Right now, the U.S. federal government doesn’t know how many people die in its custody each year, despite Congress passing a law that specifically mandated the Justice Department collect and report data on deaths in custody.
In 2014, after teenager Michael Brown was killed by police in Ferguson, Missouri, Congress reauthorized the Death in Custody Reporting Act (DCRA). But despite increased national attention on police brutality in the near-decade since the law was passed, little has changed.
We should be clear: DCRA alone will not end violence by law enforcement. But it is a critical first step. Quality data on in-custody deaths is a powerful tool for identifying and addressing the causes of those deaths. The Justice Department must act now.
Too many people die in custody. And we know police violence disproportionately impacts Black and Brown people. When the nonprofit Mapping Police Violence reviewed data from the last 10 years, they found that Black and Indigenous people are almost three times more likely than white people to be killed by police. And those are the deaths we know about. To address the serious problem of deaths in custody, DOJ must first collect this data and make it public. There is no accountability for deaths that go uncounted.