Congressman: Government Should Track Police Deadly Force Cases

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Over the past few months, police use of excessive force has been a hot topic across the country with deaths of unarmed black men from Ferguson, Missouri to a Walmart in Ohio to New York City.

These incidents have brought into question whether or not deadly force was necessary and if race played a role in the deaths. But one the one thing that has surprised many people is there is no official database documenting police use of excessive force.

Democratic Congressman Steve Cohen of Tennessee has proposed a bill that would require law enforcement to collect data on deadly force incidents and report it to the Justice Department to be recorded in a national public database.

"When you take all the cases in the country together — which is over a hundred a year — you can draw some conclusions," Cohen told Here & Now's Robin Young about the need for the database.

The data would record both the demographics of the officer and the victim to determine whether there is a racial disparity in deadly force incidents.

In addition, Cohen says Congress is working on a bill to address other issues in the criminal justice process used to bring charges against officers, including the need for an independent prosecutor.

"It's an inherent conflict of interest for the [district attorney] — who generally prosecutes this type of crime — and always has law enforcement officers as witnesses, and the D.A.s are lax to prosecute a law enforcement person," Cohen said.

Cohen says he recognizes the dangers of police work, but he also recognizes that many African-Americans — including those in his district — don't feel comfortable interacting with police.

"I am pro good police. And if there is a bad policeman who uses unnecessary force, they need to be disciplined," Cohen said. "Most cops are great people — community policing needs to be more used so that officers come in contact with people in the neighborhood and are seen as good guys. And they are good guys, but they need to be seen that way."


  • Steve Cohen, Democratic representative for Tennessee's ninth Congressional district. He tweets @RepCohen.

This segment aired on December 31, 2014.



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