The U.S. Justice Department on this week announced a new tracking system to collect accurate data on police shootings and in-custody deaths across the country.
The plan should launch early next year and will attempt to fill the longstanding gap in police shooting data, according to the New York Times. The FBI for years has tracked fatal police shootings through its national crime data, but the program has failed to produce an accurate count.
News organizations, including the AJC and the Washington Post, filled some of the gaps the past couple years through a series of investigative reports. The AJC’s Over the Line series published last year produced the most comprehensive data on fatal police shootings in Georgia to date and the news organization has continued to track shootings in the publicly available database.
The AJC found that the state averaged about 30 fatal police shootings per year from 2010 through the end of last year.
The Post series examined shootings nationwide in 2015 and identified 991 people shot and killed by police that year.
The Times reports that the pilot program to begin next year will begin collecting fatal shootings by federal law enforcement agencies as well as local and state agencies across the country. In 2014, Congress adopted a plan that would require local agencies to report fatal encounters with the public. The new plan will also try to gather non-fatal shootings, the Times reports.
Attorney General Loretta Lynch called the collection of this data to be “essential” as the country tries to understand and improve police-community relations.
“The initiatives we are announcing today are vital efforts toward increasing transparency and building trust between law enforcement and the communities we serve,” Lynch said in the department’s release.