Ever wonder why we don't know how many civilians are killed or hurt by police every year? It is because collecting data on these incidents has not been much of a priority. Few people even noticed the lack of such data until a rash of highly publicized cases of unarmed black men killed by police officers last year.
That has changed dramatically, and even the FBI chief has recently called for better collection of use-of-force cases. But it's not clear it will be a priority for California legislators this session.
A bill to require all California law enforcement agencies to report when someone dies or is hurt when interacting with police died in the Assembly Appropriations Committee this week, presumably because of the estimated $3.3-million price tag for state corrections to comply.
Just how many forms are we talking about here? This estimate alone seems to support the need for better data.
There is another data collection bill still active. But AB 71 by Assemblyman Freddie Rodriguez (D-Pomona) is narrower. It focuses only on shootings by police and sheriff's departments, not corrections or other causes of death or injury. It calls for annual reports. Still, it might have a better shot at passage.
We need good data to determine whether there is really a problem of police using force, or it's a perception that's widely out of proportion with reality. Hopefully, this is the year we will start getting some.