomorphic
Do animals grieve? Do they have language or consciousness? For a long time, scientists resisted the urge to look for human qualities in animals. This hour, TED speakers explore how that is changing. Guests include biological anthropologist Barbara King, dolphin researcher Denise Herzing, primatologist Frans de Waal, and ecologist Carl Safina.
Now Playing: Science for the People

#SB2 2019 Science Birthday Minisode: Mary Golda Ross
Our second annual Science Birthday is here, and this year we celebrate the wonderful Mary Golda Ross, born 9 August 1908. She died in 2008 at age 99, but left a lasting mark on the science of rocketry and space exploration as an early woman in engineering, and one of the first Native Americans in engineering. Join Rachelle and Bethany for this very special birthday minisode celebrating Mary and her achievements. Thanks to our Patreons who make this show possible! Read more about Mary G. Ross: Interview with Mary Ross on Lash Publications International, by Laurel Sheppard Meet Mary Golda...