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DHS Failing to Properly Compile Data of Use-of-Force Incidents

Posted by Sara Cooper | Aug 09, 2023 | 0 Comments

Last year, President Joe Biden had made an executive order that would require federal law enforcement agencies to upgrade their policies regarding use-of-force.

A recent report has come out that has detested that mandate, with the Department of Homeland Security as the country's biggest law enforcement agency not following protocol to accurately input data for incidents that have involved use-of-force.

With the report issued by the U.S. Government Accountability Office, known as GAO, their statement included: “We found the data were not sufficiently reliable for the purposes of describing the number of times agency law enforcement officers used force.”

This was to initially approach police brutality and excessive after the horrendous death of George Floyd in 2020 with national uproar that was demanding accountability from different levels of agencies. In February, the Department of Homeland Security had updated its use-of-force policy that had enforced limitations of applying no-knock entries, frequent training to be a requirement for all staff, and the banning of chokeholds unless permission of deadly force is given to enact.

In alliance with the DOJ policy, the executive order for DHS to follow included that data collection is to be improved and be reported along with agencies' use of force according to The Intercept.

Under the GAO's report, the results showed that many agencies regulated by DHS had been undercounting use-of-force incidents, including Customs and Border Protection, Federal Protective Service, Immigration and Customs Enforcement, and the Secret Service.

Gretta Goodwin, the GAO Director for homeland security and justice, said, “If officers used force multiple times during one event, the agency counted only one instance of force.”

Goodwin continues to say that, “We brought this to their attention, like ‘You're not being transparent, and this is clearly an undercount. We asked them to pay more attention to that and to do an actual count of the use of force.”

For example, Customs and Border Protection has used force on 62 people and inputted it as “a single use-of-force incident.” They have been known to historically inflate data on use-of-force applied to law enforcement in order to make sense of violence used against migrants.

According to the GAO, the DHS has not developed a plan to monitor their use-of-force data they have collected under the renewed policy due to early trends. DHS believes that their collected incidents match with agency protocols, at least what their review boards mentioned.

However, review boards are known to not be transparent with their formations within cases and data collection.

This is in contrast with officer reasonableness that was defined in the SCOTUS case Graham v. Connor in 1989. The ruling was essentially that excessive force demonstrated by a police officer would be judged by “reasonable officer” whom had been in a similar position regarding force incidents, giving much freedom for law enforcement to take advantage of.

Goodwin criticizes review boards and the lack of accountability that DHS takes, questioning, “What are they learning from it? What information, what lessons learned are they taking? And is that affecting how they do the training? Is that affecting any edits or updates they make to their policy?”

Recommendations from the GAO report given to the Department of Homeland Security included “clarifying guidance on how agencies compile their data for incidents when multiple efforts of force are used and a plan to be made by the Secretary of Homeland Security to properly analyze use-of-force data,” mentioned by The Intercept.

GAO will give updates on these recommendations in 6 months, and DHS has responded the plan for monitoring data will be created by December 2023, guidance on reporting in January 2024, and the completion of the analysis buildup in 2025.

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