Another day, another horrific police shooting. First, Alton Sterling in Baton Rouge, Louisiana and now Philando Castile in Falcon Heights, Minnesota–and both instances recorded on video.
These killings should be a national outrage. Congressional hearings should be conducted. Right now.
In fact, FBI Director James Comey is testifying as I write this…about email.
How I wish, instead, that he was testifying about why data regarding unjustifiable police killings doesn’t exist.
He delivered a speech about it last year at Georgetown University.
The first step to understanding what is really going on in our communities and in our country is to gather more and better data related to those we arrest, those we confront for breaking the law and jeopardizing public safety, and those who confront us. “Data” seems a dry and boring word but, without it, we cannot understand our world and make it better.
How can we address concerns about “use of force,” how can we address concerns about officer-involved shootings if we do not have a reliable grasp on the demographics and circumstances of those incidents? We simply must improve the way we collect and analyze data to see the true nature of what’s happening in all of our communities.
The FBI tracks and publishes the number of “justifiable homicides” reported by police departments. But, again, reporting by police departments is voluntary and not all departments participate. That means we cannot fully track the number of incidents in which force is used by police, or against police, including non-fatal encounters, which are not reported at all.
Without complete and accurate data, we are left with “ideological thunderbolts.” And that helps spark unrest and distrust and does not help us get better. Because we must get better, I intend for the FBI to be a leader in urging departments around this country to give us the facts we need for an informed discussion, the facts all of us need, to help us make sound policy and sound decisions with that information. –FBI Director James Comey
Why not ask Mr. Comey about this speech? Why not pledge to give him the tools he needs both to combat unjustifiable police killings, and influence behavior on the local and state level?
That’s just one of the many questions Members of Congress could be asking today–but aren’t.
Read or watch this important speech.
And remember that you can’t fix what you refuse to define or quantify.