DOJ to enable nationwide collection of use-of-force data

Police officers searching for a fugitive in a residential neighborhood in Madison (WTNH / Darren Kramer)

Washington (CNN)–The FBI is currently developing a national database as part of the Department of Justice’s efforts to gather nationwide data on interactions between law enforcement and civilians, Attorney General Loretta Lynch said Thursday.

The FBI began working on an online portal for local, state, tribal and federal law enforcement to gather use-of-force data in 2015. Last week, they announced the National Use of Force Data Collection pilot study that will “evaluate the effectiveness of the methodology used to collect the data and the quality of the information collected” and will include the largest law enforcement agencies including the FBI, Bureau of Alcohol, Tobacco, Firearms and Explosives, the Drug Enforcement Agency and US Marshals, according to a Justice Department press release.

“Accurate and comprehensive data on the use of force by law enforcement is essential to an informed and productive discussion about community-police relations,” Lynch said. “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 data collection efforts are also an attempt to close a gap in an existing law passed in 2014 called the Death in Custody Reporting Act. The DCRA made it a requirement for law enforcement agencies to submit data about people who died during an interaction with law enforcement or in their custody. Law enforcement agencies could also be fined by the attorney general for not reporting these incidents. But the law did not require the same reporting for non-lethal uses of force interactions.

The DCRA law required reporting of lethal interactions between law enforcement and civilians beginning on fiscal year 2016, which began September 30, and the attorney general has already notified federal law enforcement agencies of their obligation to report.

The Justice Department expects the final proposal of the National Use of Force Data Collection program to be issued in early 2017 and soon after will implement the pilot data collection program.

The announcement comes after several police shootings have sparked a national discussion about lethal police force and calls for federal scrutiny of local police departments and their practices.

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