Should RE Agents Disclose Police Shooting Statistics to Potential Buyers?

Quick! What state has the greatest number of people killed by police officers?  The news media might make you think of Louisiana, Texas or New York, right?  But the truth is, at least 3,600 people have died during interactions with police officers in California since 2000.  That’s almost one person killed  every weekday.

Why is this news? Because there is no state or federal agency tracking this critical data; and also because this is an active part of our national conversation due to high-profile and questionable police shootings around the country. It will also be a vital part of the national political debate in the run-up to November’s presidential election.

A former editor and journalism instructor, Brian Burghart, took it upon himself to establish Fatal Encounters in 2014, a site that logs the country’s most complete collection of data to include every death resulting from a police shooting recorded in the United States since 2000.

California has the most people killed during police interactions in the entire country (Texas at #2 had only 1,272 people die due to police interaction during the same time period).

deaths by state graphic

As of June 23, FatalEncounters.com has 14,042 records of people killed during police interactions across the country in its database.  Burghart believes that’s only about 62% accurate, and that the real national total will be about 22,700 total records by the end of 2016. Of that only 40% of the deaths are recorded as JUSTIFIED, according to the site.

Could this data impact the way people buy and sell homes in California? Is this information something that should be disclosed to clients before buying a home? Do you know which communities in your area are deadliest? How should we advise folks relocating to our state?

It’s surprising that no federal agency keeps track of such statistics, like agencies already do in tracking data on crime (i.e. Crimereports.com, Crimemapping.com). Unfortunately, this just isn’t the case.

It turns out there is no mandate for police departments to report this data so many police officers consider reporting optional.

Until Burghart set up his site, there was no way to find out where, when and how many fatal police-related shootings occurred, or the race, gender or mental state of those shot.

We talked with Brian Burghart about this initiative that is a first for the country and California.

“I’ve created this site because I believe in a democracy where citizens should be able to figure out how many people are killed by law enforcement, why they were killed, and whether training and policies can be modified to decrease the number of officer-involved deaths,” he told us.

The FBI has gone so far as to label its own efforts a ‘travesty’ for its lack of detail, standardized reporting methods and accuracy.  But there is good news ahead: the FBI has announced its commitment to creating a viable tracking system for police killings by 2017, due in large part to Burghart’s work.

His endeavor has even inspired the Washington Post and The Guardian to create their own databases to track people shot by police.

On Burghart’s site, anyone is allowed to sort the data based on location, case classification, time frame, and even ethnicity. It provides a gripping snapshot with powerful maps, visualizations and downloadable spreadsheets.

Some interesting takeaways include:

  • A steadily rising death rate since 2013
  • The number of deaths by race;
  • Where each racial group is most frequently targeted
  • The fact that the race of the victim is not reported in 40% of all police shooting cases

When we asked what kind of reaction he has gotten from the public so far about his work, Burghart said that he receives an overwhelming amount of encouragement, as people seem to be very grateful that an ordinary citizen has taken it upon himself to put in the time to create a detailed and accurate data set that forces accountability from those sworn to uphold the law.

Burghart believes that the state attorney general’s office is best suited to ensure honest, unbiased reporting and accounting of each shooting in the future.

It will be crucial to our real estate industry to track such data. Although the issue is hot nationally, there is no quick fix to the issue of unbiased police tactics and training. This will impact how we answer our clients’ important question: “Is this a safe neighborhood?”

Were you surprised to learn that California is the deadliest state for police related shootings? We’d love to hear from you!

  • RE_Insider

    We received this email from one of our readers: California is a territory from border to border, and within those borders there are communities that have never seen severe criminal activity, then again there are communities that are plagued by crime and murder. I do not believe we as REALTORS should paint a grim face on any one area, however a local police report can tell a prospective buyer the actual police activity within a given community. This would be the most accurate way of reporting statistics without cause for mass alarm. With the gentrifying of many inner city neighborhoods it would be wrong not to give a community a fighting chance to regain its past glory. I have personally seen neighborhoods come back to life, property values increase substantially all by the new influx of a younger buying audience. If we had painted a grim picture we would have steered away many good families from settling into the communities of their choice for whatever reason it may be such as wanting to live close to certain schools, jobs or family members. Having said this I think we should offer the suggestion of seeking a local activity report from the area law enforcement (sheriff. local police, etc). From there a potential buyer can decide on their own if a community is a right fit for there lifestyle.

    I recently represented an investor in a run down crack house in a very nice neighborhood. The house looked out of place with its beat up cars and questionable transient visitors at all hours of the day n night. It was the only house in the area that was in ruins. After a complete renovation (not a flip dip job) i invited as many neighbors as i could get to come visit the “improvement”. I met retired doctors, lawyers, teachers, professional people from all avenues in life. They were right there under our noses, had we painted a doom and gloom scenario to our investor or end user, this renovation may never would have happened. I had one neighbor come over and offer us an evening dinner and wine that’s how appreciative they were.

    My advice to anyone who questions an area for safety is to find the local police report for that specific area and decide for themselves.

  • Tay Tay O

    This is crazy! I had no idea about this. This definitely needs to change

  • Vin

    It would have been nice to see a better breakdown on these numbers. This article leaves out one major statistic. California will always have the most of anything, we have 12% of the population living in the state. Compare 39 million residents to let’s say Louisiana with 4.6 million.

  • Umberto

    Wow