Is the FBI’s Ambitious New Database on Police Use of Force Destined to Fail?


On Thursday, Attorney General Loretta Lynch announced that the FBI will soon start a new national database to track police use of force. If it works the way the feds hope it will, the new database will be more complete than the woefully inadequate—in the FBI director’s words, “ridiculous” and “embarrassing”—old one, and will include information not just on fatal encounters but other instances of police violence as well.

The New York Times calls the new effort, which was first teased last December, the federal government’s “most ambitious” attempt yet to track police use of force. This is good news, because its past attempts have resulted in completely inaccurate statistics about how many people are killed by police every year. According to the Washington Post, which started its own comprehensive database of police shootings last year, official FBI data going back to 2011 has been based on voluntary reports from just 3 percent of the country’s 18,000 state and local law enforcement agencies.