In 2022, President Joe Biden signed an executive order commanding federal law enforcement agencies to update their policies on use of force. In February, DHS updated its use-of-force policy to comply with the order. This updated policy limited the use of no-knock entries, required more frequent training for officers and staff, and banned the use of chokeholds unless deadly force was absolutely necessary.
During April 2022 to July 2023, the Government Accountability Office (GAO) audited four DHS agencies, Customs and Border Protection, the Federal Protective Service, Immigration and Customs Enforcement, and the Secret Service, in order to survey their compliance with the policy.
In a report, GAO found that DHS consistently under-reported use of force incidents. For example, in a situation where use of force is used multiple times, DHS only reports it as one count of force, rather than counting each individual incident. In one case involving the Federal Protective Service, the FPS “counted 27 separate use of forces across 15 reports as a single incident”.
After the report’s finding, GAO made two recommendations to DHS. First, it called on the agency to create a guide on how its agencies should submit data for incidents where force is used multiple times. Secondly, it recommended that the secretary of DHS create and execute a plan in order to analyze the data submitted by the agency.
In July, DHS agreed to follow the office’s recommendations, stating it would create a plan to analyze data by the end of 2023, issue guidance on its reporting by the beginning of 2024, and fully complete the data analysis on the use-of-force by 2025.
“Law Enforcement: DHS Should Strengthen Use of Force Data Collection and Analysis.” Washington: U.S. Government Accountability Office, July 24, 2023. https://www.gao.gov/products/gao-23-105927.
Lacy, Akela. “Federal Law Enforcement Agencies Routinely Undercount Use-of-Force Incidents.” The Intercept, July 27, 2023. https://theintercept.com/2023/07/27/dhs-use-of-force/.