Justice Department Outlines Plan to Enable Nationwide Collection of Use of Force Data
Today, Attorney General Loretta E. Lynch announced several steps by the Department of Justice to enable the nationwide collection of data on law enforcement interactions with civilians, including data related to the use of force by law enforcement officers.
“Accurate and comprehensive data on the use of force by law enforcement is essential to an informed and productive discussion about community-police relations,” said Attorney General Lynch. “The initiatives we are announcing today are vital efforts toward increasing transparency and building trust between law enforcement and the communities we serve. In the days ahead, the Department of Justice will continue to work alongside our local, state, tribal and federal partners to ensure that we put in place a system to collect data that is comprehensive, useful and responsive to the needs of the communities we serve.”
The President’s Task Force on 21st Century Policing called on law enforcement to “collect, maintain and report data . . . on all officer involved shootings, whether fatal or nonfatal, as well as any in-custody death,” and the department is committed to heeding this call. In 2014, Congress passed the Death in Custody Reporting Act (DCRA), which required states and federal law enforcement agencies to submit data to the department about civilians who died during interactions with law enforcement or in their custody (whether resulting from use or force or some other manner of death, such as suicide or natural causes) and authorized the Attorney General to impose a financial penalty on non-compliant states. However, Congress did not impose a similar reporting requirement for non-lethal uses of force by law enforcement. In the absence of a statutory mandate, and in an effort to close this gap, the department is partnering with local, state, tribal and federal law enforcement to provide a means for national data collection. In 2015, and in collaboration with local, state, tribal and federal law enforcement the Federal Bureau of Investigation (FBI) began work on a “National Use of Force Data Collection,” an online portal to collect use-of-force data from law enforcement agencies across the country.
The Attorney General announced additional details regarding these efforts:
- National Use-of-Force Data Collection. At the request of local, state, tribal and federal law enforcement agencies, the FBI has been working with such agencies to develop a National Use of Force Data Collection program. The FBI announced the proposed pilot program last week in the Federal Register. The pilot study will evaluate the effectiveness of the methodology used to collect the data and the quality of the information collected. The FBI is seeking comment from all interested parties, including local, state, tribal and federal law enforcement, civil rights organizations and other community stakeholders. After reviewing and addressing these comments, the FBI will issue a final proposal and plans to begin the pilot data collection program in early 2017. The pilot study participants are expected to include the largest law enforcement agencies, as well as the FBI, Bureau of Alcohol, Tobacco, Firearms and Explosives, Drug Enforcement Administration and U.S. Marshals Service.
- DCRA Compliance. Earlier this summer, the department’s Bureau of Justice Statistics (BJS) issued a draft proposal outlining its plan for collecting death-in-custody data from state and local law enforcement agencies. Last week, the first public comment period closed, with several thousand comments received. The department is currently reviewing those comments and it plans to issue an updated proposal in the near future.
- Federal Reporting under DCRA. The DCRA requires federal law enforcement agencies to report information on deaths that occur during interactions with federal law enforcement agencies or in their custody, beginning with Fiscal Year 2016 (FY2016) data. FY2016 ended September 30. The Attorney General has issued a memorandum to federal law enforcement agencies formally notifying them of their reporting obligations under the DCRA and directing them to BJS for further coordination.
- Police Data Initiative (PDI). The department’s Community Oriented Policing Services (COPS) Office announced today that it has assumed leadership of the Police Data Initiative (PDI), a data transparency project initiated by the White House in 2015. Through PDI, participating law enforcement agencies commit to publicly releasing at least three policing datasets, which can include data on stops and searches, uses of force, officer-involved shootings, and other police actions. Numerous foundations, organizations and companies have stepped up to help. The PDI currently includes 129 law enforcement agencies, covering more than 44 million people across the country. To assist with this effort, the COPS Office recently awarded the Police Foundation a $750,000 cooperative agreement through FY2016 funding to support PDI. Over the next two years, the Police Foundation will work with a cohort of approximately 100 law enforcement agencies to develop promising practices for police open data usage, support community engagement regarding policing data and provide technical assistance to law enforcement agencies to collect and publish open data sets.
These initiatives demonstrate once again the department’s deep commitment to the ideals of the President’s Task Force. The department will continue to work with local, state, tribal and federal agencies to encourage and support data collection and transparency beyond these projects.