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Attorney General Calls For Better Data On Police Shootings

Eric Holder, in a speech Thursday, said it was "unacceptable" that there is not accurate data on use of force either by police officers or against officers.

Posted on January 15, 2015, at 2:31 p.m. ET

Larry Downing / Reuters

Attorney General Eric Holder said Thursday that the government should have "better, more accurate data" on the number of citizens killed by police, and how many police officers are killed on duty.

Holder, whose remarks came during a ceremony to honor the Rev. Martin Luther King Jr., did not comment on specific actions the government would take to account for the incidents. He did say that the first step in protecting the safety of both police and citizens was to ensure "better record-keeping on injuries and deaths that occur at the hands of police."

"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."

Currently, the FBI collects data on what it calls "justifiable homicides" by police, the Washington Post reported. In 2013, the FBI reported 461 deaths caused by officers in such homicides. Holder noted on Thursday, however, that reporting such instances is not federally mandated, and not all police departments share the number of police shootings.

"Since the reporting remains optional, and perhaps lacks sufficient incentives, many localities do not provide data. Absent a requirement of injuries and deaths of police officers, many localities fail to report these statistics as well," said Holder. "Fixing this is an idea that we should all be able to unite behind."

Holder's comments come after a year of several high-profile police shootings, including the killing of Michael Brown in Ferguson, Missouri, 12-year-old Tamir Rice in Ohio, and John Crawford in an Ohio Walmart. Two police officers were also killed assassination-style while sitting in their parked patrol car in New York City, prompting a nationwide conversation about attitudes toward police and violence against officers.

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