DOJ Launches National Law Enforcement Accountability Database
The new database documents federal law enforcement misconduct to improve police transparency and accountability.
WASHINGTON, D.C. — The U.S. Department of Justice (DOJ) last week launched the National Law Enforcement Accountability Database (NLEAD), a centralized repository of official records documenting instances of misconduct as well as commendations and awards for federal law enforcement officers. The NLEAD is accessible only to authorized users to help determine suitability and eligibility of candidates for law enforcement positions. As required by President Joe Biden’s Executive Order, on an annual basis, the DOJ’s Bureau of Justice Statistics (BJS) will publish a public report containing aggregated and anonymized data to maintain transparency and accountability.
“No law enforcement agency — including the Justice Department — can effectively do its work without the trust of the public,” said Attorney General Merrick B. Garland in a press release. “This database will give our law enforcement agencies an important new tool for vetting and hiring officers and agents that will help strengthen our efforts to build and retain that trust.”
The NLEAD connects all federal law enforcement agencies under one accountability infrastructure. The DOJ claims that with the NLEAD, law enforcement agency hiring personnel will have more accurate and complete information about misconduct in a job candidate’s past. Agencies can then make more informed hiring decisions, which enhances both accountability and public safety.
The database will include records of instances of misconduct for current and former federal law enforcement officers that occurred over the past seven years, and the DOJ will conduct regular periodic compliance reviews to assess data quality.
In order to support similar law enforcement officer accountability efforts at the state and local level, the DOJ has also partnered with the International Association of Directors of Law Enforcement Standards and Training (IADLEST). IADLEST’s National Decertification Index (NDI) is a national registry of law enforcement de-certification and revocation actions relating to officer misconduct that is currently used by all 50 states and the District of Columbia. The DOJ is working with IADLEST to expand the NDI to include additional categories of information required by the executive order. The Department is also awarding discretionary grants in a manner that it says supports and promotes the adoption of the Executive Order’s policies by state and local agencies, including language outlining priority consideration for applicants who use the NDI as part of their hiring and vetting of new officers.
The American Civil Liberties Union (ACLU) applauded the launch of NLEAD but had some criticism of the new database.
“It requires federal law enforcement agencies to provide information about misconduct, but would not bar an individual with a record of misconduct from being hired or penalize agencies for hiring them,” the ACLU said in a statement. “Also, the database is not available to the public, only includes the last seven years of records, and is entirely voluntary for state and local law enforcement agencies to participate.”
More information on NLEAD can be found here.
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