Criminal Justice News

Friday, December 16, 2016

Justice Department Announces New Steps to Expand Vital Law Enforcement Data Collection Initiatives



Today, the Department of Justice provided an update on its longstanding efforts concerning the nationwide collection of data on law enforcement interactions with civilians, including data related to the use of force by law enforcement officers.  The update includes the submission of a report to Congress outlining its plan for collecting data mandated by the Death in Custody Reporting Act (DCRA), and the publication of a notice in the Federal Register on the details of the collection method going forward under the DCRA. 

“I am incredibly proud of the work that this department has done, in collaboration with our state, local, tribal and federal partners, to expand and improve data collection,” said Attorney General Lynch.  “This work is vital.  It will allow the nation to have a more informed and robust dialogue regarding use of force; it will improve transparency; and it will help to build stronger bonds of trust between law enforcement and the people we serve.  The Department of Justice will continue to work alongside our partners to build on these efforts and to create a nationwide data collection system that is useful and meaningful for law enforcement and communities alike.”

In 2014, Congress passed the DCRA, which requires states and federal law enforcement agencies to submit data to the department about civilians who died during interactions with law enforcement or in their custody, whether resulting from use or force or some other manner of death, such as suicide or natural causes, and authorized the Attorney General to penalize non-compliant states.  The DCRA is consistent with the recommendation of the President’s Task Force on 21st Century Policing that law enforcement “collect, maintain and report data . . .  on all officer involved shootings, whether fatal or nonfatal, as well as any in-custody death,” and the department is committed to heeding this call. 

The department is seeking comment on the Federal Register submission from all interested parties, including local, state, tribal and federal law enforcement, civil rights organizations and other community stakeholders.  After reviewing and addressing these comments, the department will issue a final proposal, and plans to begin the data collection program in 2017. 

The DCRA also requires federal law enforcement agencies to report information on deaths that occur during interactions with federal law enforcement agencies or in their custody, beginning with Fiscal Year 2016 (FY2016) data.  FY2016 ended Sept. 30, 2016.  On Oct. 5, 2016, the Attorney General issued a memorandum to federal law enforcement agencies formally notifying them of their reporting obligations under the DCRA.  The collection of the FY 2016 data has begun and will continue through March 2017.  In addition to the report submitted to Congress today, the department expects to issue a statistical report in 2017.

The department continues to implement other, longstanding, data collection programs.  The DCRA does not impose a reporting requirement for ¬non-lethal¬ uses of force by law enforcement.  In the absence of a statutory mandate, and in an effort to close this gap, the department is partnering with local, state, tribal and federal law enforcement to provide a means for national data collection.  In 2015, and in collaboration with local, state, tribal and federal law enforcement the FBI began work on a “National Use of Force Data Collection,” an online portal to collect use-of-force data from law enforcement agencies across the country.  In October 2016, the FBI announced the proposed pilot program in the Federal Register, and it has received comments from interested parties.  After addressing those comments, the FBI will issue a final proposal and plans to begin the pilot data collection program in early 2017.  The pilot study participants are expected to include the largest state and local law enforcement agencies, as well as the FBI, Bureau of Alcohol, Tobacco, Firearms and Explosives, Drug Enforcement Administration and U.S. Marshals Service. 

The department also is pursuing the Police Data Initiative (PDI), which is a data transparency project led by the department’s Community Oriented Policing Services (COPS) Office.  PDI encourages participating law enforcement agencies to collect and publicly release various datasets.  The initiative now includes 130 law enforcement agencies that serve more than 44 million people across the country.  As part of the Initiative, the COPS office is working on the development of two open data guidebooks.  The first will be a primer on open data for law enforcement executives and municipal officials and will be released in the summer of 2017.  The second guidebook will provide a more in-depth analysis on effectively producing, releasing and using open data and is scheduled to be released in the summer of 2018.   

In addition to these efforts, the department continues to collect and analyze data in other ways.  This week, the Bureau of Justice Statistics issued three reports:  1) Mortality in Local Jails, 2000-2014 -Statistical Tables, 2) Mortality in State Prisons, 2001-2014 - Statistical Tables, and 3) Arrest-Related Deaths Program Redesign Study, 2015–16: Preliminary Findings. These reports are available at www.bjs.gov.

Separately, the FBI released the 2015 National Incident-Based Reporting System (NIBRS) report this week.  NIBRS, which will completely replace the traditional Summary Reporting System by Jan. 1, 2021, will provide a more robust and complete data set that will provide greater insight into crime reports throughout the country.  

These initiatives demonstrate once again the department’s deep commitment to the ideals of the President’s Task Force.  The department will continue to work with local, state, tribal and federal agencies to encourage and support data collection and transparency beyond these projects.          

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