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Opinion Justice Department to start collecting data on police use of force (again)

This is good news:

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 . . .
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.

Every police agency in the country should have already been reporting killings by police officers to the FBI since the 1990s. But there was no enforcement mechanism. Consequently, compliance was spotty at best. More comprehensive efforts to track and document police shootings, such as the one undertaken by my colleagues here at The Post, showed that the FBI count was way too low — thus making any year-to-year comparisons essentially useless.

The key to this project will be whether the threat of a fine is enough to compel compliance. The added requirement to report non-lethal force is also a positive step toward transparency. But again, the key will be compliance.

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