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Senate Passes Blumenthal Bill To Require States To Report Number Of People Who Die In Police Custody Each Year

(Washington, D.C.) – U.S. Senator Richard Blumenthal (D-Conn.) today applauded last night’s Senate passage of the Death in Custody Reporting Act, bipartisan legislation he sponsored to require states to report to the U.S. Department of Justice how many individuals die each year while in police custody or during the course of an arrest. The House of Representatives approved the Death in Custody Reporting Act by voice vote on December 12, 2013, and the bill now goes to the President for his signature.

“Tragic controversies in Ferguson and Staten Island have undercut trust and understanding between law enforcement and the communities they serve,” said Sen. Blumenthal. “Thousands have taken to the streets to protest what they see as unpunished criminal conduct by police. Alarmingly, on an issue this profoundly important and potentially explosive, there is no reliable data on the overall scope of the problem. The stark, staggering fact is that the nation has no reliable idea how many Americans die during arrests or police custody each year. This legislation will fix that unacceptable factual gap. It will ensure that the nation knows exactly how many Americans die in custody, and it will give the information needed to strengthen trust at every level.” 

Rep. Bobby Scott (D-Va.), the sponsor of the House version of the bill, said: “It is clear that the federal government needs to exercise greater oversight of federal, state and local law enforcement personnel to ensure that they are protecting and serving our citizens. To aid in that measure, we need data on deaths that occur within our criminal justice system.  Without accurate data, it is nearly impossible to identify variables that lead to an unnecessary and unacceptable risk of individuals dying in custody or during an arrest.  The passage of the Death in Custody Reporting Act will make this information available, so policymakers will be in a position to enact initiatives that will reduce incidences of avoidable deaths in our criminal justice system.  I appreciate the assistance of Senator Blumenthal and Senator Paul in working with me to pass this important bill before the end of this Congress.”

Senate Judiciary Committee Chairman Patrick Leahy (D-Vt.) said: “At a time when our Nation is having an important conversation about police encounters that result in the loss of life, we know that hundreds of police-related deaths are unaccounted for in federal statistics. Too many communities across our country are losing faith in our justice system.  This bill provides a step towards accountability, and it is my hope that it may ultimately lead to restoring some measure of trust in these communities.” 

Sen. Rand Paul (R-Ky.), a cosponsor of the Senate bill, said: "Passage of this bill is an important step in Congress assessing and reforming our criminal justice system. As a result, we will for the first time get a true picture of the extent and circumstances of deaths in the criminal justice system. I congratulate Rep. Scott and Sen. Blumenthal on passing this bill and will continue working with them on other necessary reforms."