Congressman Steve Cohen

Representing the 9th District of Tennessee

Cohen Praises Department of Justice for Decision to Begin Collecting Data on Police Use of Force

October 14, 2016
Press Release

[WASHINGTON, D.C.] – Congressman Steve Cohen (TN-09), Ranking Member of the House Judiciary Subcommittee on the Constitution and Civil Justice, today praised the U.S. Department of Justice for announcing that it would begin collecting data early next year on the use of force by federal law enforcement agents and help local police departments report data on “in custody” deaths and collect information on a variety of other police actions.

“I am pleased the Department of Justice will begin collecting data on force used by federal agents and will help local law enforcement collect data of their own, something my bill, the National Statistics on Deadly Force Transparency Act, has called for,” said Congressman Cohen. “Before we can truly address the problem of excessive force used by law enforcement we have to understand the nature of the problem and that begins with accurate data. This is a significant step in the right direction and a critical component to rebuilding trust between the police and the communities they serve.”

Last year, Congressman Cohen reintroduced his National Statistics on Deadly Force Transparency Act. His legislation, which would go a step further than the Department of Justice’s announced plan, would, as a condition of receipt of full Byrne Justice Assistance Grant funding, incentivize states to collect data on all instances in which deadly force was used and report it to the Department of Justice. Without accurate and comprehensive data, racial disparities, abuses, and instances of excessive use of force are difficult to identify and unlikely to be fixed.

Specifically, Congressman Cohen’s legislation would incentivize states to require local law enforcement agencies to provide data to the Attorney General on:

  • The date of each instance when deadly force was used;
  • The identifying characteristics of the victim and officer involved, including the race, gender, ethnicity, religion and approximate age of the victim;
  • Any alleged criminal behavior by the victim;
  • An explanation, if any, by the relevant law enforcement agency of why deadly force was used;
  • A copy of any use of deadly force guidelines in effect at the time at the law enforcement agency;
  • The nature of the deadly force used, including whether it involved a firearm; and
  • A description of any non-lethal efforts that were taken before deadly force was used.

This data would be made publicly available, but would not disclose any personally identifying information.