The FBI's system for tracking fatal police shootings is a “travesty,” says a senior FBI official, and the agency will replace it by 2017, dramatically expanding the information it gathers on violent police encounters in the U.S., the Washington Post reports. The new effort will go beyond tracking fatal shootings and, for the first time, track any incident in which an officer causes serious injury or death to civilians, including through the use of stun guns, pepper spray and even fists and feet. “We are responding to a real human outcry,” said Stephen Morris, assistant director of the FBI's Criminal Justice Information Services Division. “People want to know what police are doing, and they want to know why they are using force. It always fell to the bottom before. It is now the highest priority.” The FBI's efforts come after a year of national focus on fatalities and injuries at the hands of police, with wide frustration over the lack of reliable data.
Morris said the data will also be “much more granular” than in the past and will probably include the gender and race of officers and suspects involved in these encounters, the level of threat or danger the officer faced, and the types of weapons wielded by either party. The data also will be collected and shared with the public in “near real-time,” as the incidents occur, Morris said, instead of being tallied in aggregate at the end of each year. David Klinger, a former police officer and professor at the University of Missouri at St. Louis, who has advocated for better data for more than a decade, said, “The devil is in the details. When agents of the state put bullets downrange in citizens, we need to know about that. In a representative democracy, we need to know about that. We are citizens, not subjects. We also need to understand the circumstances of the shootings, so we spot trends, so we can improve training.” The Post is maintaining its own database of fatal police shootings, counting 913 so far this year.