2 Historical Perspective
In 1994 Congress passed a law intended to assist the Justice Department in collecting better statistics about police officer-involved shootings. In February 2015, FBI Director James B. Comey reported discrepancies in police lethal force reporting.  An estimated
928 people were killed by police over an eight-year span, compared to 383 being reported to the FBI.
The data discrepancy has brought to light the U.S. Government’s inability to track how many people police kill or injure. The law is not effective because reporting is optional. The data discrepancy is caused by optional reporting as opposed to mandatory reporting by police. There are approximately 18,000 police departments and other law enforcement agencies across the United States.
None of these agencies are required to report to the public or the Justice Department anything about police officer shootings, let alone their use of less lethal force. Similarly, police agencies are required to report hate crimes to the FBI, but a simple review of the
reported data is troubling. The FBI lists the names of the police agencies and some agencies do not report hate crime data or simply do not report, confirm or deny hate crime incidents within their community.
The FBI is attempting to persuade police departments to utilize more sophisticated reporting data systems such as the National Incident Based Reporting System (NIBRS). NIBRS is utilized by approximately 30% of police agencies across the country and
requires additional data, as compared to Uniform Crime Reporting (UCR). UCR requires basic crime information and lacks the suspect-victim relationship and other detailed data points about the crime, suspect and victim.
The use of NIBRS is a method for police agencies to capture valuable information from use of force encounters. For example, data collection and information sharing currently exists in some agencies in a few states – but is not uniform or universal. How many
agencies would report that a suspect had died from delirium or heart congestion following the deployment of a Taser™ or a beanbag gun? If they report the death, would it be associated with a use of force?
The use of enhanced police reporting systems could assist police agencies in better understanding uses of police force. Mandatory use of force reporting will supplement both UCR and NIBRS with additional and necessary data points to fulfill our profession’s review and research purposes.