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Law-enforcement agencies nationwide just got a wake-up call from the Justice Department.
The agency has been deeply involved with investigating police use-of-force incidents nationwide – particularly in the last three or four years, as more unarmed civilians were killed during encounters with police.
The agency has rounded up law-enforcement officials for a meeting on the subject in Washington D.C.
“The Summit on Violent Crime Reduction,” The Washington Post reports, was a brainstorming session aimed at finding ways to improve accountability and transparency within police departments around the country.
At the heart of the discussion was the infrequency with which police departments keep records of people who died during encounters with law enforcement.
FBI Director James Comey hammered police officials and politicians about that on Wednesday, saying it was “unacceptable” that citizens can find more information about police-involved killings from news outlets than they can from the police agencies themselves.
“It’s embarrassing and ridiculous,” Comey said.
That has been a familiar criticism among grassroots movements like Black Lives Matter, which has forced police departments nationwide to respond.
The Justice Department is now keeping its own tabs on civilian deaths that occur in police custody.
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US Attorney General Loretta Lynch said on Monday, “we need to have national, consistent data,” The Post reported. Lynch says the Justice Department is “working closely with law enforcement to develop national, consistent standards for collecting this kind of information.”
The newspaper cites efforts by New York Police, California’s Attorney General and police agencies in Texas that have established policies to improve accountability – particularly in cases where police used deadly force.
Until recently, the amount of available data on such incidents was sparse, inconsistent and largely unregulated.
The information void has largely worked against both the police and the communities they serve.