Send to

Choose Destination
Am J Public Health. 2016 May;106(5):922-7. doi: 10.2105/AJPH.2016.303074. Epub 2016 Mar 17.

Homicides by Police: Comparing Counts From the National Violent Death Reporting System, Vital Statistics, and Supplementary Homicide Reports.

Author information

Catherine Barber, Deborah Azrael, Amy Cohen, and David Hemenway are with the Harvard Injury Control Research Center, Harvard T. H. Chan School of Public Health, Boston, MA. Matthew Miller is with the Department of Health Sciences, Northeastern University, Boston, MA. At the time of the study, Deonza Thymes was a master's of public health student at the Harvard T. H. Chan School of Public Health. David Enze Wang is a student at Harvard Medical School, Boston, MA.



To evaluate the National Violent Death Reporting System (NVDRS) as a surveillance system for homicides by law enforcement officers.


We assessed sensitivity and positive predictive value of the NVDRS "type of death" variable against our study count of homicides by police, which we derived from NVDRS coded and narrative data for states participating in NVDRS 2005 to 2012. We compared state counts of police homicides from NVDRS, Vital Statistics, and Federal Bureau of Investigation Supplementary Homicide Reports.


We identified 1552 police homicides in the 16 states. Positive predictive value and sensitivity of the NVDRS "type of death" variable for police homicides were high (98% and 90%, respectively). Counts from Vital Statistics and Supplementary Homicide Reports were 58% and 48%, respectively, of our study total; gaps varied widely by state. The annual rate of police homicide (0.24/100,000) varied 5-fold by state and 8-fold by race/ethnicity.


NVDRS provides more complete data on police homicides than do existing systems.


Expanding NVDRS to all 50 states and making 2 improvements we identify will be an efficient way to provide the nation with more accurate, detailed data on homicides by law enforcement.

[Indexed for MEDLINE]
Free PMC Article

Supplemental Content

Full text links

Icon for Atypon Icon for PubMed Central
Loading ...
Support Center