ACLU Applauds New National Law Enforcement Accountability Database But Identifies Its Significant Shortcomings

December 18, 2023 4:30 pm

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WASHINGTON — The Biden administration today launched a National Law Enforcement Accountability Database, a collection of records aimed at bringing transparency to and documenting instances of police misconduct. While we applaud the administration’s efforts to take steps to address this urgent and important issue, the database falls short of the promises made by President Biden in his campaign and 2022 executive order on policing.

The database documents instances of federal law enforcement misconduct, including criminal convictions, suspensions and terminations, civil judgments, resignations while under investigation, and sustained disciplinary action based on serious misconduct. It requires federal law enforcement agencies to provide information about misconduct, but would not bar an individual with a record of misconduct from being hired or penalize agencies for hiring them. Also, the database is not available to the public, only includes the last seven years of records, and is entirely voluntary for state and local law enforcement agencies to participate.

Nina Patel, ACLU Senior Policy Counsel, issued the following statement in regards to the database:

“Today’s launch of a non-public federal police misconduct registry is a small step towards accountability, but we need more to address the systemic harms. The reality of policing in America is that the police have the de facto power to stop anyone, at any time, for any reason, and for Black people in particular, the encounter can be deadly. We should believe communities when they say they are being subjected to police misconduct and hear them when they are asking for prevention and solutions to a lack of economic and educational opportunities. Public safety encompasses the freedom from police violence. To achieve such an end requires data collection of federal law enforcement misconduct, and it requires legal accountability at the state and local level for misconduct and a commitment to invest in communities that have been historically overpoliced and underserved.”

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