FBI may have to shut down federal use-of-force database due to low participation from law enforcement

FBI may have to shut down federal use-of-force database due to low participation from law enforcement
YURI GRIPAS/AFP/AFP via Getty Images

The FBI has one more year to figure out how to collect use-of-force statistics from thousands of law enforcement agencies across the country before their efforts to publicize and reform police practices will get shutdown, according to a report by the US Government Accountability Office.

The FBI launched the National Use-of-Force Data Collection program in 2019 with the intention to track excessive force incidents and release an annual report based on information provided by local, state and federal law enforcement agencies.

Because of a low response rate and lack of congressional directive to turn over the information, the Justice Department has not yet published any report, according to GAO’s report that was published Tuesday.

“Due to insufficient participation from law enforcement agencies, the FBI faces risks that it may not meet the participation thresholds established in Office of Management and Budget’s (OMB) terms of clearance for publishing data from the National Use-of-Force Data Collection, and therefore may never publish use of force incident data from the collection. Further, the collection itself may be discontinued as soon as the end of 2022,” according to the report.

Following George Floyd’s murder in May 2020 at the hands of police, lawmakers crafted a policing bill named after Floyd. (The four former Minneapolis police officers involved in Floyd’s death are also facing federal civil rights charges.)

One of the elements of the George Floyd Justice in Policing Act calls for mandates for state and local law enforcement agencies to report police misconduct and use-of-force data with the federal government.

The bill passed in the House in March but has not passed in the Senate.

Collection of use-of-force data may lead to the implementation of stronger policies like mandatory usage of body worn cameras and increase training to reduce excessive force encounters with civilians, according to the report.

The OMB stipulated that in order for an annual report on use-of-force to be fruitful, at least 60% of participation from law enforcement agencies is needed, but “as of November 2021, after 2 years of data collection, the FBI had achieved 44% and 55% participation for calendar years 2019 and 2020, respectively,” according to the report.

The GAO’s report was based on information collected from the period between fiscal year 2016 to fiscal year 2020.

CNN has reached out to the FBI for comment.

In order to prevent ending the FBI’s data collecting program next year, the GAO provided Attorney General Merrick Garland and leaders of the Civil Rights Division, Office of Justice Programs and FBI with 11 recommendations to improve the process.

Anthony Coley, the director of public affairs for the Justice Department, says they agreed with nine out of 11 recommendations. “Including the most important” recommendation, Coley said, are for the attorney general to assign responsibility for collecting data from the law enforcement agencies, to publish the data on the use of force by law enforcement officers annually and to communicate this responsibility to the designated DOJ component.

The lingering two recommendations by the GAO related to the management of excessive force allegations are “contingent on the outcome” of the other recommendations, Coley said.

Despite the low rate of information reported during FY ’16 to FY ’20, the Justice Department awarded more than $200 million to six grant programs dedicated to support practices that may result in the reduction of excessive force that included $85.5 million for body-worn camera policy and implementation program, according to the report.

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