Congressman proposes bill to track police use of deadly force

A Cook County Sheriff police officer points his gun at a man suspected of carrying a weapon on his person (Photo: Reuters)

A Cook County Sheriff police officer points his gun at a Chicago man suspected of carrying a weapon (Photo: Reuters)

Congressman Steve Cohen proposed a bill last week intended to better track police officers’ use of deadly force throughout the country.

According to a statement released by Cohen, the National Statistics on Deadly Force Transparency Act of 2017 would “close a loophole in federal law that prevents adequate collection of comprehensive national data regarding justified and unjustified use of deadly force with police.”

The legislation would require the Attorney General to issue regulations regarding the data collection and compilation. Cohen notes in his statement that the collected data would specifically pertain to the following:

  • 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.

While the data would not include any personal identification information, it would be made public.

Defending the bill, Cohen referenced remarks made by FBI Director James Comey, in which the director said it was “ridiculous that I can’t tell you how many people were shot by the police last week, last month, last year. . .Without complete and accurate data, we are left with ideological thunderbolts.”

Cohen also expressed concern that civil rights priorities in the Department of Justice will greatly change if and when Attorney General nominee Sen. Jeff Sessions gets confirmed, saying that “it is more important now than ever to collect accurate data on police use of excessive force, so we can begin rebuilding trust between the police and the communities they serve.”

During his lengthy confirmation hearing, Sessions promised to do more to support and protect police officers throughout the country and also said he would try to bridge the gap between law enforcement departments and their respective communities.

Sessions was recently approved by the Senate Judiciary Committee and now makes his way to the full Senate for a vote, while Cohen’s bill awaits a vote in the House Committee on the Judiciary.

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