Justice Dept. Wants Law Enforcement across U.S. to Upgrade Tracking of Police Killings

Thursday, August 11, 2016
Demonstration over police killings (photo: Timothy A. Clary, AFP/Getty Images)

 

By Charlie Savage, New York Times

 

WASHINGTON — The Obama administration is moving forward with a plan to better track killings by police officers, as heightened national scrutiny of such deaths has reinforced criticism of its reliance on self-reporting by state and local law enforcement agencies.

 

In a notice published in the Federal Register this week, the Justice Department said it would ask law enforcement agencies and medical examiner’s offices to fill out forms when there is a news report or another indication that a person died while in police custody.

 

Under the proposed system, which would cover 19,450 state and local law enforcement agencies and about 685 medical examiner’s or coroner’s offices, they would also be asked to fill out forms about the total number of such cases every three months. The department’s Bureau of Justice Statistics would then compile that information.

 

The proposal comes as police killings of African-Americans have fueled protests in recent years in places like Ferguson, Missouri, and Baltimore, and led to the rise of the Black Lives Matter movement. The resulting scrutiny of the issue has focused attention on the lack of reliable and comprehensive data about how many people are killed by the police each year.

 

The government’s existing system is called the Arrest-Related Deaths program, which is intended to be a census of a variety of causes of such deaths, including suicides, accidents and deaths from natural causes. Critics say it does not provide accurate data in part because it relies on self-reporting by law enforcement officials.

 

“Because of concerns about variations in data collection methodology and coverage,” the Justice Department notice said, the Bureau of Justice Statistics has “developed and tested new methodologies for collecting data” aimed at enabling “accurate and comprehensive accounting of deaths that occur during the process of arrest.”

 

Such information, it said, is critical for law enforcement agencies to “demonstrate responsiveness to the citizens and communities they serve, transparency related to law enforcement tactics and approaches, and accountability for the actions of officers.”

 

The notice did not make clear whether killings by federal law enforcement agents would be included in the new system.

 

To Learn More:

            3 People per Day Shot and Killed by Police in U.S. (by Noel Brinkerhoff, AllGov)

Police Shoot to Death One Unarmed Person Every 3 Days in U.S. (by Noel Brinkerhoff, AllGov)

How Many People are Killed by Police in U.S.? Who Knows? (by Steve Straehley, AllGov)

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