The federal government is finally taking the initiative to create a national database to track deadly police encounters. The database will provide more data and transparency about police shootings that have continued to stir up controversy and tensions.
As the Associated Press notes, basic data about police shootings and police use of force has been hard to pin down as there has not really been widely available federal data. It has been news organizations compiling their own data and doing their own research that has started to fill the void.
Now the FBI national database, which is expected to be launched in January, will detail incidents in which death or serious bodily injury occurs, or even when officers fire their weapon at or in the direction of someone. The database will also track demographic information such as gender, age and ethnicity.
Still, it is not a perfect system, as police departments will not be required to report their information to the database, which seems weird, but something is better than nothing, I suppose.
“It strikes me as sort of crazy that in a modern, First World country that prioritizes democratic freedoms the way that the United States does, we don’t have the basic information that we need to have to discuss a fairly important issue of officers taking civilians’ lives,” Seth Stoughton, an associate law professor at the University of South Carolina who has researched police use of force told the AP.
Law enforcement officials however are hoping that the database will help do away with what many see as the rampant use of excessive or inappropriate force by police.
“The whole point of having a national database is so everyone can speak from a factual basis about what’s really happening. There’s so much news today about police use of force and yet there has never been a factual, established database against which to compare,” Rick Myers, executive director of the Major Cities Chiefs Association, said. “If you listen to the national narrative of the police use of force, you’d think it was much higher than that.”