September 28, 2015 / 6:35 PM / 4 years ago

FBI's crime report to include more data on police shootings

WASHINGTON (Reuters) - The FBI will report more data on shootings involving police officers in the future, the head of the agency said on Monday as he released a report showing violent crime fell in 2014, continuing a 20-year trend.

FBI Director Jim Comey announced the plan amid an ongoing debate in the United States about the appropriate use force by police following a spate of incidents in which officers shot and killed civilians, including several black men.

“Once we receive this data, we will add a special publication that focuses on law enforcement’s use of force in shooting incidents,” Comey wrote in a message included in the FBI’s annual report “Crime in the United States.”

“We hope this information ... will help to dispel misperceptions, foster accountability and promote transparency in how law enforcement personnel relate to the communities they serve,” he wrote.

The report released on Monday showed the number of violent crimes in the United States declined slightly in 2014, continuing a 20-year trend, but some states like Florida and Montana saw an uptick in violent offenses.

The estimated number of violent crimes in the United States in 2014 fell by 2,915, the report said, dropping about a quarter of a percentage point to 1,165,383 from 1,168,298.

Violent crime has dropped by 35 percent in the United States over the last two decades, from nearly 1.8 million in 1995 to under 1.2 million in 2014.

But even with the fall nationwide, some states found themselves fighting an uptick in violent offenses, with Florida seeing a 16.9 percent rise, Montana’s jumping 13.3 percent, Nevada up 6.9 percent and Nebraska higher by 6.6 percent.

There was no clear pattern among the states that saw increased violent crime.

Florida’s overall violent crime rate is higher than the national average, and it saw jumps in the numbers of murders and manslaughters, rapes, robberies and aggravated assaults. Nevada also has a higher crime rate and saw similar jumps in different violent crimes, but the number of rapes dropped.

Montana and Nebraska both have crime rates lower than the national average. Nebraska’s rise in violent crime was fueled by a 10 percent jump in aggravated assaults and a small rise in rapes, while murders were down.

In Montana, however, several categories of violent crime rose, including murder and manslaughter, which jumped 60.9 percent, or 14 cases, to a total of 37.

By comparison, the number of murders and manslaughters in Texas rose by 44 to a total 1,184, an increase of 3.9 percent from the previous year. California had 1,699 manslaughters and murders, a drop of 47. Violent crimes were up six-tenths of a percent in Texas and down seven-tenths in California.

While violent crime in the United States has been on a downward trend over the last two decades, it has not dropped steadily from year to year, the crime figures showed.

Annual estimates have risen four different times, year-over-year, in the past two decades, including two consecutive years in 2005 and 2006. It was not until 2009 that the figures dipped below 2004 levels and continued their downward slope.

Reporting by; David Alexander, editing by Andrew Hay and Cynthia Osterman

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