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DOJ tests new data-gathering method to more accurately count deaths in police custody


In March of 2015, an official assessment of the Department of Justice statistical program that reports “arrest-related deaths” — a program that has been in place since 2003 — found that the program identified only between 59 and 69 percent of the estimated actual total of fatal interactions with police in 2011.

  • Arrest-Related Deaths Program Assessment: Technical Repor by Duren Banks, et al., RTI International, (NCJ 248543) March 2015.

    This variability in approach [to collection of data on deaths that occur during the process of arrest in the United States] has led to questions about whether these data collection methods were capable of capturing the universe of arrest-related deaths and law enforcement homicides in particular. BJS requested RTI International to conduct an assess ment of the ARD program.

A new program is being tested that would gather data from public sources such as online news. This crowdsourcing and fact-checking data-gathering is an attempt to redesign the existing DOJ program.

  • Number of Deaths in Police Custody Higher than Media Reports: DOJ Data, By Aliya Sternstein NextGov (January 14, 2016).

    This spring, Justice Department-funded data scientists will present findings from a pilot project that, in essence, crowdsources facts on police homicides. So far, the number of possible deaths during and after police pursuit is far higher than the figures tabulated by both journalists and activists appalled by the longtime paucity of data on excessive use-of-force.

    The project is part of a new project by the Bureau of Justice Statistics focused on capturing an official record of the whole “universe” of law enforcement homicides. The agency has assigned part of a new task to an artificial intelligence tool that crawls online news for the most relevant, potential cases of civilians dying during arrests. Soon, bureau data analysts will compare the reports to local agency records.