WASHINGTON—The FBI will have up and running within two years a database that tracks instances of police use of deadly force, FBI Director James Comey told members of Congress on Wednesday.
The database is intended to capture how often police officers kill citizens and to correct a record-keeping gap that Comey said has resulted in uninformed conversations, based on anecdotes and not facts, about use of force. Demands for more complete records have grown in the past two years amid a series of high-profile deaths at the hands of police officers.
“Everybody gets why it matters,” Comey said of the database at an oversight hearing of the House Judiciary Committee.
Republican lawmakers repeatedly grilled Comey on the FBI’s handling of the now-closed investigation into Hillary Clinton’s use of a private email server as secretary of state, questioning him on why the Justice Department granted immunity to her former chief of staff.
It was the second time in two days that Comey has faced questions from members of Congress. He is the sole witness as the House Judiciary Committee reviews the FBI’s performance in what is likely to be the agency’s final oversight hearing this year.
Comey told a Senate panel Tuesday that the FBI is transparent about mistakes, but under questioning from Republicans he offered little new information about the Orlando nightclub massacre or the Manhattan bombing.
The FBI has said it investigated Orlando gunman Omar Mateen a few years before the June shooting and interviewed him as part of that probe. The FBI in 2014 also looked into Ahmad Khan Rahami, the Afghan-born U.S. citizen accused in the Sept. 17 explosion, but found nothing that tied him to terrorism.
Two GOP senators, Rand Paul of Kentucky and Kelly Ayotte of New Hampshire, said they were alarmed that both individuals had at one point been on the FBI’s radar but were not intercepted.
Comey pushed back against the criticism, telling Paul that he had his facts wrong in characterizing the FBI’s investigations into both Mateen and Rahami. He said he had commissioned a review of the FBI’s interactions with Mateen, who killed 49 people inside Pulse nightclub, and would be doing the same with Rahami.
He declined to discuss specifics of the Rahami case since it’s pending in court.
Comey said agents granted immunity to Cheryl Mills, Clinton’s former chief of staff, because they wanted to inspect her laptop as part of the investigation into Clinton’s private email server. The immunity deal was limited to information contained on her laptop, Comey said.
Republicans have assailed Comey’s decision not to prosecute Clinton, the Democratic nominee for president, accusing her of mishandling classified information.
“It defies logic and the law that she faces no consequences for jeopardizing national security,” said House Judiciary Committee Chairman Bob Goodlatte of Virginia.
Comey also is likely to be grilled about a former State Department employee who helped set up the email server. The House could vote as soon as Thursday on a resolution to hold computer specialist Bryan Pagliano in contempt of Congress.