Tag Archives: The Lancet

Weekend Long Reads: The Problem With Police Violence Stats

by Kevin Schofield

This weekend’s long read is a research paper from the leading medical research journal in the U.K., The Lancet. The paper, however, has local roots: It was authored by researchers at the University of Washington’s Institute for Health Metrics and Evaluation. The paper attempts to ascertain the accuracy of statistics on U.S. deaths caused by police in the National Vital Statistics System (NVSS), the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention’s (CDC) official repository on births and deaths.

The NVSS collects data from death certificates, including the cause of death. Usually a physician fills out the death certificate, but it could be completed by a coroner or medical examiner instead if there is suspicion of crime, foul play, or police violence. However, that creates a conflict of interest, as the paper describes, if the same government responsible for police violence is also responsible for reporting it.

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