Congress enacted the Death in Custody Reporting Act of 2013 (DCRA) to address the lack of reliable information about law enforcement–related deaths and deaths in correctional institutions. The U.S. Department of Justice has made several efforts to respond to the law's provisions and other federal mandates to achieve a comprehensive understanding of the prevalence and characteristics of deaths that occur in law enforcement custody, the RAND Corp. reports. Despite these efforts, no national data collection program describes all deaths in law enforcement custody. The Washington Post publishes an annual compiation of police shooting deaths.
Data are critical to support strategies to reduce such deaths; to promote public safety through appropriate responses to reported crimes, calls for service, and police-community encounters; and to build trust with communities. Developing comprehensive databases on existing law enforcement policies and practices is a more-immediate need than developing additional training programs or strategies, the report says. It says, "There is no clear consensus ... on the inclusionary criteria to use for critical incidents (deaths, serious injuries, or risk of injuries) that occur in law enforcement custody. Law enforcement agencies and other stakeholders disagree on which manners of death should be reported."