As of New Year’s Day, California law enforcement agencies must collect and report information on all police shootings and other serious uses of force.
A new law launches the first statewide collection of such data, providing the state Department of Justice information on all cases in which people are killed or seriously injured by law enforcement officers.
The requirements come amid a national debate over use of force by police following the high-profile slayings of unarmed black men and children in Ferguson, Mo., Cleveland and other cities.
The measure, AB 71, introduced by Assemblyman Freddie Rodriguez (D-Pomona), also requires agencies to report incidents in which civilians seriously injure or kill police officers.
“Collecting data and gathering the context behind the numbers will allow us to determine the extent of the problem, what is contributing to it and how we can solve it,” Rodriguez said.
The document agencies will use to report the data, designed in cooperation with advocacy groups, law enforcement agencies and their associations, includes detailed information about the suspect and the incident, including age, race, whether the person was armed and the reason for the stop, among other information.
The required information on the officer involved in the incident includes age, gender, race, whether the officer was on duty or not, and what type of uniform he or she was wearing at the time.
The data will be made available to the public at the Open Justice initiative’s website. It will include data on people who die in police custody, on arrests and bookings, and about police officers killed or injured on duty.
The additional data can help build trust and improve relations between the public and police, California Atty. Gen. Kamala Harris said in a statement.
“The public and law enforcement need each other to keep our communities safe,” the statement says. “California is leading the nation in promoting accountability through open data, which will strengthen trust between law enforcement and the communities that we are sworn to protect.”
Mark-Anthony Johnson, an activist with the group Dignity and Power Now, said that while transparency is important, the collection of data does little good if efforts are not made to make sure there are consequences for officers who use excessive force.
“I don’t think the information alone is what will create more trust,” Johnson said. “I think actually changing practices — like stopping excessive and lethal force, particularly on black and brown communities — is the real issue.”
“I don’t trust them to report on themselves accurately” because law enforcement agencies have an interest in not accurately documenting the circumstances of these incidents, Johnson said.
Chula Vista Police Chief David Bejarano, president of the CaliforniaPoliceChiefs Assn.,said the organization strongly supported the bill and that the information gathered will improve trust and safety within communities.
“With that goal in mind, and for the benefit of every community, each department will be ready to start collecting this information beginning in January,” he said.
Agencies will be required to submit an annual report to the California Department of Justice beginning Jan 1, 2017. The department will also work with certain agencies to develop a Web-based data collection system that will eventually allow departments to track and report data electronically, the attorney general’s office said.