There’s a New Federal Plan to Track Police Killings Across the United States

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A protester holds a Black Lives Matter placard during march in reaction to the fatal police shooting of unarmed black man Alfred Olango, on September 30, 2016, in El Cajon, California.Photo: David McNew/Getty Images

Keith Lamont Scott, a 43-year-old black man, was fatally shot by police in Charlotte, North Carolina, last month, sparking a string of tense and sometimes violent protests. Officers say Scott was armed and he refused to drop the weapon; his wife and family refute that account. Scott’s death was one of 754 police-involved fatalities in the U.S. so far this year, according to data from the Washington Post. But right now that information — the number of fatal encounters with police nationwide — is not comprehensively tracked by the federal government.

The Justice Department is seeking to change that, saying Thursday that it will begin compiling data about police killings and use of force from across the country. A pilot program is expected to start next year.

The program will monitor use of force by federal law-enforcement agencies, such as the FBI and the ATF, among others. The Justice Department will also require local and state police departments to turn over information on fatalities that occur in police custody, which covers killings, suicides, and even those deaths linked to natural causes. Congress passed the Death in Custody Reporting Act (DCRA) in 2014, which requires local law enforcement to report that data or get fined — though advocates such as the ACLU argue that those penalties are tough to enforce.

The Justice Department will also launch an initiative to collect statistics on other kinds of police interactions, which can include searches and officer-involved shootings. That data on nonlethal encounters isn’t required by law, so federal officials will have to work with departments to log and volunteer that data.