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Reducing Deaths in Law Enforcement Custody: Identifying High-Priority Needs for the Criminal Justice System

NCJ Number
Date Published
24 pages

Since no national data collection program currently describes all deaths that occur in law enforcement custody, to better understand the needs in developing and leveraging the data from a national data collection of law enforcement-related deaths, RTI International and the RAND Corporation, on behalf of the National Institute of Justice, convened a panel of experts to discuss the challenges to conducting a national data collection, to recommend potential solutions to those challenges, and to recommend research and other applications for the collected data.


Through a three-session virtual workshop, participants determined that limiting the scope of data collection to fatal incidents would be insufficient to understand and reduce deaths in law enforcement custody, since there is no clear consensus across reporting legislation and reporting agencies on the inclusionary criteria to use for critical incidents (deaths, serious injuries, or risk of injuries) that occur in law enforcement custody. Although significant, ongoing data collection efforts are underway, there is currently no comprehensive national or state-level reporting on law enforcement-related deaths. Such a system would require law enforcement agencies to report zero deaths when no such deaths occur, which could prove burdensome and resource intensive to capture relatively rare fatal events. Data providers and gatekeepers are concerned about disclosing active case information, respecting individual privacy and releasing data. Recommendations are offered for the development of such a system.


Date Published: January 1, 2022