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The FBI admits its system for tracking police violence is a 'travesty'

But can it solve the problem?

Joshua Lott/Getty Images

The Washington Post reported today that the Federal Bureau of Investigation plans to replace its inadequate system for tracking police violence by 2017; an FBI official is calling it a "travesty." "We are responding to a real human outcry," FBI assistant director Stephen L. Morris told the Post. "People want to know what police are doing, and they want to know why they are using force. It always fell to the bottom before. It is now the highest priority." The Post reports that the FBI will begin to collect "much more granular" data about instances of police violence, and more than just shootings; the new system will reportedly track the use of stun guns, pepper spray, and other means that injure or kill civilians.

If the FBI follows through, it would be a huge improvement over the agency's current systems, which leave countless deaths and acts of violence in the shadows. The Washington Post's tireless work this year in documenting police shootings emphasized the federal government's stunning failure to collect data. According to the Post, as of today 913 people have been shot and killed by police this year, including 82 who were unarmed. When the FBI first promised to get better at tracking the data in April, Vox reported that the FBI's data on police violence has "tremendous limitations."

Those limitations have been painfully felt by a national movement against police violence that coalesced following the killing of Michael Brown in Ferguson, Missouri last year. And while Morris' language is forceful, the FBI may have a difficult time keeping its latest promises. The Post reports that the new system will still be voluntary for local police departments. "We will be relying on peer pressure and financial incentives," Morris said.

But at least it will be easier for police to submit reports. Morris told the Post he had experts working on "something like a Turbo Tax form."