Lawmakers Propose National Legislation To Document Police-Involved Deaths

| by Amanda Andrade-Rhoades
Sen. Cory Booker.Sen. Cory Booker.

In light of the recent, well-publicized spate of police shootings, many were left wondering exactly how many civilians are killed by police officers every year. National reporting on police-involved deaths has been inconsistent and frequently shoddy. Though the FBI ran a database of “justifiable homicides,” reporting was voluntary.

U.S. lawmakers have now rallied for legislation that would bring “transparency and accountability to law enforcement agencies nationwide,” according to an announcement from Democratic Sen. Cory Booker of New Jersey.

The proposed legislation, called the Police Reporting of Information, Data and Evidence Act, would require states to report all officer-involved shootings and any incidents “where use of force by or against a law enforcement officer or civilian results in serious bodily injury or death” to the Justice Department.

Booker introduced the legislation in conjunction with Democratic Sen. Barbra Boxer of California. 

“Too many members of the public and police officers are being killed, and we don’t have reliable statistics to track these tragic incidents,” Boxer said in a statement. “This bill will ensure that we know the full extent of the problem so we can save lives on all sides.”

Booker explained that the legislation was necessary. “The first step in fixing a problem is understanding the extent of the problem you have. Justice and accountability go hand in hand -- but without reliable data it’s difficult to hold people accountable or create effective policies that change the status quo,” he said. “Our legislation is vital to ensuring we have the data required to make good decisions and implement reform measures that are balanced, objective, and protect the lives of police officers and the public.”

So far this year, 102 of 467 people who died in officer-involved incidents were unarmed and black people were twice as likely to have been unarmed compared to their white counterparts. The proposed database would include information on race, ethnicity, gender and age.

The idea of a police violence database isn’t new. Former Attorney General Eric Holder voiced his support for legislation like the PRIDE Act in January when he was still in office. “The troubling reality is that we lack the ability right now to comprehensively track the number of incidents of either uses of force directed at police officers or uses of force by police,” he said. 

Sources: The Guardian, Sen. Cory Booker

Image via Sen. Cory Booker