DOJ Announces Plan to Track Police Use of Force

By Kenrya Rankin Oct 14, 2016

Each week appears to bring new stories of police officers using force against citizens. But the people whose names make the news are just a fraction of those whom are hurt or killed by law enforcement.

In 2013, the U.S. Department of Justice (DOJ) surveyed police departments nationwide, asking them for the first time how often their officers used force. As The New York Times reports, it turned out that very few departments actually track that information.

Now DOJ officials say the agency will launch a pilot program in early 2017 to collect use of force and police-involved killings data. The new plan will build on the Federal Bureau of Investigation’s recently announced National Use of Force Data Collection program. Per Attorney General Lynch in a press release issued yesterday (October 13):

Accurate and comprehensive data on the use of force by law enforcement is essential to an informed and productive discussion about community-police relations. 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.

Lynch detailed how the pilot program will proceed, including the following:

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.

The department’s Bureau of Justice Statistics 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.

The department’s Community Oriented Policing Services 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.