Monday, October 24, 2016

Feds to launch (voluntary) national police use-of-force database

The revelation that a quarter of Texas police shootings went unreported to the Attorney General, as required by state law, drives home the message in this LA Times headline: "There's no point in collecting information on police shootings and force if cops report inaccurate information." Even law enforcement types seem to prefer gathering data as an antidote/alternative to continually being subjected to trial by anecdote as each new damning video arises. So we're at a political moment ripe with opportunity on this front.

Stepping into the breach just months before the incumbent leadership heads out the door, DOJ recently announced it will create a national database of police use of force incidents, starting with a voluntary reporting program. This is an example of the President doing what he can in the absence of Congressional backing. (DOJ is taking over a program initially spearheaded by the white house.) At the beginning, only federal agencies and local departments that volunteer to participate will contribute data.  The initiative is structured so that, once the system is up, local departments that want to can get started. And Congress will be positioned to make reporting mandatory later on if the pilot succeeds and political winds support it.

Until then, beginning some time next year, getting local departments to participate in the federal use-of-force data program will provides a new target topic for local police accountability, #blacklivesmatter activists, etc.. Austin and Dallas participated in the pilot data program which prefaced this move, so one would expect those agencies to participate. But as for the others, unless the Legislature mandates participation - which wouldn't be a terrible idea  - it'll be up to local advocates to push departments to gather and publish use of force data.


Anonymous said...

"If you can't measure it, you can't manage it."

Anonymous said...

Voluntary reporting of incidents must be considered a 'biased' sample and will make research using the database questionable. Congress needs to make reporting mandatory and provide punishment for those who fail to report.

jdgalt said...

I hope that every bit of data that gets collected will be put in the public domain -- because we can't count on government at any level to refrain from whitewashing and even lying in the official database, but some private group such as CopBlock or PINAC can then use that database as a source of material for its own, fairer one.

(I deliberately did not mention BLM because it is both racist and a Soros front, and deliberately fails to distinguish real victims of excessive force from thugs who earned and asked for what they got. BLM is no part of any movement I support.)