May 25, 2017

Van Hollen, Booker, Castro Introduce Legislation to Improve Public and Police Safety through Increased Law Enforcement Transparency

Today, U.S. Senators Chris Van Hollen (D-MD) and Cory Booker (D-NJ) introduced legislation to bring transparency and accountability to law enforcement agencies across the nation with the aim of reducing the use of force by and against police officers. The Police Reporting Information, Data and Evidence (PRIDE) Act of 2017 would require states and Indian tribes to provide quarterly reports to the U.S. Justice Department regarding any incident during which a civilian is shot or seriously injured by a law enforcement officer, and any incident during which a law enforcement officer is shot or seriously injured by a civilian. Currently, the federal government does not have any uniform use of force reporting requirements, and it does not mandate the reporting of incidents during which law enforcement officers are seriously injured or killed. Instead, there are several voluntary incident reporting programs overseen by different federal agencies, resulting in incomplete data regarding the use of force by and against law enforcement. Congressman Joaquin Castro (TX-20) introduced companion legislation in the House.

"Both our communities and law enforcement will benefit from greater transparency and accountability," said Sen. Van Hollen. "To fully address the issues of safety, trust, and equality in law enforcement, we first must understand the extent of the challenges we face, which is why the PRIDE Act is an essential part of the strategy to keep our communities and officers safe."

"We can't address the most persistent challenges to protecting public safety and ensuring justice without reliable data," said Sen. Booker. "Data on use of force incidents between law enforcement and civilians is badly incomplete, making it difficult to seek solutions driven by facts. This bill will improve measures of accountability and transparency in reporting use of force incidents and provide much needed information that will help shape policies to better protect both police and the public."

"In Texas and other states across the nation, clashes between civilians and officers have led to strained community-law enforcement relations. The more information that's collected about these incidents, the better equipped we'll be to prevent them from happening again in the future," said Rep. Castro. "Uniform, thorough, transparent records on the use of force by and against police officers will inform policymaking and improve public safety. The better we understand the circumstances surrounding these violent incidents, the more effective we'll be in healing our communities and saving lives."

The PRIDE Act requires that incident reports to the Department of Justice include, at minimum, the following information:

  • The national origin, sex, race, ethnicity, age, physical disability, mental disability, English language proficiency housing status, and school status of each civilian against whom a law enforcement officer used force;
  • The date, time, and location, including zip code, of the incident;
  • The number of officers and civilians involved in the incident;
  • Whether the location of the incident allows for the open-carry or concealed carry of a firearm;
  • Whether the civilian was armed, and if so, the type of weapon he or she had;
  • The reason force was used;
  • A description of injuries sustained as a result of the incident;
  • The type of force used against the officer, the civilian, or both, including the types of weapons used; and
  • A brief description of the circumstances surrounding the incident, including the type of force used by all persons, the legitimate police objectives necessitating force, the resistance encountered, the efforts by law enforcement to de-escalate the situation to avoid the use of force or minimize the level of force used, and why efforts were not utilized to avoid force or de-escalate the situation, if applicable.

The Attorney General must publish an annual report on this data, make it publicly available, and conduct audits to ensure compliance.

The bill also includes a grant to help smaller law enforcement agencies - those that employ fewer than 100 officers - comply with the reporting requirements. The grant money can also be used to provide use of force training, such as crisis intervention methods, to law enforcement officers. Additionally, the bill mandates funding penalties for a state or Indian tribe if they do not comply with reporting requirements.