To: the Bureau of Justice Statistics and The U.S. Attorney General

The U.S. needs to track police killings nationally

Michael Brown. Eric Garner. Walter Scott. Freddie Gray. How many Black and brown people are killed by police every year? Even as communities of color suffer great losses, national leaders are not collecting data on the scale of police use of force and violence. A bill recently passed by Congress gives the Attorney General all the power necessary to gather this critical information.

It's time for the Department of Justice to collect and publish official nationwide data on police killings, the use of force, and arrests, broken down by race and other demographic factors. When doing this, the DOJ must provide key privacy protections, including the exclusion of personally identifying information and deportation immunity for civilians.

Why is this important?

The Bureau of Justice Statistics keeps detailed records about crime throughout the country, providing an invaluable resource to track trends and to help legislators and law enforcement agencies determine how to allocate resources. However, they do not currently track the number of police killings across the United States, or any details about those encounters or the victims.

The lack of comprehensive statistics about police shootings feels like willful ignorance on the part of the federal government. And this record is crucial for establishing the patterns of violence and creating the solutions we need to ensure all communities are safe and secure.

Police forces around the country receive federal support. It's time for the federal government to mandate that police departments provide detailed information about police killings as a requirement to receive federal funds. And the BJS needs to make this information available in a transparent and timely fashion.