Virginia police departments failed to report nearly 30% of all instances of police officer-involved shootings of civilians since the state first started collecting data in 2016, according to analysis by The News & Advance.
There have been 85 police shootings of civilians resulting in death or injury between July 1, 2016, and Dec. 31, 2018, but police only included 60 in the state’s annual police reports.
Officials blamed the omission on “routine errors and confusion over reporting requirements spelled out in a recent law mandating the disclosure of police shootings,” the News & Advance reports.
The law, passed by the General Assembly in 2016, mandates the public disclosure of all police shootings of civilians resulting in either the death or serious bodily injury of another person. The law also states police departments must include whether or not the reported shooting was ruled justified and train law enforcement agencies on how to report the incidents. Virginia State Police now include the data in their annual “Crime in Virginia” report which covers crime trends and statistics.
Bill Farrar, director of strategic communications at the ACLU of Virginia, which advocates for police accountability, was disappointed that data was missing from the final report. “It’s impossible without accurate reporting for the public to know the extent of this issue,” he said. “It almost calls into question the validity and accuracy of the entire report… If one piece of data — a critical piece of data — is this wrong, it makes you wonder what else is wrong.”
It isn’t just the absences that are notable, multiple incidents were reported in the wrong category. The Norfolk police department incorrectly labeled two deaths in 2017 as serious injuries, and other incidents reported by other departments were either misdated or attributed to the wrong jurisdiction. In addition, the level of detail included by the state police in the reporting has varied significantly from one year to another.