But They Don't Count, or Do They?

04/21/2015 05:00 pm ET | Updated Jun 21, 2015

In the past year, TV and newspapers have reported quite dramatically on the killings of black males. Among the cases have been the shooting of a black male in North Charleston, SC, the "accidental shooting" -- rather, tasering -- of a black man in Oklahoma, the choke hold death of Eric Garner on Staten Island, N.Y., the shooting death of Michael Brown in Ferguson, MO, and others.

Though touching off national publicity and even federal Department of Justice reviews, they are not reported by the Department of Justice in its crime data system. They don't count, or do they?

A large second group that seems not to count in official data are the mentally ill. A large segment of the police killings are of individuals with mental illness.

Occasionally, the media reports on these cases: a CNN recording of a Dallas police shooting of a black mentally ill man within the city, a few recordings from Albuquerque, NM, of a few of the 26 men mostly mentally ill shooting victims (this did force the Justice Department to "take control" of that city's police force to change its procedures); a video of a mentally ill man in a wheelchair shot to death by 6-to-8 officers in a Michigan city; the death of an older NYC man man when tasered by a city police officer; and many other incidents. (It is hypothesized that nearly 50 percent of all those killed by police officers nationally are mentally ill, and that cases involved police who were called in by relatives for assistance.) But they are not counted.

That the Justice Department database does not include information on police killings makes it much harder for advocates to fight for change effectively. Those who are not counted should be counted so an accurate number of police killings is available. It may enable the general public and advocates to try to foster needed changes with the police. The time for accurate, timely data is overdue.