*Note: This is a draft version of the report until I work out some kinks with image and table formatting.
Figure 1. Map displaying number of officers involved in reports tracked per county for 2010. (clicking the top right corner of this map will bring up an interactive map or view all our maps at www.targetmap.com)
- Misconduct Trending
- Prosecuting Police Misconduct
This is the 2010 National Police Misconduct Statistics and Reporting Project (NPMSRP) Police Misconduct Statistical Report. This report is the result of data captured from January 2010 through December 2010 by the NPMSRP consisting of reports that meet credibility criteria which have been gathered from multiple media sources throughout the United States. For more information about the NPMSRP, the process used to gather data on police misconduct, and other information about our reporting process please visit our FAQ page or About page. You can also review older statistical reports and ancillary reports here.
From January 2010 through December 2010 the National Police Misconduct Statistics and Reporting Project recorded 4,861 unique reports of police misconduct that involved 6,613 sworn law enforcement officers and 6,826 alleged victims.
- 4,861 – Unique reports of police misconduct tracked
- 6,613 – Number of sworn law enforcement officers involved (354 were agency leaders such as chiefs or sheriffs)
- 6,826 – Number of alleged victims involved
- 247 – Number of fatalities associated with tracked reports
- $346,512,800 – Estimated amount spent on misconduct-related civil judgments and settlements excluding sealed settlements, court costs, and attorney fees.
Misconduct by Type
Of the 6,613 law enforcement officers involved in reported allegations of misconduct that met NPMSRP criteria for tracking purposes, 1,575 were involved in excessive force reports, which were the most prominent type of report at 23.8% of all reports. This was followed by sexual misconduct complaints at 9.3% of officers reported then theft/fraud/robbery allegations involving 7.2% of all officers reported. The following chart displays the breakdown of misconduct types by percentage of reports and the number of reports each by type.
Figure 2. Police misconduct by type
Figure 3. Map displaying number of officers involved in excessive force cases within 2010. (clicking on the top right corner of this map will bring up an interactive map or view all our maps at www.targetmap.com)
Of all 1,575 officers involved in reported excessive force complaints, 897 (56.9%) were involved in cases of physical use of force complaints which include fist strikes, throws, choke holds, baton strikes, and other physical attacks. 232 officers (14.7%) were involved in firearm-related excessive force complaints, 166 (10.6%) were involved in taser-related cases, and the remaining officers were involved in other cases involving a combination of force types (13.21%), use of police dogs (1.7%), police vehicles (0.4%), and chemical weapons (2.4%).
Figure 4. Excessive Force by Type
There have been 127 fatalities associated with credible excessive force allegations within 2010, which means approximately 8.1% of reported excessive force cases involved fatalities. Of these excessive force fatalities, 91 were caused by firearms, 19 were caused by physical force, 11 by taser, and 6 by other causes.
*Note: fatalities listed are only those involved in cases where excessive force or unnecessary force was reported. This does not include all fatalities related to police use of force.
Figure 5. Excessive Force Fatalities by Type
Officer-involved sexual misconduct describes an entire subset of police misconduct that includes non-criminal complaints such as consensual sexual activity that occurs while an officer is on-duty, sexual harassment, up to felony acts of sexual assault or child molestation. Sexual misconduct was the second most common form of misconduct reported throughout 2010 with 618 officers involved in sexual misconduct complaints during that period, 354 of which were involved in complaints that involved forcible non-consensual sexual activity such as sexual assault or sexual battery.
Figure 6. Officers involved with sexual misconduct by percentage of incidents involving children or adults.
Of the officers associated with reports of serious sexual misconduct, 51% (180) were involved with reports that involved minors and 49% (174) involved adults.
Figure 7. Alleged victims of officer-involved sexual assaults by age.
However, of the 479 alleged victims of serious sexual misconduct which were tracked, 52% (249) were minors and 48% (230) were adults. This would appear to indicate that minors are victims of alleged serial offenders slightly more often than adults. Of the 354 officers involved with serious sexual misconduct reports, 56 law enforcement officers were involved in allegations where multiple victims were involved.
The Drug War Effect
Per a request from representatives of the Law Enforcement Against Prohibition (LEAP) group, which consists of law enforcement officers who believe current drug policies in the US have failed and are causing more harm than good, we have examined how the drug war impacts police misconduct rates through our statistical analysis. This was a difficult undertaking because some laws and policies enacted as part of the US “war on drugs” have far-reaching impact that extends beyond cases that directly involve illicit drugs. Because of this, we limited our analysis to reports that had some sort of direct correlation to drug policies for this year’s report but may conduct a more thorough analysis at some later date.
According to our 2010 data:
- Approximately 11% of the reports tracked this year involved US drug policies.
- 698 Law enforcement officers were involved in reported misconduct that involved drugs in some way.
- 343 of those law enforcement officers were criminally charged, convicted, or sentenced for those incidents.
- At least 7 lives were lost due to misconduct involving drug laws.
- At least $11,220,000 was spent in civil litigation due to drug law related police misconduct.
Misconduct Per Capita
Figure 8. Map displaying the Police Misconduct Rate by state. (clicking on the top right corner of this map will redirect to an interactive map or view all our maps at www.targetmap.com)
The current US average projected police misconduct rate is an estimated 977.98 officers per 100,000 officers (mean 909.31 per 100k) as calculated using data gathered from all of 2010. This is also a very slight decrease over last year’s estimated average of 980.64 officers per 100k however the 2009 rate was projected using data gathered only from the final three quarters of that year so yearly trending information is still too unreliable for analysis.
Figure 9. Police misconduct rate by state with corresponding number of officers involved per state.
When current data is filtered to examine only incidents that can be classified as violent crimes as specified per the US FBI/DOJ Uniform Crime Reporting standards and then compared with the 2009 FBI/DOJ UCR Crime in the United States report as a per capita general population and per capita law enforcement basis the results indicate that overall violent crime rates are not too divergent between the two population groups with a difference of only 20.1 per 100k point between the two. However, there appear to be some more significant differences at a more granular level with robbery rates for police far below those reported for the general population but sexual assault rates are significantly higher for police when compared to the general population.
Figure 10. Violent Crime Rate comparison between general population UCR data and law enforcement population NPMSRP data.
While the rate of police officers officially charged with murder is only 1.06% higher than the current general population murder rate, if excessive force complaints involving fatalities were prosecuted as murder the murder rate for law enforcement officers would exceed the general population murder rate by 472%.
On a state by state basis, 22 states currently have a police misconduct rate above the US average of 977.98 per 100k. On the opposite end of the spectrum, the states showing the lowest misconduct rates include Kansas with a rate of 295.81, Maine with 355.40, Virginia at 447.52, Arkansas with 467.74 and Iowa with a rate of 568.07 per 100,000.
Here are the 22 states with misconduct rates currently above average:
Officers Reported per 100k officers
Figure 11. States with misconduct rates above the US average.
(Note: This chart includes our “Transparency Index” which is a method under development to rank agencies or states according to how transparent misconduct reporting appears to be in order to determine if data reported is under-reported or closer to actual rates. The current average index is 1.14 and 0.0 is the most transparent.
At the agency level the NPMSRP splits groupings by agency size in order to reduce the effect that small sample sets in agencies with fewer officers might have on the resultant rankings. Currently this split divides agencies into four different groups with the first including agencies with 1,000 sworn law enforcement officers or more. The second grouping includes agencies with between 500 and 999 officers, then 100 to 499, and finally 50 to 99 officers. We do not rank agencies that have fewer than 50 officers since the sample sets for those agencies are too small for reliable comparative statistical analysis.
1000+ Officer Agency Rates
The following chart displays the 20 agencies with 1,000 or more sworn law enforcement officers with the highest misconduct rates for that group of agencies:
|4||Prince George’s County Police||MD|
500 – 999 Officer Agency Rates
The following chart displays the 20 agencies with between 500 to 999 sworn law enforcement officers with the highest misconduct rates for that group of agencies:
|9||WV Highway Patrol||WV|
|20||Anne Arundel County Police||MD|
100 – 499 Officer Agency Rates
The following chart displays the 20 agencies with between 100 to 499 sworn law enforcement officers with the highest misconduct rates for that group of agencies:
|19||St. Joseph County||IN|
50 – 99 Officer Agency Rates
The following chart displays the 20 agencies with between 50 to 99 sworn law enforcement officers with the highest misconduct rates for that group of agencies:
|2||Other MN state agencies||MN|
|10||University of Florida||FL|
|14||East St. Louis||IL|
|17||Grand Traverse County||MI|
|18||University of Central Florida||FL|
Police Misconduct Trending
While the overall US average police misconduct rate appears to be climbing in comparison to both last year’s rate and the previously reported rate 3 months ago it is difficult to see a clear causative factor for the increase and it isn’t clear what type of misconduct is increasing to cause this trend though the number of officers involved in excessive force reports appear to be demonstrating an overall trend increase since the beginning of 2010.
Figure 12. Officers involved in misconduct reports tracked per month.
Figure 13. Officers involved in excessive force reports per month
Figure 14. Officers involved in sexual misconduct reports per month
While overall misconduct appears to be trending higher, disciplinary actions against officers and the number of convictions on criminal charges appear to be relatively flat overall. Also, while conviction rates do not show any correlation with the number of reported officers, internal disciplinary rates do appear to show a very slight matching trend.
Figure 15. Trends for officers reported compared officers disciplined and officers convicted
When examining the trending data on a state by state basis we see that the number of states that appear to have seen an increase in misconduct outnumber states appearing to have a decline by 28 to 24. The largest differentials between 2009 and 2010 have been in Washington DC with a decline of 257% and Hawaii with an increase of 77%. Two factors to consider are that the 2009 rates were based on projections using only 3 quarters worth of data extended out to one year and that Washington DC currently has the worst transparency index in the US which may be indicative of higher than normal under-reporting rates.
Figure 16. Misconduct Rate comparisons by state from 2009 to 2010
Prosecuting Police Misconduct
Per a recent analysis we published this year using data gathered by the NPMSRP from April of 2009 through December of 2010 we determined that prosecuting police misconduct in the US is very problematic with conviction rates, incarceration rates, and the amount of time law enforcement officers spend behind bars for criminal misconduct are all far lower than what happens when ordinary citizens face criminal charges.
From that report we established a baseline by examining the latest data released by the US Bureau of Justice Statistics (BJS) which indicated that the conviction rate for members of the general public who were tried on criminal charges ranged around 68% from 2002 through 2006. Furthermore, the US BJS reports indicated that the incarceration rate remained fairly stable at an average of 70% and the average length of post-conviction incarceration for the general public was 49 months.
For a comparison we used data from our National Police Misconduct Statistics and Reporting Project (NPMSRP) which tracked over 8,300 credible reports involving allegations of police misconduct in the US from April of 2009 through December 2010 which involved nearly 11,000 law enforcement officers within those 21 months. Of those reported allegations, only 3,238 resulted in criminal charges against law enforcement officers. Of those 3,238 criminal cases against law enforcement officers in the US, only 1,063 officers were ultimately convicted of those charges or reduced charges associated with the original allegations. Of the law enforcement officers who were ultimately convicted, 36% were ultimately sentenced to spend any time incarcerated and the average length of incarceration for those sentenced to prison or jail was approximately 34.6 months.
When we examine the same data on a state-by-state basis the results gave us some interesting information. For example, here are the five states with the lowest prosecution rates for law enforcement officers in the US (AVG 32%) and their relative Police Misconduct Rate ranking from lowest to highest:
- Washington DC 05% (10th)
- Washington 16% (27th)
- Vermont 18% (38th)
- West Virginia 20% (48th)
- Oregon 20% (42th)
And here are the five states with the worst law enforcement conviction rates (AVG 37%) with relative rankings:
- Alaska 14% (46th)
- Washington 17% (27th)
- Connecticut 18% (41th)
- Colorado 19% (40th)
- Georgia 19% (29th)
- New Mexico 19% (45th)
There appears to be a correlation between higher misconduct rates and ineffective prosecution of criminal police misconduct charges when we see how the states with the worst prosecution rates rank in the lower 50th percentile for misconduct (with the exception of Washington DC, however DC’s transparency index is the worst in the nation so that locality’s low misconduct rate may be a result of under-reporting).
For more on our previous analysis on prosecuting police misconduct, refer to our report here.
Due to difficulties associated with 2009 data being an estimated projection based on about 9 months worth of data it’s difficult to say definitively whether police misconduct rates are increasing or decreasing using our methodology. While media reports from a few states this year have indicated that internal audits show a rise in misconduct for those states, too few states release this kind of data in a reliable way. While the national average appears to have decreased slightly, our month-to-month analysis of misconduct allegations show higher numbers in comparison to month-to-month rates for 2009 on average. Also, with states showing an increase over last year’s projected rates outnumbering states that witnessed declines this would seem to indicate that misconduct rates should have been higher this year than last. Another factor to consider is the continuing movement towards less transparency about police misconduct in several states which could be leading to increased under-reporting rates. Unfortunately, and ultimately, we simply need more time to determine what the trends might be.
General responses to police misconduct on a judicial/criminal justice level appear unchanged with no corresponding fluctuations in comparison to monthly changes in the number of officers reported. This, combined with a detailed analysis we performed on 2009 and 2010 data earlier this year, demonstrates a bias built into the justice system which continues to limit prosecutorial effectiveness against law enforcement officers charged with criminal wrongdoing. Accordingly, we will continue to perform comparisons between conviction and incarceration rates in our statistical reports in order to examine the issue further and look to trend that data as well to see if prosecutorial effectiveness has a correlation with misconduct rate trending on state levels.
One of the persistent problems the NPMSRP faces is determining whether reporting rates are abnormally low for any given state or agency based on how effective that agency or that state’s laws are at keeping misconduct information hidden from the public. The NPMSRP is still in the process of refining our “Transparency Index” which can hopefully be used to determine if laws or actions meant to hide misconduct information from the public are affecting rates for a given agency or state.
The National Police Misconduct Statistics and Reporting Project began in April of 2009 in order to address the lack of statistical data concerning police misconduct in the United States. Despite becoming a more prominent issue in landscape of American public opinion, police misconduct is still a largely unstudied issue and no other sources of current statistical and trending data exist with which we could use to analyze the nature, persistence, and prominence of police misconduct in America. The NPMSRP has been created to address this gap and, in doing so, hopefully help address the causative factors of police misconduct in the process.
The NPMSRP utilizes the only consistent source of data available for police misconduct information since most states currently have laws that prevent the examination of police misconduct information recorded by individual agencies themselves by the public and no other agency tracks police misconduct data in any publicly available way. Therefore the NPMSRP must rely on media reports of police misconduct in order to gather data for statistical and trending analysis.
Reports of police misconduct are recorded in an internal database where these reports are analyzed at the end of each quarter in order to filter out duplicate reports and adjust for status changes for previously recorded incidents. This filtered data is then used to generate our quarterly and yearly reports which are also tied to a public release of the underlying data for public review. In order to maintain credibility the NPMSRP does not record all reported police misconduct allegations but uses a set of criteria in order to limit recorded reports to only those reports which appear to be credible and which exclude minor internal matters such as tardiness or other minor policy infractions.
For more information about NPMSRP processes or policies please contact us via email at firstname.lastname@example.org