Data on police use of force

I remember back when I was a quality manager.  I wanted to identify and fix EVERY problem that our customers had.  We had a handy database to log the issues in to keep track of them, and it was very helpful in analysis of trends.

The problem was that not only me, but also my boss, was judged on the frequency and severity of the problems entered into this system.  This was obviously a huge obstacle to my goal, because not everyone was as focused on actually reducing quality issues as they were on reducing the reported number of quality issues.

Seems pretty obvious to me that you can’t ask police to be responsible for monitoring their own use of force.  From St. Louis Post-Dispatch:

ST. LOUIS • Federal, state and local agencies license police officers to kill, if necessary, but nobody counts all the bodies or tracks what, if any, consequences might follow.

The numbers that do exist are hardly complete.

The nation’s approximately 18,000 police agencies are expected to submit specified categories of crime statistics every year to the FBI’s Uniform Crime Reporting program. But inclusion of justifiable homicides is optional.

In 1994, Congress directed the attorney general to “acquire data about the use of excessive force by law enforcement officers” as part of the Violent Crime Control and Law Enforcement Act.

The International Association of Police Chiefs was asked to gather the information. Its last report dates to 2001, the last year for which federal funding was available, said Gene Voegtlin, director of the organization’s partner engagement and outreach.

“The difficulty is that it’s a massive undertaking,” Voegtlin said.

Voegtlin said the advent of better databases and technology might make it easier to collect the information now than it was more than a decade ago. Police chiefs have an intense interest in all use-of-force data, not just shootings, he said.

Not sure what outside agency or group would be best suited to gather up this information.  But without it, everything is just anecdotal.


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