Examining Issues Regarding Use of Force

Improving the National Collection of Law Enforcement Use of Force Data

Cynthia Barnett-Ryan & Shelley S. Hyland

Lawmakers, practitioners, the media and other stakeholders have noted the need for a comprehensive national data collection that captures the prevalence and circumstances of use of force. The collection of use of force statistics has been mandated as a responsibility of the Attorney General since the passage of the Violent Crime Control and Law Enforcement Act of 1994. The Deaths in Custody Reporting Act (DICRA 2000 and 2013) added additional responsibilities by requiring information collected on the deaths of any individuals who are detained, under arrest, or in the process of being arrested. As agencies under the Department of Justice, the Federal Bureau of Investigation (FBI) and the Bureau of Justice Statistics (BJS) have developed data collections to address these needs. However, these past efforts are not without limitations. Currently, the FBI and BJS are leading efforts to improve upon existing collections to obtain needed data on use of force incidents. This presentation will provide a summary of the collections maintained by these two agencies and their plans for providing national estimates of law enforcement use of force in a coordinated approach.

Symposium Presentation

Exploring the Utility of Force Factors for Community Engagement about Use of Force

Matthew J. Hickman & Robert Scales

Presenting the public with information about the distribution of force incidents in terms of their proportionality creates an opportunity for engagement about use of force, and encourages discussion about cases that fall in the “tails” of the distribution.  One method that is particularly well suited for this purpose is the force factor, which summarizes in a single numeric score the extent to which officer force is proportional to suspect resistance in particular incidents, as well as across a collection of incidents.  We will present a dashboard tool created for police departments that enables both internal review and analysis of use of force, as well as external reporting of aggregate information.  Force factors for a sample of the 80 departments in the database will be presented, representing the content analysis of over 8,000 official reports of use of force.  We will present summary statistics for these agencies, along with several examples of how force factors can be reported to the public (for example, in annual reports).  Finally, we will outline a model process for engaging the community in discussions about the distribution of force. 

Symposium Presentation