FREEDOM OF INFORMATION: The FBI Is Hiding an Unpublished Police Use-of-Force Database From FOIA Requesters

For the past several years, the FBI has been trying to collect information from police departments around the country on their use of force, but it has yet to publish any reports or statistics based on that data because of lackluster participation from law enforcement. Now, a civil rights group says the FBI and Justice Department are stonewalling its attempts to get the underlying reports submitted to the program.

The Leadership Conference on Civil and Human Rights has been trying to obtain raw reports from law enforcement agencies submitted to the FBI's National Use-of-Force Data Collection program. However, the FBI has rejected its Freedom of Information Act (FOIA) requests, and the Justice Department has denied the Leadership Conference's appeal.

The FBI launched the program in 2019 to fill one of the biggest gaps in our understanding of criminal justice in America: how often and where police use force. In the wake of the police killing of Michael Brown in 2014, The Washington Post and several other news outlets and advocacy groups started building their own databases, because the federal government simply didn't track fatal police shootings in any rigorous way, much less routine uses of force like tasings and physical strikes.