It was a tough year for police.
Shootings of unarmed African-American men in recent years sparked the L.A.-bred Black Lives Matter movement and led to greater scrutiny of cops' actions, particularly when they've been captured on increasingly present video recorders. In too many instances, including the case of Chicago's Laquan McDonald, officers have been caught lying or maintaining a code of silence.
One way to ensure some level of transparency, and to determine if minorities are being shot more than other citizens, is to keep track of police shootings and injury altercations, something that's not really done on a national level.
California Attorney General Kamala Harris reminded police departments across California this week that they will have to start collecting data on shootings and serious altercations starting Jan. 1.
The new requirement is the result of legislation by Assemblyman Freddie Rodriguez of Pomona.
“There is not sufficient data on officer-involved shootings,” he said when he introduced the law. “My bill will increase transparency and accountability.”
Police agencies will have to “begin collecting data on incidents involving the shooting of a civilian by a peace officer, the shooting of a peace officer by a civilian, as well as data on incidents involving use of force by a civilian/peace officer against the other that result in serious bodily injury or death,” states Harris' office.
At the beginning of 2017, the law enforcement departments will have to tally up the results and send them to Sacramento.
The Attorney General's office is developing a pilot program so that some agencies can send specific data — “required data fields that must be submitted” — electronically and, ostensibly, immediately. If it works, all departments will use the system, Harris' office said.
Departments can also access their own data to track shootings and use-of-force incidents, the office stated.
And, starting next year, you, the citizen, will also be able to access this information via the A.G.'s online OpenJustice Dashboard and Data Portal, Harris' people said.
In November British publication The Guardian reported that Los Angeles Police Department shootings nearly doubled compared with the same time in 2014.
News organization KPCC found that nearly a third of people shot by police countywide between 2010 and 2014 because they dropped their hands or reached for a waistband were unarmed. African-Americans were shot by cops at three times the rates of whites and Latinos, the report stated.
More eyeballs on police could improve the situation, restore justice, and maybe even save lives.
“California is leading the nation in promoting accountability through open data,” Harris said, “which will strengthen trust between law enforcement and the communities that we are sworn to protect.”