A bill being introduced this week by Democratic lawmakers would collect new data on public trust in law enforcement, allowing federal officials to more proactively suggest policy changes in neighborhoods, cities and states where trust is problematically low -- a data collection effort requested specifically by President Obama's policing task force earlier this year.
The legislation, titled the Tracking Reputations Upgrades Societal Trust (TRUST) act, would add new questions specifically focused on trust in law enforcement to be asked during the annual National Crime Victimization Survey conducted by the Justice Department's Bureau of Justice Statistics.
The bill's sponsors say that the results of those new survey questions would allow the Justice Department to provide resources and tailor policy recommendations to communities where trust is low.
"Cooperation between police officers and the communities they serve reduces crime and strengthens neighborhoods. Unfortunately, the real and perceived lack of equity, dignity, and justice has eroded trust between the public and law enforcement," said Rep. Patrick E. Murphy, (D-Fla.), the bill's primary sponsor. "As a CPA, I know that in order to improve any metric, you have to start by measuring it. With a renewed focus on restoring public trust we can rebuild this essential relationship that makes our communities safer and better places to live."
The legislation is a direct response to one of the recommendations of Obama's Task Force on 21st Century Policing, and comes as many policing and civil rights groups as well as media organizations have advocated for more collection of data as it relates to law enforcement and policing. C0-sponsoring the bill are Reps. Charles B. Rangel (D-N.Y.), Mike Honda (D-Ca.) and Eleanor Holmes Norton (D-D.C.)
"When people truly feel like the officers are there to serve them, communities become safer for everyone," Rangel said in a statement which called the legislation a "necessary first step in strengthening the relationship that can be improved through better understanding and accountability."
Earlier this year The Washington Post launched a database to track all fatal on-duty police shootings, statistics that are not currently kept by the federal government. Among other findings, The Post's reporting has revealed that many such shootings are of armed suspects, a large portion include suspects in the midst of a mental or emotional health crisis, and that black men are shot and killed by police at a rate disproportionate to their percentage of the U.S. population.
Murphy -- whose district includes Palm Beach Gardens, where unarmed black man Corey Jones was shot and killed by a police officer earlier this year -- earlier this year was a co-sponsor of another policing bill, which would provide more federal funding for police body cameras.