FBI Program Tracking Police Violence in Jeopardy Due to “Insufficient Participation”

An FBI program to track police violence is in jeopardy due to “insufficient participation from law enforcement agencies,” The Washington Post reports.  

In 2016, James Comey, the FBI’s then-director, launched a task force to investigate the toll brought on by police brutality. At the time, Comey expressed concern that “no government agency was tracking how often police killed citizens.” Criminologists and other policing experts lacked crucial data on whether incidents such as the deaths of Eric Garner, Laquan McDonald, and Tamir Rice under custody “were aberrations or the norm.”

As a result of this investigation, the FBI established its National Use-of-Force Data Collection program in 2019. Per the Post, the program “was required to obtain data representing 60 percent of law enforcement officers…by the end of 2022.” 

But the program has fallen short.

“Due to insufficient participation from law enforcement agencies, the FBI faces risks that it may not meet the participation thresholds…and therefore may never publish use of force incident data,” noted the Government Accountability Office. 

Police officials have provided various excuses as to their hesitancy. For example, data inputting is “time-consuming or difficult.” However, per FBI estimates, it only takes “about 38 minutes to enter the information for each incident.”

Public safety advocates aren’t buying these excuses. 

“Transparency and police data are what lead to accountability,” said Nancy La Vigne, executive director of the Council on Criminal Justice’s Task Force on Policing. “When you don’t know what use-of-force cases are happening, it’s difficult to know if you’re making improvements.”

Despite this frustrating lack of transparency, improvements are being made—particularly on the state level. For instance, New York and Vermont have taken action by introducing popular legislation to end qualified immunity and hold bad cops accountable for using unlawful force.

Read the full article on the FBI program here.