The Department of Justice is creating a massive database to record all uses of force by police in response to the 2014 Death in Custody Reporting Act. The Death in Custody Reporting Act tracks the number of deaths that occur while in police custody follow an arrest. The purpose of the database is to track uses of force by law enforcement officials on a national scale, hoping to improve the relationship between the communities and police.
On Thursday, Attorney General Loretta Lynch announced that progress is being made with this new system. Lynch says this data must be accurate and comprehensive in order to be effective and to lead to an informed discussion on community-police relations.
Lynch said, “The initiatives we are announcing today are vital efforts toward increasing transparency and building trust between law enforcement and the communities we serve. The Justice Department will work alongside other departments to ensure the program is up to snuff.” The Death in Custody Reporting Act was passed by Congress in the midst of continuing civil conflict spurred by police-involved shootings of unarmed civilians.
The FBI launched a pilot program called National Use-of-Force Data Collection with the purpose to gain more information on both fatal and non-fatal police incidents resulting in “serious bodily injury” and precisely how the injuries were sustained. This is significant since the law only requires state and federal agencies report on lethal uses of force. The FBI defines serious bodily injury as involving “a substantial risk of death, unconsciousness, protracted and obvious disfigurement, or protracted loss or impairment of the function of a bodily member, organ, or mental faculty.”
Federal agencies including the FBI, the U.S. Marshals Service, the Bureau of Alcohol, Tobacco, Firearms and Explosives, the Drug Enforcement Administration and some of the country’s largest law enforcement agencies will play a part in the pilot program. The program expects to be able to track and log in excess of 700,000 reports about use of force in the field. The pilot began October 5 and ends December 5. The program is expected to launch early in 2017.