FBI may close police use-of-force database due to lack of officer participation

The FBI launched the National Use of Force Data Collection program in 2019.

The FBI’s National Use-of-Force Data Collection could soon shut down due to the lack of police participation.

theGrio previously reported that the FBI launched the National Use-of-Force Data Collection program in 2019 to provide reliable statistics on law enforcement use-of-force incidents. Despite a presidential order, only 27 percent of police departments have supplied the data for the second year in a row. As a result, the FBI’s collection effort is at risk of being discontinued, according to a report released by the Government Accountability Office (GAO), The Washington Post reports.

(Getty Images)

According to the FBI’s website, the National Use-of-Force Data Collection provides facts about the circumstances and officers involved in use-of-force incidents. The data does not include “specifics about cases, disclose the names of people involved, or provide opinions on whether uses of force were justified.”

The system does list the gender, race, and ethnicity of subject(s) and whether the officer(s) was on duty or injured. The FBI does not publicly report data from any specific agency, only by state. 

To participate, police and federal law enforcement agencies submit monthly use-of-force reports to the FBI data portal, including fatalities or injuries caused by police. In 2019, 44 percent of law enforcement agencies submitted information, and in 2020, only 55 percent participated, per the GAO report released Tuesday.

“I think the lack of ability to have reliable and comprehensive data on police use of force is one of the biggest things that is, in my view, is hampering law enforcement’s objective, which is really to gain trust to the community,” Jason C. Johnson, president of the Law Enforcement Legal Defense Fund, told ABC News.

“It’s an area that, we’re very clearly, it has struggled in recent years. And so it is critical that we have thorough, comprehensive data about police use of force.”

Nationwide, the majority of law enforcement agencies still close records or make them hard to obtain. They claim they are personnel matters, privacy violations, or ongoing investigations that could be compromised. They are backed by strong law enforcement unions and the law enforcement bills of rights that protect the privacy rights of officers over the public’s right to know, theGRIO reported. 

The Office of Budget and Management called on the FBI to compile the use-of-force database, with the goal of gaining 60 percent of cooperation from law enforcement agencies by end of 2022. If the goal is not met, “the FBI was to end the data collection effort and explore alternatives for collecting law enforcement use-of-force data.”

In the first two years of the program, the police data has not reached that level, per the report. 

“Due to insufficient participation from law enforcement agencies, the FBI faces risks that it may not meet the participation thresholds established in OMB’s terms of clearance for publishing data from the National Use-of-Force Data Collection, and therefore may never publish use-of-force incident data from the collection,” the GAO report says.

The report says the FBI data collection will be “discontinued” by the end of 2022 if more police departments don’t participate.

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