FBI to begin tracking police violence

FBI to sharply expand system for tracking fatal police shootings

The FBI’s system for tracking fatal police shootings is a “travesty,” and the agency will replace it by 2017, dramatically expanding the information it gathers on violent police encounters in the United States, a senior FBI official said Tuesday.

The new effort will go beyond tracking fatal shootings and, for the first time, track any incident in which an officer causes serious injury or death to civilians, including through the use of stun guns, pepper spray and even fists and feet.

“We are responding to a real human outcry,” said Stephen L. Morris, assistant director of the FBI’s Criminal Justice Information Services Division, which oversees the data collection. “People want to know what police are doing, and they want to know why they are using force. It always fell to the bottom before. It is now the highest priority.”

This is a laudable decision, albeit an overdue one (and another sharp rebuke to people claiming that Black Lives Matter isn’t accomplishing anything). The police, like all arms of government, must be accountable to the people and transparent about their activities.

So, resolved: national, uniform collection of police-violence data is a vital public good.

Anyone disagree?

I still can’t wrap my head around the fact they haven’t been doing this already.

Especially considering that uniform crime reporting has been conducted since 1930. The police: very interested in your crimes, not so interested in their crimes, for 86 years and counting.

Which police will be covered?

Based on the article, all 18,000 state and local police agencies.

You think it’s in the interest of a powerful institution to work to constrain its own power?

The thing is, most policing is done by the states. It’s not like the FBI has some authority over state police forces. The states should already be doing this, and there is certainly some value in rolling it all up, but the rolling it all up part shouldn’t be that big of a deal. Well, other than convincing all the states to use the same reporting procedures (not easy) or somehow being able to translate different reporting procedures into results that are meaningfully comparable.

Okay, so who will police the Feds?

I’m free Tuesday evenings.

As long as it falso collects the violence against the police then it’s useful information.

The FBI publishes very detailed reports about violence against the police, and has done so for years.

and they get this information from?

Quis custodiet ipsos custodes?

They don’t need policing. After internally investigating ~150 shootings by FBI agents, ~70 of them fatal, the FBI concluded that they were all good.

The FBI has decades of experience in collecting and standardizing data from state and local police agencies, in the form of Uniform Crime Reporting. They also have no incentive to downplay the problem or corrupt the data. So while it’d be nice if the states had been doing this already, the FBI is best qualified to start doing it now.

State and local agencies, presumably. Likely as part of the UCR process.

Congress, for one.

Per TonySinclair’s link, FBI agents fatally shot 70 people over the period 1993-2011. That’s 3.8 per year. Conversely, the Washington Post has estimated that state and local agencies fatally shoot over 900 people per year. Since the FBI is less likely to be in the kind of street confrontations that lead to shootings, and are better trained than their local equivalents, they are a small part of the problem.

Nothing reassures like an internal investigation, right? Still, I believe in working big-to-small; if the FBI’s shootings are questionable, we can get to that next.

I don’t really see this as a problem that can be solved on a federal level, with or without better statistics. States need to adopt a method for independent investigation instead of relying on the hugely conflicted IA/prosecutor methods we have now.

Yeah, because if there’s one thing police forces are known for it’s forgetting to report physical violence against their employees. :rolleyes:

This change is necessary, but not sufficient, to solve to problem. The statistics can demonstrate the scope of the problem, and identify which solutions work and which don’t as different states and municipalities adopt different methods.