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Eric Holder Calls for Better Data on Force by Police and Officer Attacks

"Fixing this is an idea that we should all be able to unite behind," the attorney general said in a speech Thursday.

Better data should be collected about use of force by the police and about attacks on police officers, Attorney General Eric Holder said Thursday.

In a speech at the Justice Department honoring Martin Luther King Jr., Holder said that there is a need to address officer safety and mistrust of the police because of the use of force.

“The troubling reality is that we lack the ability right now to comprehensively track the number of incidents of either uses of force directed at police officers or uses of force by police,” Holder said. “This strikes many — including me — as unacceptable. Fixing this is an idea that we should all be able to unite behind.”

The FBI tracks the number of justifiable homicides committed by police, but that does not reflect the total number of use-of-force incidents. It also reports the number of law enforcement officers killed or assaulted, but many state and local agencies do not report their own figures.

“It is incumbent upon all of us to protect both the safety of our police officers and the rights and well-being of all of our citizens,” Holder said. “We can, and we must, examine new ways to do both.”

Getting a better picture of both, Holder said, “would represent a commonsense step that would begin to address serious concerns about police officer safety, as well as the need to safeguard civil liberties.”



— Pete Williams