Press Releases

Cohen Reintroduces Legislation to Collect Data on Police Shootings

Press release from the Office of U.S. Rep. Steve Cohen, D-Tenn. 09; January 13, 2015:

Congressman will also introduce legislation requiring police shootings to be prosecuted by independent agency

[WASHINGTON, DC] – Congressman Steve Cohen (TN-09) today reintroduced his National Statistics on Deadly Force Transparency Act, which would close a loophole in federal law that prevents adequate collection of comprehensive national data regarding justified and unjustified fatal interactions with police. Without accurate and comprehensive data, racial disparities, abuses, and instances of excessive use of force are difficult to identify and unlikely to be fixed.

“Before we can truly address the problem of excessive force used by law enforcement we have to understand the nature of the problem and that begins with accurate data,”said Congressman Cohen. “I am introducing this bill so that our country can do a better job of honestly assessing racial disparities and other problems in our justice system and begin to fix them. It is a step in the right direction and a critical component of the healing process.”

The 1994 Crime Bill requires the Attorney General to collect statistics on the use of excessive force, but the law does not provide any enforcement mechanism nor does it adequately define what “excessive force” is. As a result, the federal government has been unable to gather data from many local police departments and there are no reliable statistics on how often law enforcement uses deadly force. Congressman Cohen’s legislation would incentivize states to require local law enforcement agencies to provide data to the Attorney General on:

  • The date of each instance when deadly force was used;
  • The identifying characteristics of the victim and officer involved, including the race, gender, ethnicity, religion and approximate age of the victim;
  • Any alleged criminal behavior by the victim;
  • An explanation, if any, by the relevant law enforcement agency of why deadly force was used;
  • A copy of any use of deadly force guidelines in effect at the time at the law enforcement agency;
  • The nature of the deadly force used, including whether it involved a firearm; and
  • A description of any non-lethal efforts that were taken before deadly force was used.

This data would be made publicly available, but would not disclose any personally identifying information. Congressman Cohen also plans to introduce legislation this year that would require incidents of deadly force used by police to be investigated and, if need be, prosecuted, by an independent actor. Currently, these cases are rarely prosecuted effectively due to an obvious conflict of interest between local police and the prosecuting District Attorney, who relies on a close working relationship with those same police officers to carry out other prosecutorial duties.

Press Releases

TBI Releases First Study on TN Law Enforcement Use of Deadly Force

Press release from the Tennessee Bureau of Investigation; October 7, 2013:

NASHVILLE- The Tennessee Bureau of Investigation today released its first-ever study on law enforcement’s use of deadly force and shooting incidents in Tennessee while in the line of duty. Different from the annual Law Enforcement Officers Killed or Assaulted (LEOKA) report, this report takes an in-depth look at officers who have used force or deadly force with a weapon while protecting Tennesseans and the effect that critical incident had on the officers, their departments and their communities.

The mixed methods research study took a three pronged approach to the issues. First, law enforcement agencies across the state were surveyed about the number of times officers within their departments used deadly force between 2007 and 2011. Second, round table discussions were held where law enforcement leaders provided input on trends, causes, policy and costs of the use of firearms by officers in their respective regions of the state. Lastly, researchers interviewed a dozen officers who had been involved in a shooting incident to gain the perspective of those officers and publish eight of those summarized interviews as case studies.

Law Enforcement Use of Deadly Force 2007-2011 Quick Facts

  • Of the 295 agencies that responded to the survey, 206 were police departments, 75 were sheriff’s departments and the remaining 14 were state departments.
  • Eighty-four agencies experienced at least one officer involved shooting between 2007 and 2011 with a total of 234 officer involved shootings.
  • The majority of the shooting incidents at 140 or approximately 60 percent were large departments with more than 101 sworn personnel. Both small and medium sized agencies each reported about 20 percent of the shooting incidents.
  • Two hundred and seven agencies reported having no officer involved shootings during the time period.
  • Thirty-five of the officers involved in shooting incidents are no longer employed in law enforcement.
  • Seventy-two percent of all agencies received deadly force training at least annually.
  • Of the 234 incidents reported lawsuits were filed in 20 cases and were evenly distributed between small, medium and large agencies.
  • One hundred and sixty-four agencies reported having mandatory post shooting counseling provided to officers.

The study reveals several factors contributing to the use of deadly force incidents including mentally ill subjects, drugs, gangs and the disposal of seized weapons. Another common theme is the importance of firearms training including judgmental training to the law enforcement community as a whole. To read the study in its entirety click here.