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HRDC among organizations calling for better police shooting data

The Hill, Oct. 3, 2016.

DOJ pressed for stronger plan in collecting police shooting data

Ninety-six organizations are calling on the Department of Justice (DOJ) to strengthen its proposed plan to collect data on fatal police shootings from state and local police.

In a letter to DOJ officials, including Attorney General Loretta Lynch, the organizations led by the American Civil Liberties Unions expressed multiple concerns with the agency’s proposal to implement the Death In Custody Reporting Act (DICRA) of 2013.

The law requires states to report deaths in police custody to the federal government. 

Under the department's proposal, the Bureau of Justice Statistics would be responsible for collecting the data through its Arrest-Related Deaths program instead of states. Officials would collect the data by relying primarily on publicly available information.

“This means that should The Guardian and the Washington Post decide to continue to invest in this research, those news outlets will continue to be the best national sources for data on deaths in police custody,” said the letter, signed by The Constitution Project, the Human Rights Defense Center, the NAACP and the National Immigration Law Center.

“Certain media outlets have been critical to understanding police-community encounters over the past year, but it is unlikely that national media attention and resources can remain focused on policing indefinitely.”

In their letter Monday, the groups argued that the proposal lacks an enforcement measures and fails to indicate how federal law enforcement agencies will comply with the law.

“DICRA gives the Attorney General the discretion to subject states that do not report deaths in custody to a ten percent reduction of Edward Byrne Memorial Justice Assistance Grant Program funds,” they said.

“The financial penalty is critical to successful implementation of DICRA as voluntary reporting programs on police-community encounters have failed.”

Citing an FBI report, the groups said only 224 of the more than 18,000 law enforcement agencies reported 444 fatal police shootings in 2014, though there’s reason to believe the annual number of people killed by police exceeds 1,000.