WASHINGTON — The FBI will begin collecting and providing to the public more information about police shootings of civilians, FBI Director James Comey said Monday as the agency released annual data on crime nationwide.
Federal law enforcement officials have acknowledged in the past year a lack of reliable data about how often police officers use force in the line of duty. Former Attorney General Eric Holder urged better record-keeping in a speech this year, calling it a matter of “common sense,” and Comey has expressed frustration publicly with the absence of nationwide data following the Ferguson, Mo. shooting in August 2014.
As part of its Uniform Crime Reporting program, the FBI tracks the number of police officers who are killed, as well as the number of justifiable homicides by police that are reported by law enforcement agencies. But those records are known to be incomplete since it is voluntary for police departments to feed data into the FBI’s system, and little more than a third of local agencies do it, Comey said.
On Monday, Comey encouraged every agency to submit the data to give the public a more complete picture. The FBI intends to collect more information about nonfatal shootings by police of civilians, including the facts and circumstances of each incident and who was involved, Comey said.
Once the information is collected, the FBI will produce a special publication that chronicles police use of force.
“We hope this information will become part of a balanced dialogue in communities and in the media — a dialogue that will help to dispel misperceptions, foster accountability and promote transparency in how law enforcement personnel relate to the communities they serve,” Comey wrote in a special “Message from the Director” that accompanies the release of crime data from 2014.
The latest data shows that the number of violent crimes reported in 2014 dropped by 0.2 percent when compared with 2013. The report shows that an estimated 1,165,383 violent crimes — including murders, robberies and rapes — were reported by law enforcement last year. The estimated number of property crimes dropped 4.3 percent from 2013 levels, according to the report.
The report also includes arrest data for hate crimes, criminal cyber breaches and human trafficking.
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