Lead Researcher Walt Lockley Speaks Up

On June 2, 2015, U.S. Sens. Cory Booker (D-NJ) and Barbara Boxer (D-CA) introduced the Police Reporting Information, Data, and Evidence Act of 2015.  Co-sponsors were Sens. Al Franken (D-MN), Ed Markey (D-MA), and Barbara Milkulski (D-MD).

Short and straightforward, the PRIDE Act would fund state efforts to collect data on all police shootings and other incidents resulting in deaths or serious injuries.  The data would include casualties caused by law enforcement officers along with the deaths and injuries suffered by officers.  The data would be reported to the U.S. Attorney General and then be made publicly available.

fatalencounters.org is proud of our role in putting the first reliable numbers to the issue of police-involved homicides in the United States in 2013, 2014 and 2015.  The introduction of the PRIDE Act is a signal that the debate is moving forward.

Sen. Booker pointed out in his press release: “The first step in fixing a problem is understanding the extent of the problem you have.”  Any effort to address the disturbing epidemic of police killings in the U.S. begins with data.  It’s a problem that no government official or agency can describe the size or shape of police brutality in the United States.  We see that problem as fixable.  That’s our mission.

And we’ve been effective.  In 2014 the key contribution of Fatal Encounters was to show that the annual total of police killings was far bigger — three times bigger — than the widely reported and accepted annual figures provided by the FBI.  That breakthrough was only a few months ago.  Other, bigger media outlets, like the Washington Post and the Guardian UK, have joined the chorus since.  While their missions are slightly different than ours, their voices are welcome, and we’re grateful for their acknowledgement and assistance, as they’ve enabled us to focus on data that’s a little older while they work on 2015.  We’re proud to have formed the foundations of their efforts.

The introduction of the PRIDE Act is an important milestone and worth applauding.  There are open questions about the relationship of the states, who would receive the grants, and the local police jurisdictions, who might be incented to report on themselves, or who might continue to refuse.  As of 1995 state law in Maine mandates that its attorney general investigates and reports on all incidents of police deadly force in the state.  Maine may be a model in this regard but it is the only state with such a requirement.  That solves one-fiftieth of the problem.

The work of Fatal Encounters, creating an impartial, comprehensive and searchable national database of people killed during interactions with law enforcement, continues.  We are driven by crowdsourced contributions and completely funded by donations. If you’d like to help with donations, your money will go directly to the research. If you want to help with the research, just send Brian an email.



New York Times Analysis

From researcher Christopher Cox