Lynch outlines Justice Dept. plan to collect use-of-force data

Lynch outlines Justice Dept. plan to collect use-of-force data
© Greg Nash
U.S. Attorney General Loretta Lynch on Thursday praised the Obama administration's new plan to collect use-of-force data by police, saying it's a vital tool in the effort to stem violent confrontations — and renew eroding trust — between law enforcement and the communities they serve.
"In talking about law enforcement and civilian interactions, if you don't have a sense of the numbers, of the types of interactions ... [then] it's very, very hard to prescribe a problem and find a solution for it," Lynch told an audience at Georgetown University's Institute of Politics and Public Service in Washington. 
Lynch said the new national database aims to gather "all types" of police-civilian interactions, including non-lethal confrontations like traffic stops, allowing federal law enforcers to monitor trends and any regional discrepancies. 
"Are they on the rise? Are they consistent with where they've been before? ... You want to know, how does that compare to last year or the year before?" she said. "Having that kind of data will help us not only see the problem," but also know how to address it.
The new Justice Department plan, the contours of which were released earlier in the day, aims to fill gaps created by a 2014 law that requires state, local and tribal authorities to report all fatal confrontations involving law enforcement, but doesn't include the same mandate for non-fatal interactions, even when they involve the use of force.
In response, the DOJ plans to launch a voluntary pilot program early next year encouraging a much broader range of data submission. 
The move arrives amid an emotional national debate over the appropriate use of force by police — a debate fraught with racial undertones following a long string of fatal shootings by police officers against black civilians, many of which have been caught on video.
The DOJ hopes to make the expanded information available both to the general public and to researchers working to drive policy reforms, Lynch said Thursday.
"We're looking for ways to make it as public as possible," she said.
The department has been under fire in recent days after revelations that a top staffer in Hillary ClintonHillary Diane Rodham ClintonDemocratic debates are magnet for lobbyists NYT editorial board endorses Warren, Klobuchar for Democratic nomination for president Sanders v. Warren is just for insiders MORE's presidential campaign had been in contact with DOJ officials about open records lawsuits targeting the Democratic presidential nominee's use of a private email server while she served as secretary of State. 
Donald TrumpDonald John TrumpSanders apologizes to Biden for supporter's op-ed Jayapal: 'We will end up with another Trump' if the US doesn't elect progressive Democrats: McConnell impeachment trial rules a 'cover up,' 'national disgrace' MORE, the Republican nominee, has pounced on the news, accusing the DOJ of "colluding" with the Clinton campaign to help her weather the fallout from charges that she mishandling classified information at threat to national security.
Asked about the "appropriateness" of the communications between the DOJ and the Clinton campaign, Lynch punted.
"I'm aware of those press reports," she said. "That issue is about a lawsuit that's been pending for some time [and involved] a request for publicly available information. People often do make those requests for publicly available information.
"I don't have any more news for you on that."