The FBI is expected to launch the federal government’s pilot program to collect data on police-involved shootings and other incidents of lethal and non-lethal force by early next year, the Justice Department announced Thursday.
The collection effort, proposed in the aftermath of persistent, racially charged police encounters that have thrust the issue into the national spotlight in the past two years, will start with an analysis of incidents drawn from the FBI, Bureau of Alcohol Tobacco Firearms and Explosives, Drug Enforcement Administration and the U.S. Marshals Service, before it is rolled out to state and local agencies across the country.
“Accurate and comprehensive data on the use of force by law enforcement is essential to an informed and productive discussion about community-police relations,” Attorney General Loretta Lynch said in a written statement, outlining an updated timetable for the project. “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 FBI project, Justice officials said Thursday, goes beyond provisions set out in the Death in Custody Reporting Act, passed by Congress in 2014. That law requires states and federal law enforcement agencies to submit information about the deaths of civilians during encounters with police or while in law enforcement custody. The FBI’s new repository also will include forcible actions by police that result in serious bodily injury and the discharge of firearms.
The lack of a comprehensive government data base on such incidents has long been lamented by analysts and public officials, especially in the past two years as deadly encounters involving police have sown distrust between law enforcement and the communities they serve.
FBI Director James Comey, who earlier this year indicated that a functional database may take two years to build, has described the dearth of such data as “embarrassing.”
“We need better, more informed conversations about crime and policing in this country,” Comey said last month. “To get there, we are improving the way this nation collects, analyzes and uses crime statistics and data about law enforcement’s use of force.”
In addition to the FBI repository, Justice also announced Thursday that the department’s Community Oriented Policing Services division would oversee a separate program proposed by the White House in 2015, the Police Data Initiative. The program would collect data on traffic stops, searches and other police actions involving 127 law enforcement agencies across the country.
Source: USA TODAY | Kevin Johnson