FBI To Replace Terrible Voluntary Police Shooting Reporting System With NEW Voluntary Police Shooting Reporting System

from the unrecognizable-'changes'-ahead! dept

Back in October, the FBI very belatedly admitted it had been doing an abysmal job tracking the number of people killed by law enforcement officers. For nearly 15 years, the DOJ has been charged with collecting this data, but so far has only managed to produce totals that are half of those compiled by citizens and journalists.

The FBI admitted it hadn't done a very good job collecting this data and vowed to improve things in the future. But it didn't say how it would accomplish this. It didn't appear to be considering changing the one factor contributing the most to its yearly under-count: the system is entirely voluntary. As a result, less than 3% of the nation's 18,000 law enforcement agencies have regularly reported their shootings to the FBI.

More details have emerged on the FBI's new use-of-force tracking initiative. The former program -- which none other than FBI director James Comey called a "travesty" -- is being overhauled. The voluntary reporting system will be replaced with a revamped, more detailed… completely voluntary reporting system.

The new database will continue to rely on the voluntary reports of local police departments; FBI officials said they lack the legal authority to mandate reporting.
Cynics/critics will be delighted unmoved to hear the FBI thinks this voluntary system will work better than the last one, which was a federal embarrassment (again, Comey's own words). Why? Because they've been promised that everyone will try harder to turn over information this time.
But [FBI Assistant Director of Criminal Justice Information] Stephen Morris said the leaders of the nation’s largest police organizations have agreed for the first time to lobby local departments to produce the data. The Justice Department is also looking to offer federal grants to local departments that may need additional resources to comply.

“We will be relying on peer pressure and financial incentives,” Morris said.
Well, peer pressure definitely has improved the nation's law enforcement agencies by ridding them of "bad apples" and internal corruption… oh, wait, none of that ever happened. Financial incentives may work better than peer pressure. A nation full of asset forfeiture abuse can attest to that. But if the money can only be spent on complying with a voluntary effort that might make agencies/individual officers "look bad," it's unlikely this "carrot" will work better than the stick the FBI can't wield.

The FBI may not be able to make this reporting mandatory, but Congress can. So far, legislative efforts aimed at doing exactly that haven't gone anywhere. But despite FBI officials publicly wringing their hands over the results of the agency's multiple years of indifference, the agency has yet to offer any public support for this sort of legislation.

If this effort ever approaches large-scale participation, the stats gathered will be much more in-depth than anything the DOJ's collected to date.
The new effort will go beyond tracking fatal shootings and, for the first time, track any incident in which an officer causes serious injury or death to civilians, including through the use of stun guns, pepper spray and even fists and feet.

[...]

Morris said the data will also be “much more granular” than in the past and will probably include the gender and race of officers and suspects involved in these encounters, the level of threat or danger the officer faced, and the types of weapons wielded by either party.
What will likely produce more and better results sooner is this effort -- which is already in progress.
Change is also underway at the Bureau of Justice Statistics, another Justice Department agency that has kept a separate count of civilians who die in police custody.

The bureau scrapped its old database and this year created a pilot program that relies on The [Washington] Post’s database and other open-source data-collection efforts to identify deaths that are not being reported. Then, BJS officials contacted police, medical examiners and other local officials to check the accuracy of the information and to gather additional facts.
The government doesn't always need to bootstrap its data gathering. The private sector tends to produce solid results. Plus,it's motivated -- at least in this case -- to collect as much data as possible and make it publicly-available. Law enforcement agencies are generally motivated to do the opposite, unless otherwise instructed. And it generally takes more than a "Would you kindly?" from the federal government to generate changes in mindset.

Anything would be better than what the FBI has delivered for the past several years. But it will take more than the FBI's public dismay to overcome law enforcement's natural instinct to bury anything that remotely resembles a questionable use of force.


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  • icon
    That One Guy (profile), 14 Dec 2015 @ 3:32am

    What next, mandatory reporting for bathroom breaks?

    It's a good thing killing and/or assaulting someone isn't a crime, otherwise the idea that anyone acting in an official capacity could choose whether or not to report engaging in such would be just insane.

    I mean, can you imagine being able to choose whether or not you want to report that you committed a crime, with absolutely no penalty if you decide not to? That would be completely ridiculous and a massive conflict of interest, leading to drastic under-reporting and 'forgetting' to mention countless things when it came time to record what happened.

    Thankfully however sanity prevails, as while making it mandatory to report crimes or potential crimes committed while on duty is only reasonable, the same mandatory reporting for minor non-criminal acts would be excessive and uncalled for, and since murder and assault aren't crimes, it makes perfect sense to make reporting them purely optional.

    reply to this | link to this | view in chronology ]

    • identicon
      Anonymous Coward, 14 Dec 2015 @ 7:49am

      Re: What next, mandatory reporting for bathroom breaks?

      I know you meant that subject line as a joke, but there have been a few private sector companies that did just that. When RFID first came out and became available on ID cards a few companies deployed readers all over their property(ies), including outside the restrooms. And all of them caught hell when the employees found out.

      reply to this | link to this | view in chronology ]

      • identicon
        Anonymous Coward, 14 Dec 2015 @ 12:47pm

        Re: Re: What next, mandatory reporting for bathroom breaks?

        I know you meant that subject line as a joke, but there have been a few private sector companies that did just that

        Where I work you have to get permission to go to the bathroom (which you may or may not receive when you need it). Then they time and record how many seconds it takes you. Then they put it up on charts for all to see and compare employees.

        Or you can just dirty yourself. (Which is what they would really prefer. You should see the stains on some of the chairs there).

        reply to this | link to this | view in chronology ]

  • identicon
    Anonymous Coward, 14 Dec 2015 @ 4:23am

    Now he can say that he's done something and that we've had our discussion.

    reply to this | link to this | view in chronology ]

  • identicon
    Whatever, 14 Dec 2015 @ 4:26am

    I love how every time the police make an honest attempt to improve, everything Techdirt is capable of is bash, bash, bash.

    What you don't seem to understand are the implications if the police had to report every shooting under their watch. Going by your regular attempts to bash any form of authority, it stands to reason that any report would simply be fodder for the trolls here to undermine law enforcement. You already paint a heavily biased picture with your mobile phones shoved in the faces of policemen. Why should it be up to you to tell the police what they can and cannot do in public? But obviously, you would rather ignore the criminal acts because the alternative would inconvenience you slightly. Breaking the law is still breaking the law.

    Does it suck that the police have to shoot people? Maybe, but since you entitled losers can't seem to stop being criminal, someone has to make you accountable for your actions. And since I know PaulT is going to bait me again, I choose to leave this comment unsigned in, so I can make him look like a fool when he responds.

    reply to this | link to this | view in chronology ]

    • identicon
      Just Another Anonymous Troll, 14 Dec 2015 @ 4:34am

      Re:

      I love how every time the police make an honest attempt to improve, everything Techdirt is capable of is bash, bash, bash.
      I'm not sure whether to report this or give it a funny vote.

      reply to this | link to this | view in chronology ]

      • icon
        That One Guy (profile), 14 Dec 2015 @ 4:40am

        Re: Re:

        Funny for the first parts('honest attempt', great joke there), report for the latter two-thirds where he goes straight to the personal attacks and paranoia.

        reply to this | link to this | view in chronology ]

    • identicon
      Anonymous Coward, 14 Dec 2015 @ 6:14am

      Re:

      horse with no name just can't stand it when due process is enforced.

      reply to this | link to this | view in chronology ]

    • identicon
      Anonymous Coward, 14 Dec 2015 @ 6:21am

      Re:

      Found the police officers union - interesting choice of name..

      reply to this | link to this | view in chronology ]

    • identicon
      Anonymous Coward, 14 Dec 2015 @ 7:04am

      Re:

      "What you don't seem to understand are the implications if the police had to report every shooting under their watch."

      You mean implications like "they might actually have an incentive to reduce the number of shootings", or "people could have a more fully formed discussion of how serious a problem we're looking at"?

      reply to this | link to this | view in chronology ]

    • icon
      nasch (profile), 14 Dec 2015 @ 7:58am

      Re:

      btw I'm pretty sure this is not the real Whatever.

      reply to this | link to this | view in chronology ]

      • identicon
        Anonymous Coward, 14 Dec 2015 @ 5:03pm

        Re: Re:

        Not nearly the first time he's tried pulling off this shit. Going by the same insistence against police accountability, appeal to authority and sad insults, I see little reason to believe that this isn't Whatever.

        My guess is, he's going to either run away like the pathetic little shit he is instead of explaining himself, or he's going to log back in and claim it wasn't him. Predictable scummy bastard.

        reply to this | link to this | view in chronology ]

    • icon
      tqk (profile), 14 Dec 2015 @ 9:09am

      Re:

      Going by your regular attempts to bash any form of authority ...

      Versus your regular attempts to denigrate any reports of abuse of authority, I'd say TD's credibility far outstrips yours. Compare the FBI's reporting system results to the Guardian's reporting system results, and anyone will conclude the former is a fatally flawed and worthless tool except for those with something to hide. You don't care that mass murder is happening on a grand scale and the perpetrators are evading punishment and even recognition by policy.

      Quisling, you should be ashamed of yourself. "My country, right or wrong" was good enough for unquestioning, ignorant, flag-waving hardhats, but not for anyone who swears allegiance to the Constitution, as every officer of the law does upon taking the job.

      reply to this | link to this | view in chronology ]

      • identicon
        Anonymous Coward, 14 Dec 2015 @ 9:18am

        Re: Re:

        uh, huh. Swear allegiance to the Constitution, them promptly forget WTF a Constitution is...

        reply to this | link to this | view in chronology ]

        • identicon
          Anonymous Coward, 14 Dec 2015 @ 9:37am

          Re: Re: Re:

          are they still swearing allegiance though?

          reply to this | link to this | view in chronology ]

          • icon
            tqk (profile), 14 Dec 2015 @ 11:11am

            Re: Re: Re: Re:

            are they still swearing allegiance though?

            I thought they were. Whether they've even read it or know what's in it is a valid question. Maybe the PBAs have managed to bargain that requirement away, or Congress (or the courts) passed a LEO exception. It wouldn't surprise me nowadays.

            Glad I don't live there, and sadly I'll never set foot there again. You have my sympathies, now go and fix it, damnit! Your firemen have become arsonists (Fahrenheit 451).

            reply to this | link to this | view in chronology ]

      • identicon
        Anonymous Coward, 14 Dec 2015 @ 1:00pm

        Re: Re:

        "Versus your regular attempts ... blah blah blah..."

        Hook, line and sinker.

        reply to this | link to this | view in chronology ]

    • identicon
      That One Other Not So Random Guy, 14 Dec 2015 @ 4:54pm

      Re:

      "What you don't seem to understand are the implications if the police had to report every shooting under their watch."
      I have to catalog every change I make on a production server... poor little POlice having to do all that paperwork sucks man cut em a break right?

      "Why should it be up to you to tell the police what they can and cannot do in public?"
      Um... because WE pay their salaries to PROTECT US.

      "Does it suck that the police have to shoot people?"
      Did you eat a whole bag of batshit and go 300% crazy?

      "Maybe, but since you entitled losers can't seem to stop being criminal, someone has to make you accountable for your actions."
      Yes, yes you did.

      "And since I know PaulT is going to bait me again, I choose to leave this comment unsigned in, so I can make him look like a fool when he responds."
      You... are sooo... SMRT there little Whatever fellah.

      "I love how every time the police make an honest attempt to improve"
      ROFL!!!

      reply to this | link to this | view in chronology ]

  • identicon
    Anonymous Coward, 14 Dec 2015 @ 5:01am

    Because Encryption!

    You see, those reports have all been flowing in, but the FBI couldn't read them because they were encrypted!

    reply to this | link to this | view in chronology ]

  • identicon
    Anonymous Coward, 14 Dec 2015 @ 5:08am

    OH, look! More taxpayer dollars wasted on not protecting the citizenry.

    What are the odds? /s

    reply to this | link to this | view in chronology ]

  • icon
    scatman09 (profile), 14 Dec 2015 @ 5:23am

    you know what cops need...

    TERM LIMITS

    Police work dangerous, almost thankless, jobs. They get burned out. All of that up and down adrenalin. Cops should have mandatory term limits after 10 years in service. After 10 years, they should be forced to take 1 yr. off. After that 1yr break (covered by their pension or whatever) they should be re-evaluated and allowed to resume service as police officers--if they wish.

    reply to this | link to this | view in chronology ]

    • identicon
      Anonymous Coward, 14 Dec 2015 @ 5:26am

      Re: you know what cops need...

      We should all be allowed to retire after 10 years.

      reply to this | link to this | view in chronology ]

      • identicon
        Anonymous Coward, 14 Dec 2015 @ 5:37am

        Re: Re: you know what cops need...

        Actually, many cops are already allowed to retire with full benefits after 20 years. And for many it is a second retirement. Enlist in military at age 18, retire with full military benefits after 20 years, become a cop and retire with 2nd full benefits after another 20 years. So, you can be retired with 2 sets of full benefits by age 58.

        reply to this | link to this | view in chronology ]

      • icon
        scatman09 (profile), 14 Dec 2015 @ 6:02am

        Re: Re: you know what cops need...

        not that cops are perfect, or anything, but we're not all apprehending gun carrying criminals as part of daily jobs either

        I just arbitrarily threw 10 yrs out there--it could be whatever number the local citizenry agrees upon.

        reply to this | link to this | view in chronology ]

    • identicon
      That One Other Not So Random Guy, 14 Dec 2015 @ 5:01pm

      Re: you know what cops need...

      "Police work dangerous" - Except that it isn't. The garbage collector has more of a chance of being injured or killed on the job.

      reply to this | link to this | view in chronology ]

  • identicon
    Michael, 14 Dec 2015 @ 5:28am

    FBI officials said they lack the legal authority to mandate reporting

    They may not be able to mandate reporting, but they should be able to commit to investigating every shooting that isn't reported. That might give people a bit more incentive.

    reply to this | link to this | view in chronology ]

    • identicon
      Anonymous Coward, 14 Dec 2015 @ 5:49am

      Re:

      They may not be able to mandate reporting, but they should be able to commit to investigating every shooting that isn't reported.

      The law already requires shootings in general to be reported. And I don't believe there is an exception for "shot by cop". And these reports are forwarded to the FBI. So, the FBI is already getting reports, even if not from the police themselves, and practicing willful blindness by ignoring them.

      Cops ignoring possible wrongdoing by other cops. Imagine that.

      reply to this | link to this | view in chronology ]

      • identicon
        Anonymous Coward, 14 Dec 2015 @ 8:07am

        Re: Re:

        And I don't believe there is an exception for "shot by cop". And these reports are forwarded to the FBI.
        I'm confused here; who writes the reports and forwards them to the FBI? Are we talking about medial staff at hospitals? I always thought they just reported to the local police.

        The cops themselves are independent, under no obligation to the federal government unless they've entered into a (nearly useless) "consent decree" due to abusive practices. The only other way PDs would have to report would be if it were made a requirement for using a federal resource, like the 1033 program.

        reply to this | link to this | view in chronology ]

        • identicon
          Anonymous Coward, 14 Dec 2015 @ 12:53pm

          Re: Re: Re:

          Hospitals and doctors report it to the local police, who then forward it to the FBI. The FBI could comb through through those reports if it wanted to.

          reply to this | link to this | view in chronology ]

        • identicon
          Anonymous Coward, 14 Dec 2015 @ 12:57pm

          Re: Re: Re:

          The cops themselves are independent, under no obligation to the federal government unless they've entered into a (nearly useless) "consent decree" due to abusive practices.

          Are you suggesting that local police are selectively and actively withholding reports of shootings by cops while letting the others trough?

          reply to this | link to this | view in chronology ]

    • icon
      Jeremy Lyman (profile), 14 Dec 2015 @ 7:55am

      Re:

      Yeah, does FBI stand for federal bureau of statistics tabulation? Go provide oversight and the incentive to self-report by INVESTIGATING.

      reply to this | link to this | view in chronology ]

  • identicon
    Tavis, 14 Dec 2015 @ 5:53am

    "Embarrassment"?

    What we think it means:It is embarrassing that only 3% of law enforcement agencies regularly report their shootings. Obviously we need to make more of them participate.
    What Comey and the FBI's response appears to really mean: It is embarrassing that 3% of law enforcement agencies regularly leak shooting data that put our officers in a bad light. Obviously we need to add more paperwork to the voluntary process.

    reply to this | link to this | view in chronology ]

    • identicon
      Anonymous Coward, 14 Dec 2015 @ 8:09am

      Re: "Embarrassment"?

      They probably need to do something about that annoying "free press" thing, too. Damn busybody reporters.

      reply to this | link to this | view in chronology ]

  • identicon
    Anonymous Coward, 14 Dec 2015 @ 6:21am

    typcial government...

    Do something meaningless, act like its awesome... wonder why people are not as stupid as they though they were.

    reply to this | link to this | view in chronology ]

  • identicon
    Anonymous Coward, 14 Dec 2015 @ 9:33am

    Just like the police promise they won't murder unarmed people on a whim. You are in good hands citizens

    reply to this | link to this | view in chronology ]

  • icon
    Steve (profile), 14 Dec 2015 @ 12:43pm

    So the Government wants to know everything about you, all your meta data, no encryption etc, but refuses to let you know how many people it kills?

    reply to this | link to this | view in chronology ]

    • icon
      tqk (profile), 14 Dec 2015 @ 1:06pm

      Re:

      ... but refuses to let you know how many people it kills?

      Close, but more like "doesn't care and can't be bothered to let you know how many people it kills." After all, if they weren't doing anything wrong, they wouldn't have needed a bullet, now would they? Sheesh, civilians!

      reply to this | link to this | view in chronology ]

  • identicon
    Justme, 14 Dec 2015 @ 7:09pm

    Mandatory Reporting. . .

    The only statistics that are mandatory to report, are mandatory because they can be helpful in justify and expanding their budget.

    How many people you killed doesn't further that goal, so hence it is not mandatory.

    reply to this | link to this | view in chronology ]


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