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FBI is trying to track use of force, but most law enforcement agencies aren't participating

The FBI said 60 percent of agencies nationwide haven't sent in their data.

The FBI is trying to track the use of force for the first time, but 60 percent of law enforcement agencies haven’t sent in their data. 

The FBI announced in 2018 it would start collecting national use of force data on Jan. 1, 2019.

The FBI is only trying to track the most extreme uses of force -- when someone dies, is seriously hurt or if an officer or deputy shoots a gun.

It might sound simple, but right now no one is officially tracking that information. That means we have no national data that can answer the question: How often do officers use force against minorities vs. white people?

Pinellas County Sheriff Bob Gualtieri is a member of the task force that designed the FBI’s new database.

“We’ve got to get it out there. We have to be transparent. We have to be willing to provide the information and data. And if we don’t, then it breeds skepticism – rightfully so,” Gualtieri said.

Participation is voluntary. So far, 40 percent of agencies nationwide have reported their uses of force to the FBI.

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“If they didn’t hit that 40 percent – and that was required by the OMB, the Office of Management and Budget – they wouldn’t even let the FBI publish until they hit 40 percent. Forty percent’s not a good number. In fact, it’s poor. But the federal government cannot legally require or compel the 18,000 law enforcement agencies in the United States to report their data,” Gualtieri said.

The FBI tells 10 Investigates it plans to start publishing the use of force data they do have this summer. In 2015, the Bureau of Justice Statistics’ Police-Public Contact Survey found black people were more than twice as likely to experience the threat or use of physical force from law enforcement than white people.

But, there are some big limitations of that data.

The numbers don’t come from the police. Instead, the data is based on surveys with people who had an interaction with the police.

Those surveys did not include fatal use of force.

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