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Police Use Of Force Data Remains A Mess And The FBI's Involvement Isn't Making Anything Any Better

from the no-one-really-knows-and-those-that-might-now-don't-really-care dept

Trust me, it all goes downhill very fast from the opening statement.

The federal government recently released what some hoped would be the most accurate data on how police departments resolve civilian complaints of police brutality.

"Civilians" were really the only ones holding onto this hope. The FBI -- which has failed for years to collect reliable data on police shootings -- certainly isn't hoping it will ever compile a definitive dataset on cops killing citizens.

The law enforcement agencies who were voluntold to send in this data aren't hoping that, at some point in the distant future, they'll provide enough info that citizens can make informed decisions about their protectors/servants level of trigger-happiness.

Since no one with any power is truly interested in accurate data, it falls to private parties. For everyone else, there's the annual data dumps by the Bureau of Justice Statistics, which don't come anywhere close to telling the whole story about law enforcement use of force.

The report discussed here is the BJS's 2016 report. Working their way backwards from the official stats to the law enforcement agencies that supplied them, the Austin Statesman has found a whole lot of significant discrepancies.

For instance, the survey shows Austin police officers received 20 excessive force complaints in 2015, but Austin police officials said they actually received 22.

And while Austin police data and the survey both show authorities determined none of the complaints that year were sustained, there were some discrepancies. The survey says three complaints were unfounded, three were exonerated and 14 were closed administratively, but Austin police said their records show two complaints were unfounded, two were exonerated and 18 were closed administratively.

That one's a relatively minor blip, but when 4,000 law enforcement agencies are sending in bad stats, the numbers get skewed significantly. In some cases, the 4,000 participants (less than a quarter of all US law enforcement agencies) didn't provide any stats because they simply do not "formally document and store complaints." That was the excuse given by nearly 1,000 of the 4,000 "participating" agencies.

There are those who make it easy to under-report excessive force complaints simply by never bothering to collect this data. Then there are the 2,000 agencies who report obviously wrong numbers.

Of the other 3,000 agencies, two-thirds reported no excessive-force complaints in 2015, including police departments in San Diego and San Jose, Calif.

The San Jose internal affairs unit blamed this incredible discrepancy on the staffer who filled out the BJS form. Apparently, no corrective action was taken and the head of IA was left wondering why someone reporting complaints to the federal government might put down "0" instead of actually trying to get an accurate count. (Yeah it's a real mystery.)

That leaves about 1,000 reports that could be considered reliable. And these reports aren't going to make anyone believe accountability is spreading like wildfire through local law enforcement agencies. Nearly every excessive force complaint filed ends up being discarded.

[O]nly about 7% of formal excessive-force allegations are sustained.

[...]

Nationwide, around 26% of complaints are unfounded; among the rest, 34% end with exoneration and 22% are not sustained.

That's how it stands in the numbers that possibly can be trusted. Police agencies are exonerating their officers 93% of the time. The FBI is stepping up to make this collection more complete, expanding its coverage of police shooting data to cover times where officers shot at people, wounded them, or killed them. That small expansion won't make much difference. Most excessive force allegations don't involve deployments of deadly force. Those that do tend to result in lawsuits, not ignored complaints. The only thing the FBI is doing here is expanding its already-unreliable dataset -- one that tells an incomplete story about US policing as crafted by a few thousand unreliable narrators.

Filed Under: data, fbi, law enforcement, police, use of force


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  • icon
    A-Sbeve-Or-Two (profile), 24 Sep 2019 @ 3:41pm

    reply to this | link to this | view in chronology ]

    • icon
      A-Sbeve-Or-Two (profile), 25 Sep 2019 @ 6:19am

      F.Y.I.

      That’s a link to a short clip. I found that clip to perfectly describe the current police situation.

      ...

      If you didn’t want to click on it, here’s what the video said:

      ”I’m an Abomination!”

      reply to this | link to this | view in chronology ]

  • identicon
    Anonymous Coward, 24 Sep 2019 @ 4:18pm

    That is by design. The police do not want you to know anything about the police all the while demanding that they, the police, know everything about you.

    reply to this | link to this | view in chronology ]

  • identicon
    Anonymous Coward, 24 Sep 2019 @ 6:57pm

    If this is the way to do things...

    The IRS should take a page from the FBI and make filing reports (i.e. tax returns) optional and there should be no penalty for filing false ones.

    reply to this | link to this | view in chronology ]

    • icon
      That One Guy (profile), 24 Sep 2019 @ 7:09pm

      'I know, I was surprised too!'

      'I don't know what to tell you, I was just as surprised when I crunched my own numbers and it turned out the government owed me a tax return of several million dollars! I mean I'm not even a major company!'

      reply to this | link to this | view in chronology ]

  • icon
    That One Guy (profile), 24 Sep 2019 @ 7:13pm

    A careful internal review has found that we are awesome

    Imagine that, when police are allowed to run their own investigations on their own members, the vast majority of claims against them are found to be baseless or wrist-slap worthy at most.

    If I didn't know better I'd almost swear there was some sort of 'conflict of interest' in play where they'd have a vested interest in not holding themselves accountable, but I'm sure the numbers being what they are are simply reflecting how utterly flawless and law-abiding police are.

    reply to this | link to this | view in chronology ]

  • identicon
    Anonymous Coward, 25 Sep 2019 @ 12:24am

    complaining about murder

    didn't provide any stats because they simply do not "formally document and store complaints."

    Are these not murders, rather than "complaints"?

    reply to this | link to this | view in chronology ]

    • identicon
      Anonymous Coward, 25 Sep 2019 @ 9:17am

      Re: complaining about murder

      Are these not murders, rather than "complaints"?

      Due to the presumption of innocence, no—until a court rules otherwise, which is exceedingly rare when the suspect is a cop.

      reply to this | link to this | view in chronology ]

  • This comment has been flagged by the community. Click here to show it
    icon
    anju (profile), 25 Sep 2019 @ 1:23am

    hospital attendant bed

    Tychemed is hospital furniture brand manufacture. Are you looking for buy to hospital beds. Dont wait for anything. click on Tychemed links and get an esay Quote <a href="https://www.tychemed.in/product/hospital-attendant-bed/">hospital attendant bed</a>

    reply to this | link to this | view in chronology ]

    • identicon
      Annonymouse, 25 Sep 2019 @ 4:45am

      Re: hospital attendant bed

      This spam instigated a thought.

      Why not collect the statistics from the hospitals or the insurance companies?

      Do they record not only injuries sustained but the sources thereof during triage for claims purposes.

      reply to this | link to this | view in chronology ]

  • identicon
    Personanongrata, 25 Sep 2019 @ 1:38pm

    Killed by Police

    Killed by Police is an excellent source that has been tracking US police killings since 2013.

    Police Shootings Database – Killed By Police (Updated: Aug, 2019)

    602 People Have Been Shot and Killed by Police in 2019 (Updated: 2019-08-28)

    https://killedbypolice.net/

    reply to this | link to this | view in chronology ]

  • icon
    cattress (profile), 25 Sep 2019 @ 11:07pm

    Typical SOP

    Anyone remember the asset forfeiture database for New York (city or state, can't remember which) where just a basic query would freeze the entire $6 million dollar system? And tracking potentially the only physical evidence of violent rape collected in a special kit proved impossible for many police departments. We're talking about the incredibly basic process of keeping inventory, which could even be outsourced to a private company for a reasonable price, is fucked up in station after station after station.
    And now we think police can and will use some sort of human resources software, or hell, enter relevant information on a spreadsheet, and manage to share that spreadsheet regularly by, say, attaching it to an email? This isn't television folks! CSI has warped your expectations of what the cops are actually capable of.
    Cops and their unions will never allow this data to be collected because they don't ever believe they have done anything wrong to document. They want to keep pretending that that all cops are heroes doing the most dangerous job in the nation, practically for free, being unfairly maligned because of some whiney criminals and those terrorist at the ACLU.

    reply to this | link to this | view in chronology ]


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