That even now there are no national records of how many people were killed or injured by local law enforcement officers remains astonishing, but it is a symptom of how much disinterested law enforcement agencies are interested in compiling such data. Lynda Garcia of the Leadership Conference said in a timed interview: "[P] olice departments in this country sometimes can't even tell you how many people they shot and killed last year and that we don't know how widespread [their] Use is the power is. "
The FBI has attempted to collect this data itself since 2015, but less than half of all agencies volunteered it in the past year. The data they can collect is likely skewed. "The only agencies willing to report this were those who were comfortable with their data," noted criminology professor Geoffrey Alpert last summer.
In contrast, the new open source database enables users to "request data from their local officials, submit request letters for public records, and enter relevant records themselves".
The tool is currently being launched with data from five major cities: Indianapolis, New Orleans, Baltimore, Dallas, and Austin. And the preliminary results show again that the use of force by the police continues to target black Americans disproportionately.
Collecting the data remains a challenge. Freedom of Information Act requests will likely be able to extract loose information that the departments are unwilling to volunteer, but collecting data for each of the country's local law enforcement agencies is a Herculean task.
However, at this rate, results can still come faster than the entire government can manage.