Even the U.S. government doesn’t know how many police-involved shootings took place in the country this year. Why? The use of force by and against police officers is reported by law-enforcement agencies on a voluntary basis.
Proposed legislation could change that. U.S. Sens. Barbara Boxer of California and Cory Booker of New Jersey, both Democrats, introduced a bill Tuesday that would require states to report all instances of force by or against a law-enforcement officer or a citizen where at least one party involved is seriously injured or killed.
Booker elaborated on the proposal Friday in a 953-word Medium blog post titled “The Role of Reliable Data in Reducing Police Use of Force Incidents,” which complemented a 750-word press release about the measure Tuesday. The senator led his piece by pointing to reminders such as the “tragic events” in Baltimore; Ferguson, Missouri, New York; and North Charleston, South Carolina.
“It is time we address the trust deficit between law enforcement and many communities across our country. It’s time that we come together and work to see each other clearly,” Booker wrote.
Called the Police Reporting of Information Data and Evidence (PRIDE) Act, the bill seeks to “advance public safety, strengthen police-community relations, protect communities and police officers, and foster mutual trust and respect” through data collection, Booker wrote.
Under the proposed legislation, states would have to report details on the incidents, including demographic information about victims, such as age, gender and race, as Booker noted in his press release:
The Boxer-Booker measure would require states to report to the Attorney General on use-of-force incidents involving officers and the public that result in serious bodily injury or death. The reports must include, at a minimum:
The gender, race, ethnicity, and age of each individual who was shot, injured, or killed;
The date, time, and location of the incident;
The number of officers and number of civilians involved in the incident;
Whether the civilian was armed with a weapon; and
The type of force used against the officer, the civilian, or both, including the types of weapons used.
In return for meeting these mandatory-reporting requirements, states would be eligible for grant funds for public-awareness campaigns that could add to the data collection. The legislation also would include grant funds for de-escalation training to ensure that officers know when and when not to use force.
Currently, officer-involved shootings are reported to the FBI under the Uniform Crime Reporting Program, as Booker pointed out in his Medium blog post. That program requests law-enforcement agencies to submit information on killings that are “justifiable homicides”: Participation in the program is voluntary, and demographic data are inconsistently reported.
The legislation introduced by Booker and Boxer came shortly after data-heavy reports on police shootings were published by the Guardian and the Washington Post. The Guardian announced “The Counted” -- a database it created to combine verified crowdsourced information on police shootings with reports by the newspaper. And the Washington Post estimated there have been 385 fatal shootings by police officers in the U.S. this year.