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Tags: department of justice | use of force | data

Report: DOJ Agencies 'Opaque' on Use of Force Data

By    |   Tuesday, 05 December 2023 05:16 PM EST

President Joe Biden's reforms to make use-of-force policies at the Department of Justice (DOJ) more in line with law enforcement at the local and state level, reportedly haven't gone far enough.

In May 2022, the DOJ updated its use of force policy for the first time in nearly 20 years, now requiring officers to intervene when they witness excessive force and limiting the use of such controversial tactics as no-knock warrants.

But federal law enforcement remains "the most opaque" of all in the U.S., said Jonathan M. Smith, a former section chief in the DOJ's Civil Rights Division. Smith, a civil rights attorney who has sued federal officers for alleged abusive practices, told NBC News in a story published Tuesday, that because of an "inability to actually get basic information," it can be difficult to influence how the agencies operate or hold them accountable.

"There are no consequences for these federal agencies," he said. "We often find that they're engaged in behaviors that either violate the Constitution or that are contrary to the values of a democratic society."

NBC reported it built a database of shootings that involved officers working for or with the ATF, the DEA, the FBI, and the Marshals Service by reviewing five years' worth of public documents, news releases, lawsuits and news reports. From 2018 to 2022, 223 people were shot by an on-duty federal officer, a member of a federal task force or a local officer participating in an operation with federal agents, NBC reported. A total of 151 were killed, an average of 30 per year.

NBC concluded the DOJ's law enforcement agencies continue to use tactics that many large-city police departments have shunned. They have fired at moving cars and shot people within seconds of encounters — without taking steps to de-escalate the situations.

After the beating of Rodney King by Los Angeles police officers in 1991, Congress in 1994 passed a crime bill that required the DOJ to collect and publish annual counts of use of excessive force by law enforcement officers, without specifying local or federal agencies. But for years, the DOJ paid little attention to the requirement, NBC reported.

"The same government that's holding state and local agencies accountable isn't holding their own agencies accountable," said former Houston Police Chief Art Acevedo, now the interim police chief in Aurora, Colorado. "That smacks of being disingenuous and a double standard."

Michael Bromwich, the DOJ's inspector general during the late 1990s, told NBC he was never aware the requirement existed.

"It's the product of historical forces where nobody has really said 'do this or else,' and it's not clear what the 'or else' is," he said.

A 2021 report by the Government Accountability Office found the DOJ never had plans to meet the 1994 requirement. Presidents Barack Obama, Donald Trump, and Joe Biden have either signed laws or issued executive orders calling on federal officials to collect and publish more detailed use-of-force or misconduct data.

The FBI, which recently launched a long-planned national use-of-force data collection program, told the GAO it wasn't aware its data was supposed to fulfill the 1994 requirement, NBC reported, and FBI documentation showed it probably couldn't comply because it doesn't differentiate between excessive and acceptable use of force.

"Where is the accountability?" Gretta L. Goodwin, the director of the GAO's Homeland Security and Justice team, told NBC. "How do you ensure that the officers under your command are engaging in such a way that they are not violating people's rights?"

Michael Katz

Michael Katz is a Newsmax reporter with more than 30 years of experience reporting and editing on news, culture, and politics.

© 2024 Newsmax. All rights reserved.


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President Joe Biden's reforms to make use-of-force policies at the Department of Justice (DOJ) more in line with law enforcement at the local and state level, reportedly haven't gone far enough.
department of justice, use of force, data
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2023-16-05
Tuesday, 05 December 2023 05:16 PM
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