Government to (sort of) start tracking deadly force by police

The Federal Bureau of Investigation (FBI) is establishing a database that will keep track of incidents involving the discharge of a police firearm in someone's direction, the serious bodily harm of a subject or death. The database will also track the gender, ethnicity and age of those people involved in police shootings.

That all sounds well and good -- because there's clearly a need for greater transparency about what goes on in our nation's police forces -- but it may not be as useful a database as many hope. That's because there's absolutely no legal requirement for police departments to turn over their data to the federal government for inclusion in the database.

That's a flaw that seems ripe for abuses. Good law enforcement departments have no reason to not submit the data to the FBI -- while bad departments have every reason to avoid dropping their information in the database. In the end, that could not only fail to alert any watchdogs in the FBI or elsewhere of problems in certain areas or departments, it could also paint an overly rosy picture of law enforcement.

Up until this point, only news organizations have been tracking the use of force (including incidents of outright brutality) by the police -- using whatever sources they could manage to find. That's made it very hard to get an accurate picture of just how dangerous it is to be a civilian in this day and age. Even so, it's estimated that there were at least 973 people killed by police officers in 2018, a disproportionate number of whom were either black or Latino.

It's somewhat amazing to think that -- given all the technical ability available to do it -- that such important information isn't tracked on a national level by the government. Until there's greater transparency -- and more accountability -- police abuses and acts of brutality will continue to be a threat to the average American.

Have you or your loved ones been victimized by police through assault, the use of weapons, dog attacks or other forms of brutality? You have options. Talk to an attorney with experience.

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