Getting information on the use of force by police isn’t easy, thanks to the U.S. Department of Justice, which has been largely “useless” in collecting accurate statistics on the issue.
The Justice Department was first told more than two decades ago to gather data on excessive use of force by police. But it has been unable to get reliable data from state and local agencies, which is why The New York Times called the department’s data collection “almost useless.”
“It’s a national embarrassment,” Geoffrey P. Alpert, a University of South Carolina criminology professor who often consults with the Justice Department on its studies, told the Times. “Right now, all you know is what gets on YouTube.”
The problem is police departments don’t use the same reporting standards. Some have combined the accounts of officers punching someone with the times they have shot someone. Some big-city departments claim they don’t collect data on the use of force, while others, such as departments in New York, Houston, Baltimore and Detroit, balked at sharing it, according to the Times.