Monday, October 05, 2015

Attorney General Lynch:Use-of-Force Data is Vital for Transparency and Accountability

Today, in a press conference held at the Department of Justice, Attorney General Loretta E. Lynch reinforced the need for national, consistent data on law enforcement interactions with the communities they serve, especially data collection on the use-of-force.  The Attorney General noted that the department has already taken steps to improve the accuracy and consistency of use-of-force data from law enforcement.

“The department’s position and the administration’s position has consistently been that we need to have national, consistent data,” said Attorney General Lynch.  “This information is useful because it helps us see trends, it helps us promote accountability and transparency,” said Attorney General Lynch.  “We’re also going further in developing standards for publishing information about deaths in custody as well, because transparency and accountability are helped by this kind of national data.”

Currently, federal authorities publish annual figures on the number of “justifiable homicides” by law enforcement.  But this reporting is voluntary and not all police departments participate, causing the figures to be incomplete.  That’s why the Justice Department and the Obama Administration are taking steps to work with law enforcement to improve the process.

“This data is not only vital – we are working closely with law enforcement to develop national consistent standards for collecting this kind of information,” Attorney General Lynch added.

The department has already taken steps to improve accurate accounts of use-of-force data from law enforcement:

    The Bureau of Justice Statistic (BJS) and the FBI are collaborating with major policing organizations, such as the International Association of Chiefs of Police (IACP), the Major Cities Chiefs of Police Association (MCCA), the Major County Sheriffs Association (MCSA) on defining data collections on police use-of-force and homicides by law enforcement officers.

    The department also requires the records of police interactions when we enter into consent decree and collaborative reform agreements.

    The FBI recently announced that the Uniform Crime Reporting Statistics (UCR) will begin to collect data on non-fatal shootings between law enforcement and civilians.

    BJS has been conducting work on new methods for not only identifying deaths in police custody (as defined by the Deaths in Custody Reporting Act (PL 113-242), where they will go further than what the newspapers and media reports on law enforcement homicides that are derived from open source records verifying that the media accounts are correct and complete.BJS will do this by surveying police departments, medical examiners’ offices and investigative offices about the reports that it identifies from open source and using data from the multiple source to obtain a more accurate factual account of each incident.BJS will complete its methodology study by late 2015/early 2016 and then begin to stand up a national program on arrest related deaths.

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