Four years later, still no numbers on deaths in police custody
It is one thing to issue an order. It is quite another to make sure that order is followed. It was four years ago when Congress ordered the Department of Justice to compile information about those who die in the custody of police. The directive came on the heels of public outrage over the fatal shooting of an unarmed black man by police in Ferguson, Missouri. So, four years later, what have we learned? Unfortunately, nothing. Despite the congressional order, the Department of Justice has yet to implement a system for collecting the data. Meanwhile, people continue to die in police custody, and a rise in jail suicides has renewed interest in the law, and the delay of its implementation. Collecting the data could be important, and shed new light on why people are dying in the custody of law enforcement. Identifying patterns could help identify policies to prevent deaths during police encounters or behind bars. The fact is, until this data is compiled, we continue to have no way of knowing how many people are dying, or under what circumstances. And until we do, we have no way to prevent it. We need the data in order to begin addressing the problem. Figuring out how to compile the data can’t be that hard. Congress needs to light a fire under the Department of Justice and demand this data be gathered, and shared with the public. Because until that happens, little is likely to change.