A coalition of 67 civil rights groups sent a letter to the Department of Justice demanding police departments be penalized for failing to report deaths in custody.

The practice of reporting these instances is required by law, according to the Death in Custody Reporting Act.

Law enforcement agencies are mandated to document cases like the Laquan McDonald shooting in Chicago. But much like the resistance advocates ran into acquiring this police dash cam video, getting law enforcement agencies nationwide to comply by reporting incidents has proven to be quite difficult.

On average, only one percent of the 18,000 law enforcement agencies in the U.S. report its death in custody incidents.

Sakira Cook, Public Policy Counsel from The Leadership Conference on Civil and Human Rights, told Roland Martin on NewsOne Now that if states do not comply with the law as detailed by the Death in Custody Reporting Act, the federal government could “hold up to ten percent of their federal funds for non-compliance.”

She added, “Without this withholding of federal funding, states will not comply. There will be no enforceable mechanism to ensure that deaths are reported and that this information is collected accurately.”

Martin asked Cook, “What the heck is [the] DOJ doing?” 

Cook explained the Justice Department has issued a proposal based on implementing the statute and said they will review open sourced data, i.e. news outlets collecting data “instead of putting the onus on the state.” 

NewsOne Now panelist Barbara Arnwine, President and Founder of the Transformative Justice Coalition, is offended by the lack of transparency and questioned the number of people being killed by police. “We need that data,” she said, calling the DOJ’s failure to enforce the law as detailed in the Death in Custody Reporting Act an “absolute crime.”

Roland Martin added, “There needs to be pressure put on the Black Attorney General of the United States, because it was Black people who stood up for her to get her appointment. It was Black people who went to the U.S. Capitol to ensure that she got confirmed. It was Black people who voted for this president. It was Black women who voted at a higher rate in 2008 and 2012.”

Martin believes there should be a public demonstration to say to Loretta Lynch, “Do your job, don’t wait on newspapers and President Obama, do your job as well.”

Watch Roland Martin, Sakira Cook, and the NewsOne Now panel discuss the DOJ’s failure to enforce the Death In Custody Reporting Act in the video clip above.

PHOTO CREDIT: Getty

Watch NewsOne Now with Roland Martin, in its new time slot on TV One.

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