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Homeland Security Agencies Underreport Use Of Force Incidents

Two years after the murder of George Floyd ignited worldwide protests against police brutality, President Biden ordered federal law enforcement agencies to update their policies on use of force. A new report finds that the nation’s largest law enforcement agency ignored the spirit — if not the letter — of that order, reports The Intercept. The Department of Homeland Security has failed to compile data accurately on use-of-force incidents, said a report last week from the U.S. Government Accountability Office (GAO). “We found the data were not sufficiently reliable for the purposes of describing the number of times agency law enforcement officers used force,” the agency wrote.

DHS updated its policy in February to limit use of no-knock entries, require more frequent training, and ban chokeholds unless deadly force is authorized. The changes brought DHS into compliance with Biden’s May 2022 executive order, which required federal law enforcement agencies to align their use-of-force practices with new Department of Justice policy. The order also included guidelines for improved data collection and reporting on federal agencies’ use of force. GAO determined that several DHS agencies have been regularly undercounting use-of-force incidents. From April 2022 to July 2023, GAO audited four DHS agencies: Customs and Border Protection, the Federal Protective Service, Immigration and Customs Enforcement, and the Secret Service. “If officers used force multiple times during one event, the agency counted only one instance of force,” said Gretta Goodwin, a GAO director for homeland security and justice. After an encounter at the border, Customs and Border Protection reported using force on a group of 62 subjects as a single use-of-force incident. GAO’s analysis found that Federal Protective Service officers described using force 146 times in 2021 and 2022, while Federal Protective Service reported only 36 use-of-force incidents. In one case, Federal Protective Service counted 27 separate uses of force across 15 reports as a single incident. “We brought this to their attention, like ‘You’re not being transparent, and this clearly is an undercount,’” Goodwin said. “We asked them to pay more attention to that and to do an actual count of the use of force.”


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