How many Americans died this year at the hands of police? To find out the official tally, don't look to the feds to release an accurate number. Why? Because there isn't a law in place for local police departments to report fatal use of force by officers. Some do, while others do not. While there is no national database reporting on police shootings, the U.S. Justice Department is working to change this.

Last week, the DOJ announced plans to roll out an online database for police departments across the country to report officer killings and use of force



“Accurate and comprehensive data on the use of force by law enforcement is essential to an informed and productive discussion about community-police relations,” said Attorney General Lynch Thursday in an official statement. “The initiatives we are announcing today are vital efforts toward increasing transparency and building trust between law enforcement and the communities we serve. In the days ahead, the Department of Justice will continue to work alongside our local, state, tribal and federal partners to ensure that we put in place a system to collect data that is comprehensive, useful and responsive to the needs of the communities we serve.”

The DOJ also elaborated on its Community Oriented Policing Services (COPS) Office plans to lead the Police Data Initiative (PDI). This data transparency project launched by the White House in 2015 is a public commitment by 129 law enforcement agencies to release up to three policing datasets, including data on stops and searches, uses of force, officer-involved shootings, and other police interactions with civilians.

This is another step toward accountability for U.S. law enforcement as monitored by the DOJ. In August, the department announced a proposal to collect more comprehensive and accurate data on individuals who die while in the custody of law enforcement agencies. Congress passed the Death in Custody Reporting Act (DCRA) in 2014 which is largely unenforced



In early 2017, the FBI will launch its National Use of Force Data Collection pilot program, an online hub gathering use of force data from U.S. law enforcement agencies. FBI Director James Comey said Sunday in a meeting with police chiefs that better data collection would provide a clearer picture as to whether there is a real epidemic of police killings of black men or if viral videos on social media are portraying a separate narrative. Contrary to Comey's statement, in separate DOJ investigations, the department has found unfair targeting and bias in U.S> officers when confronted with African American citizens.

According to a database provided by The Washington Post, 991 people were shot and killed by police officers in 2015. As of today, the outlet's latest tally stands at 761 for 2016. These figures are collected through local media reports, law enforcement websites, social media, and independent databases including Killed by Police and Fatal Encounters



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