U.S. Justice Department To Track Police Shootings, Usage Of Force
Picture by Okayafrica
In what appears to be a victory for the movement against police brutality, the Justice Department has announced that it will begin collecting nationwide data on police shootings and other usage of violent force.
The DOJ made the announcement with a statement on Thursday. Attorney General Loretta Lynch says the initiatives "are vital efforts toward increasing transparency and building trust between law enforcement and the communities we serve."
The release said that Congress passed legislation in 2014 that required states and federal law enforcement to submit data about people who died while interacting with police, but no such requirement for force. But last year, according to the release, the FBI teamed with local, state and federal police on a "National Use of Force Data Collection."
Under the new project, the Use of Force Data Collection will be evaluated for effectiveness, and an updated proposal for collecting death-in-custody data will be issued, including not just shootings, but cases of suicide and natural death. Federal law enforcement will also be required to report information on deaths occurred during interactions with officers. A "Police Data Initiative," boosted by an authorization of $750,000, will have participating departments deliver data on stops and searches, usage of force, officer-related shootings and other encounters.
Police brutality and usage of force has been a big issue on social media in recent years, prompting activists and protesters to demand accountability. But one major hurdle with tackling the issue was the inability to quantify incidents: despite all of the different statistics that the federal government keeps, criminal justice experts insisted there was no reliable way to keep track of the number of police shootings, or how police used force.
FBI Director James Comey admitted as much before the House Judiciary Committee in October 2015.
"We can’t have an informed discussion because we don’t have data," he said. "People have data about who went to a movie last weekend or how many books were sold or how many cases of the flu walked into an emergency room, and I cannot tell you how many people were shot by police in the United States last month, last year, or anything about the demographics.”
Up until now, most statistics around police brutality and were maintained by independent studies, such The Guardian and The Washington Post. This new announcement by the Department of Justice is a common sense move to fight the issue.