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Booker, Van Hollen, Castro Introduce Bill to Improve Transparency and Accountability in Law Enforcement

Credits: United States Senate

Bill will require creation of national database on use of force incidents involving police

Washington, D.C. – May 25, 2017 - U.S. Senators Cory Booker (D-NJ) and Chris Van Hollen (D-MD) today introduced the Police Reporting of Information, Data and Evidence (PRIDE) Act – legislation that would increase transparency and accountability for law enforcement agencies nationwide by requiring states to report to the Justice Department use of force incidents that occur between law enforcement officers and civilians. This data will help federal, state and local officials to better protect the public and law enforcement officers. Rep. Joaquin Castro (D-Texas) introduced a companion bill in the House of Representatives.

“We can’t address the most persistent challenges to protecting public safety and ensuring justice without reliable data,” said Senator Booker. “Data on use of force incidents between law enforcement and civilians is badly incomplete, making it difficult to seek solutions driven by facts. This bill will improve measures of accountability and transparency in reporting use of force incidents and provide much needed information that will help shape policies to better protect both police and the public.”                                    

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“Both our communities and law enforcement will benefit from greater transparency and accountability,” said Senator Van Hollen. “To fully address the issues of safety, trust, and equality in law enforcement, we first must understand the extent of the challenges we face, which is why the PRIDE Act is an essential part of the strategy to keep our communities and officers safe.”

“In Texas and other states across the nation, clashes between civilians and officers have led to strained community-law enforcement relations. The more information that’s collected about these incidents, the better equipped we’ll be to prevent them from happening again in the future,” said Rep. Castro. “Uniform, thorough, transparent records on the use of force by and against police officers will inform policymaking and improve public safety. The better we understand the circumstances surrounding these violent incidents, the more effective we’ll be in healing our communities and saving lives.”

Currently, the Department of Justice collects some data on use of force incidents by and against law enforcement, but that information is largely incomplete. This hole in our national data collection systems results in an inaccurate and incomplete picture of use of force incidents involving police, leaving government officials, stakeholders, and the public without the information needed to develop best practices and institute reforms.

The PRIDE Act will:

·         Require states to report to the Justice Department any incident where use of force is used against a civilian or against a law enforcement officer.

o   The reports must include, at a minimum:

§  The national origin, sex, race, ethnicity, age, physical disability, mental disability, English language proficiency, housing status, and school status of each civilian against whom a law enforcement officer used force;

§  The date, time, and location, including zip code, of the incident and whether the location allows for open-carry or concealed-carry of a firearm;

§  Whether the civilian was armed and, if so, the type of weapon he or she had;

§  The type of force used against the office, civilian, or both, including the types of weapons used;

§  The reason force was used;

§  A description of any injuries sustained as a result of the incident;

§  The number of officers and civilians involved in the incident;

§  A brief description of the circumstances surrounding the incident, including the type of force used by all persons, the legitimate police objectives necessitating force, the resistance encountered, the efforts by law enforcement to de-escalate the situation to avoid the use of force and minimize the level of force used, and why efforts were not utilized to avoid force or de-escalate the situation, if applicable.   

·         Provide grants to law enforcement agencies that employ less than 100 people to help comply with the requirements of the bill.

·         Provide grants to law enforcement agencies that employ less than 100 people for public awareness campaigns designed to gain information regarding shootings and use of force incidents against the police; this may include establishing tip lines, hotlines, and public service announcements.

·         Provide grants to law enforcement agencies that employ less than 100 people for use-of-force training for law enforcement agencies and personnel, including de-escalation and bias training. 

Many of the bill’s provisions include recommendations from President Obama’s Task Force on 21st Century Policing, which put forth a series of strategies aimed at rebuilding trust between the law enforcement officers and the communities they protect.

In 2014, Congress reauthorized the Death in Custody Reporting Act, which requires states to report to DOJ any time a civilian is killed by a police officer while in custody or during the course of an arrest. However, any non-fatal shooting or use of force data is not captured.  Since 2015, the Washington Post has kept an ongoing database to chronicle the use of deadly force by law enforcement officers, in its reporting, the Post found more than twice as many incidents of police related deaths than reported by the FBI.  In October 2016, the FBI announced a National Use of Force Data Collection program and pilot program to begin 2017.

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