The FBI Is Hiding an Unpublished Police Use-of-Force Database From FOIA Requesters

Since the 1990s, the FBI tried to get information from local police departments about their force use. But, due to the lackluster participation of law enforcement, no reports have been published or statistics. An activist group for civil rights claims the FBI and Justice Department block its efforts to obtain the report underlying the program.

The Leadership Conference on Civil and Human Rights attempted to get raw reports submitted by law enforcement agencies to the FBI’s National Use-of-Force Data Collection program. The FBI rejected the Freedom of Information Act (FOIA), and the Justice Department denied the Leadership Conference’s appeal.

This program was launched by the FBI in 2019. It aims to close a gap in our knowledge of American criminal justice: where and how police use force. Following the 2014 police shooting of Michael Brown, the FBI launched the program. The Washington Post Many news outlets, advocacy groups and other media started to build their own databases due to the federal government. It was impossible to track the fatal shootings of police officersin any strict way.

“Right now, police departments are not required to—and most do not—publicly report data, and what data does exist is often inconsistent and difficult to access,” Sakira Cook, senior director of the Justice Reform Program at the Leadership Conference on Civil and Human Rights, says. This means that we are not able to know enough information about the frequency, location, and times police used force. This is unacceptable as it hurts those who are trying to make changes and hold the law enforcement responsible.

The Justice Department was embarrassed by the fact that it failed to count fatal encounters with police officers, and became embarrased. Resolved to make a complete overhaulIts data collection efforts for 2015

Although the FBI is unable to force police departments in participating, it can make them. The FBI cannot force police departments to participate in the National Use-of-Force Data Collection program. However, participation has increased steadily over the past three years, but has not reached the threshold established by the Office of Management and Budget for data that represents 60 percent of the law enforcement officers across the country.

Government Accountability Office, (GAO) ReportIn December, it was warned that the FBI may face risks due to “insufficient participation by law enforcement agencies” and “may not meet the participation thresholds established by OMB. Therefore, they may not publish any use of force incidental data.”

The GAO report stated that the collection could be discontinued “further” by 2022.

The Leadership Conference on Civil and Human Rights continues to operate its own use-of-force databaseThe first FOIA application was made by. Send an emailThe raw reports were submitted by the FBI to its National Use-of-Force Data Collection in November 2020. Although the Leadership Conference database contains records from 150 jurisdictions and Cook claims that it has access to FBI data, Cook states that they have detailed reports from thousands more. The FBI however, rejectedThe request was denied for insufficiently describing records. Last March, the Justice Department deniedThe Leadership Conference appealed that decision and was rejected. It found that the FOIA request it made was too broad and unreasonably difficult to fulfil.

Cook claims that the answer “flies in front of the whole FOIA system.”

Cook stated that “the FBI’s use of force data collection was shrouded with secrecy right from the start, which is the reason we were asking for greater access to this information.” Let’s not forget that the FBI has made excuses for keeping this data secret. This information should still be available to all.

A request for comments was not answered by the FBI immediately.