While researching police shootings, I contacted the FBI to obtain information about its research on the number of "justifiable homicides" by police officers. The FBI gathers data about "justifiable homicides" by police as part of the Uniform Crime Reports (UCR), the FBI's crime statistics program. The FBI has gathered data about "justifiable homicides" by police since the 60′s, however, they only provided detailed data for 1980 to 2008. The data they provided includes information about the age, sex, and race, of the police officers and victims as well as the type of weapon used by police.
I am publishing all the data I was provided with here with the hope that it will spur more interest in researching police shootings.
To understand the abbreviations used in the data, you will need to consult the coding guide.
One thing that initially confused me about the data was who the "victim" and "offender" referred to. A customer service representative for the UCR program explained that the "offender" is the police officer responsible for the homicide and the "victim" is the person they kill.
"A justifiable homicide is entered into the database in the same format as a homicide—what indicates it is justifiable is the circumstance code (80=justifiable by citizen, 81=justifiable by law enforcement). The 'offender' for a justifiable homicide is the citizen or law enforcement officer who caused the death of the 'victim' (the person justifiably killed)," they explained in an email.
Here is a list of all the files:
- Coding guide
*The file for 2005 contains data for justifiable homicides by both police and non-police. The FBI initially did not provide a file for 2005. They later said they did not have a file that only had homicides by police, so they provided a file with all justifiable homicides.