Attorney General

States not reporting deaths in police custody are still getting DOJ funds

  • Print


Several law enforcement agencies are not reporting deaths in custody to a Justice Department program, despite the risk of losing federal funding.

The Death in Custody Reporting Act of 2000 requires that states submit the name, age, race, sex, along with the circumstance of the death for each decedent, the Daily Beast reports. The program relies on voluntary reporting, and it hasn’t accounted for approximately half of law enforcement homicides, the Daily Beast reports.

Two years ago, Congress reauthorized the law with an addition that states failing to report police killings and deaths in custody to the Justice Department could lose 10 percent of federal law enforcement grants. A group of 67 civil rights organizations recently wrote a letter to Attorney General Loretta Lynch, urging her to enforce the cuts, the Guardian reported.

“It will be difficult for [the] DOJ to get an accurate picture of trends in custodial deaths if state and local law enforcement agencies are not held accountable for collecting data after a death occurs,” the Aug. 29 letter read. “The financial penalty is critical to successful implementation of [the 2014 law] as voluntary reporting programs on police-community encounters have failed.”

The program has “methodological limitations” because it relies on voluntary reporting, a 2015 Bureau of Justice Statistics report (PDF) claims. The Daily Beast reports that in 2011, contract researchers began using web searches to find information about people who died in police custody.

Georgia has never submitted any information to the program. And in many years between 2003 and 2011, Arkansas, Louisiana, Maryland, Mississippi, Montana, Nebraska, Nevada, New Mexico, North Carolina, Oklahoma, Tennessee, Wisconsin, Wyoming and Washington, D.C., did not send reporting to the program.

For 2016, Georgia has received $5.3 million in Justice Assistance Grants, the Daily Beast reports. And Wyoming, which has not reported deaths in custody data since 2003, received more than $530,000 in JAG money this year.

Give us feedback, share a story tip or update, or report an error.