AG Wants Better Data Reporting on Shootings of Police, Use of Force

"It is incumbent upon all of us to protect both the safety of our police officers and the rights and well-being of all of our citizens. We can, and we must, examine new ways to do both," Attorney General Eric Holder said Jan. 15.

Attorney General Eric Holder called for better data reporting in a Jan. 15 speech where he said the nation must improve police officers' safety at the same time that it confronts the sense of mistrust between law enforcement and the communities they serve. Speaking at a Justice Department ceremony to honor the late Dr. Martin Luther King, Holders said the current level of reporting by localities on both uses of force by police and officer fatalities is incomplete.

"Let me be clear: None of these goals are in tension. None of our aims are in conflict. And so it is incumbent upon all of us to protect both the safety of our police officers and the rights and well-being of all of our citizens," Holder said, according to the prepared text posted by DOJ. "We can, and we must, examine new ways to do both. The first step to achieving this is to obtain better, more accurate data on the scope of the challenges we face. For instance, I've heard from a number of people who have called on policymakers to ensure better record-keeping on injuries and deaths that occur at the hands of police. I've also spoken with law enforcement leaders, including the leadership of the Fraternal Order of Police, who have urged elected officials to consider strategies for collecting better data on officer fatalities. Today, my response to these legitimate concerns is simple: We need to do both.

"This would represent a common-sense step that would begin to address serious concerns about police officer safety, as well as the need to safeguard civil liberties. The troubling reality is that we lack the ability right now to comprehensively track the number of incidents of either uses of force directed at police officers or uses of force by police. There has been some effort to address this in the past – in the 1990s, for example, Congress enacted legislation intended to help the Justice Department collect data on officer-involved shootings. But since the reporting remains optional, and perhaps lacks sufficient incentives, many localities do not provide this data. Likewise, absent a requirement for reporting of injuries and deaths of police officers, many localities fail to report these statistics, as well. This strikes many, including me, as unacceptable. Fixing this is an idea that we should all be able to unite behind."

Holder noted in his remarks that he has a brother who is a retired police officer.

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