The U.S. Justice Department is continuing to collect data on people’s deaths in the presence of law enforcement officers even though Congress has failed to reauthorize the law seeking such data. In the most recent years for which data are available, of the 2,686 such deaths nationally between 2003 and 2006, 1,540 were homicides by police officers, Andrea Burch of the Bureau of Justice Statistics told the BJS/Justice Research and Statistics Association annual conference yesterday in Portland, Maine.
The category accounting for the next highest number of deaths was drug/alcohol intoxication, 317. Burch said her agency is now collecting data for years starting in 2007. Joel Garner, chief of the BJS unit on law enforcement statistics, told the conference that the agency collects data in many significant areas without specific authorization of Congress. The initial data collection on arrest-related deaths was started after passage of the federal Deaths In Custody Reporting Act in 2000. The law expired in 2006; a reauthorization has been approved by the House but not the Senate.