Bill would require data on police killings

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Rep. Steve Cohen (D-Tenn.) has introduced legislation requiring the Justice Department to collect data on how many people are killed by police officers.

Reliable data on police shootings due to "excessive force" is not available because the Justice Department doesn't maintain a comprehensive record. The lack of such information has come to light after the high-profile deaths of African-American men by white police officers in Ferguson, Mo., Staten Island, N.Y., and other cities in recent months.

Cohen, a top Democrat on the House Judiciary Committee, argued that access to more information about police shootings is necessary before Congress and local law enforcement can make adequate policy changes.

"Before we can truly address the problem of excessive force used by law enforcement we have to understand the nature of the problem and that begins with accurate data," Cohen said in a statement. 

Under Cohen's measure, local law enforcement agencies would have to provide the Justice Department with detailed data on police shootings. The data would be available to the public without identifying the people involved.

The necessary information would include the date of each encounter where police used deadly force; the race, gender, ethnicity, religion and age of the officer and civilian involved in the altercation; the civilian's alleged crime; an explanation of why lethal force was necessary; and ways the officer tried to resolve the situation before resorting to deadly force.

Cohen introduced the bill on the House's last day in session for the year. He would have to re-introduce it in January for consideration in the new Congress.