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Eric Holder wants better data for victims of police shootings

US Attorney General Eric holder speaks to media.
US Attorney General Eric holder speaks to media.
Angelo Merendino/Getty Images
  1. US Attorney General Eric holder on Thursday called for better data collection on how police officers use force and how force is used against them.
  2. Holder said local police departments and state agencies should be legally required to report all shooting incidents to the FBI.
  3. The FBI currently tracks some data, but reporting by police agencies is voluntary and the figures are generally seen as the minimum.

Data for police shootings is notoriously inadequate

"The troubling reality is that we lack the ability right now to comprehensively track the number of incidents of either uses of force directed at police officers or uses of force by police," Holder said, according to the Hill. "This strikes many — including me — as unacceptable."

The federal government doesn't collect comprehensive data on people killed by police and police killed in attacks. The FBI gathers some data, but its figures are generally taken as the minimum, since reporting by police departments is voluntary.

Several high-profile police killings of black boys and men in 2014 sparked a push to get better data collection. In Ferguson, Missouri, former police officer Darren Wilson shot and killed unarmed 18-year-old Michael Brown. In Ohio, police shot and killed 22-year-old John Crawford and 12-year-old Tamir Rice in two separate incidents after police mistook toy guns they were carrying for actual weapons. In New York City, a police officer killed 43-year-old Eric Garner by putting him in a chokehold; police claimed Garner was resisting arrest after allegedly selling untaxed cigarettes.

Advocates hope better data collection would shine light on racial disparities in police use of force and the criminal justice system. They have also called for other reforms, including police-worn body cameras and independent prosecutors for investigations into police killings.