Home » Oversight report finds flaws in DOJ data collection of deaths in police custody

Oversight report finds flaws in DOJ data collection of deaths in police custody

by The Grio

A civilian oversight report reveals that deaths in custody go underreported despite a law on the books that requires law enforcement agencies to report such data to the Department of Justice. 

The Death in Custody Reporting Act (DCRA), signed into law by President Barack Obama in 2014, requires federal, state and local law enforcement agencies across the country to report data on all deaths that occur behind bars or while in police custody to the Department of Justice. The law also requires the DOJ to publish a report to Congress after analyzing the data to suggest ways to reduce deaths in custody.  

DCRA was originally passed in 2000 to require that only state and local law enforcement agencies provide a record of deaths in custody, but it expired in 2006. President Obama signed into law a new version, expanding the requirement to federal agencies. 

But a report recently released by the Leadership Conference Education Fund and the Project on Government Oversight (POGO) found that despite being signed into law in 2014 — more than eight years ago — the DCRA has failed to be adequately implemented, which the report concludes as “both a moral and administrative failure.”

Their research, titled “A Matter of Life and Death: The Importance of the Death in Custody Reporting Act,” concludes that while federal agencies have reported required data since 2016, the data remains flawed. It also notes that the DOJ has not successfully collected state and local data and actually delayed doing so until 2020.

Maya Wiley, president and CEO of the Leadership Conference, pointed out during a media briefing last week that the report is timely.

“It was only about six weeks ago that Tyre Nichols was brutally beaten in the custody of five Memphis police officers, later dying of those devastating injuries,” she said. “But eight years ago, in 2015, Sandra Bland was found hanged in her jail cell….

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