More than 50 congressional Democrats are calling on U.S. Attorney General Eric Holder and the Justice Department to collect and publicly release data about the use of excessive force by law enforcement officers.
The letter begins, “We share a strong commitment to building a fairer, more equitable criminal justice system and write today to request the Department of Justice (DOJ) collect data about the use of excessive force by law enforcement officers in the United States and produce a publicly available annual summary of the data. This reporting is currently required under (the) Violent Crime Control and Law Enforcement Act of 1994, however according to media reports the most recent report was issues in 2001.”
The letter refers to deaths in Sanford, Florida, Ferguson, Missouri, Staten Island, New York and Cleveland that “illustrate a significant need for criminal justice reform. Reliable information is necessary in order to implement meaningful change. Experience in our communities indicates that the use of excessive force disproportionally affects communities of color, but we lack the empirical data from the Department of Justice.
In order to ensure that (the) criminal justice system provides equal justice for all, the DOJ should establish a standardized procedure by which local law enforcement agencies collect and report relevant data. This procedure should leave it to local authorities to judge what is ‘excessive,’ but rather should provide DOJ with sufficient information to allow DOJ to make that judgment.
We request that you respond to our request and report on the steps that the DOJ will take to ensure that instances of excessive force are tracked and reported. Recent events make it clear that this is an urgent matter.”
The letter cites a provision in the Violent Crime Control and Law Enforcement Act of 1994 that requires the attorney general to compile data on the use of excessive force by law enforcement officers and also refers to a 2014 article in The International Business Times by Keith Ross that was headlined, “How Many Police Shootings Have There Been? In The Aftermath of Michael Brown’s Death, The Absence of Police Shooting Statistics Leaves The Question Unanswered.
Signers, all of them Democrats, include Mark Pocan and Gwen Moore of Wisconsin, as well as Alan Grayson of Florida, Hank Johnson of Georgia, Elijah E. Cummings of Maryland, Steve Cohen of Tennessee, Corrine Brown of Florida, André Carson of Indiana, Frank Pallone of New Jersey, Charles Rangel of New York, Jan Schakowsky of Illinois, José Serrano of New York, Bennie G. Thompson of Mississippi, Maxine Waters of California, Dianna DeGette of Colorado, Juan Vargas of California, Gregory Meeks of New York, John Yarmuth Kentucky, James Clyburn of South Carolina, Rush Holt of New Jersey, Mike Honda of California, Jared Huffman of California, Hakeem Jeffries of New York, Barbara Lee of California, Alan Lowenthal of California, Carolyn Maloney of New York, Jerrold Nadler of New York, Grace Napolitano of California, Eleanor Holmes Norton the District of Columbia, Marcy Kaptur of Ohio, Judy Chu of California, David Cicilline of Rhode Island, Katherine Clark of Massachusetts, Yvette Clarke of New York, John Conyers of Michigan, Danny Davis of Illinois, Peter DeFazio of Oregon, Rosa DeLauro of Connecticut, Sam Farr of California, Chaka Fattah of Pennsylvania, Luis Gutierrez of Illinois, Janice Hahn of California, Loretta Sanchez of California, Cedric Richmond of Louisiana, John Sarbanes of Maryland, Alma Adams of North Carolina, Tim Ryan of Ohio, Sheila Jackson Lee of Texas, Jared Polis of Colorado and Eddie Bernice Johnson of Texas.