Dec 8, 2021 - Politics & Policy

New report hits DOJ over lack of police shooting data

Protesters demonstrate follwing the shooting of Dijon Kizzee by Los Angeles Sheriff's deputies in South Los Angeles.
Demonstrations followed the shooting of Dijon Kizzee by Los Angeles Sheriff's deputies in 2020. Photo: David McNew/Getty Images

A new government accountability report says the Department of Justice failed to consistently publish an annual summary of police excessive force data from 2016 to 2020, as required by federal law.

Why it matters: The data is crucial for the DOJ to monitor excessive force cases, and used to investigate law enforcement agencies with patterns of abuse. The DOJ can pivot off it to pursue court action to force reforms.

Driving the news: The U.S. Government Accountability Office on Tuesday released a report examining the DOJ's efforts to collect relevant data and investigate allegations of excessive force.

  • The report found that from 2016 to 2020, the department didn't publish an annual summary of data about excessive force for any of those fiscal years because officials didn't assign roles and responsibilities for doing so.
  • The FBI initiated a new data collection effort in 2016 but the agency since has seen insufficient participation by the estimated 18,000 state and municipal law enforcement agencies around the country.
  • The report said the FBI did little to address it.

The DOJ did not immediately respond to a request for comment after Axios supplied a copy of the report.

The intrigue: The report comes after the Biden administration announced in April it would reverse a Trump-era policy limiting the use of consent decrees to force changes at police departments and government agencies accused of misconduct.

  • In one of his final moves as attorney general in 2018, Jeff Sessions issued a memo restricting the ability of local U.S. attorneys to enter into consent-decree settlements.
  • That prevented the DOJ's civil rights division from launching probes into police departments following the death of George Floyd in Minneapolis, and as demonstrators took to the streets in the summer of 2020.

What's next: The GAO made 11 recommendations to the Justice Department to improve its data collection on excessive force cases.

  • The report recommended the FBI director look into potential alternative data collection strategies for the National Use of Force Data Collection.
  • The report also recommended the attorney general assign responsibility for collecting and annually publishing data on the use of excessive force by law enforcement officers.
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