More than 60 groups are calling on the Obama administration to sharpen its plan for collecting data on deaths in police custody, reports The Hill. In a letter to Department of Justice officials this week, 67 national and local criminal justice, civil rights, human rights, faith-based, immigrants’ rights, LGBTQ and open-government organizations said the agency needs to strengthen how it plans to implement the Deaths in Custody Reporting Act (DICRA). The 2014 law, which requires police departments across the country to disclose details to the federal government about custodial deaths, was created in response to a troubling lack of reliable data.
The groups claim the DOJ’s plan to implement the rule, however, lacks accountability to ensure state and local police are actually providing the data. They also claim that it fails to condition federal funding on adequate reporting and relies too heavily on media reports instead of police departments for the information. They said the law also lacks clarity on how DICRA applies to federal agencies and fails to clearly define “custody.” Wade Henderson of the Leadership Conference on Civil and Human Rights called the loopholes “cavernous.” “Police departments should report deaths in custody when they happen; it should be that simple,” Henderson said in a statement. “But these regulations make it clear that DOJ would rather bend over backwards to accommodate police departments’ dysfunction or reluctance.”