The above map displays the number of law enforcement officers associated with reports of police misconduct in the first half of 2010. (click on the map for a larger image)
The National Police Misconduct Statistics and Reporting Project (NPMSRP) was started in March of 2009 as a method of recording and analyzing police misconduct in the United States through the utilization of news media reports to generate statistical and trending information about police misconduct in the United States.
As part of this project, credible reported incidents of misconduct are aggregated into a publicly available news feed and then added into an off-line database where duplicate entries and updates are removed and remaining unique stories are categorized for the statistical information which is presented in this report.
While the use of news reports to generate statistical data may seem strange, keep in mind that police departments do not normally release any detailed information about disciplinary matters, and sometimes they don’t release any information at all. The use of court records by themselves would only garner information about misconduct cases that were successfully prosecuted and would miss confidential settlements and cases of misconduct that were not prosecuted but did result in internal disciplinary action. Therefore, the use of media reports, while not perfect, represents the most efficient method of data gathering available at this time.
It should also be noted that the use of media reports acts as a filter that limits the number of outwardly questionable allegations of misconduct, but that this may also increase risks of under-reporting due to laws that limit the amount of information law enforcement agencies report to the press. Therefore, if anything, the resulting statistics we publish should be considered as a low-end estimate of the current rate of police misconduct in the United States and for any locality we cite.
Additionally, In order to allow for accurate comparisons between this project’s statistics and the US DOJ/FBI Uniform Crime Reporting (UCR) statistics, it should be noted that this project utilizes the same methodology federal government uses to generate crime rate statistics by way of a hierarchical reporting system that only records the most serious allegation when more than one allegation is associated with an singular alleged incident of misconduct. It should also be noted that both the federal government crime statistics and the NPMSRP statistical reports are based on a combination of alleged and confirmed activity, not just convictions.
The following statistical report is based on information gathered during the first half of 2010. The data used to create this statistical report is available for public viewing in the database section of this site. From January 2010 through June 2010 there were:
- 2,541 Unique reports of police misconduct cited.
- 3,240 Law enforcement officers cited in recorded police misconduct reports.
- 178 Of the law enforcement officers reported were departmental leaders, police chiefs, and sheriffs.
- 4,199 Alleged victims of police misconduct associated with these reports.
- 124 Fatalities associated with these reports.
- 17.9 Law enforcement officers cited in the news for misconduct each day on average.
- $148,512,000 in approximated police misconduct related settlements and judgments paid out in this period.
By projecting this month’s NPMSRP totals out to one year, the following comparisons can be made between the reported police misconduct allegation rate and the reported 2008 general crime rate* as published by the FBI and DOJ for 2008 (*please note that both the NPMSRP police misconduct rates and the FBI/DOJ UCR general crime rate statistics are reported incidents, not convictions):
When examining misconduct reports by type, excessive force incidents were most common at 23.3% of all reports. Officer-involved sexual misconduct complaints were the second most reported at 10.6% and financial crime reports came in third at 7.5% of all reports.
Of the Excessive Force incidents, physical excessive force (punching, kicking, batons, and other physical force) incidents were most common at 62% of all excessive force reports, followed by firearm-related reports at 13%, taser-related incidents at 11%, and mixed (combination of physical and taser or physical and chemical) reports at 10%.
13% of excessive force reports involved fatalities and, of those fatalities, most were caused by firearms (60%) then followed by physical force (23%) then taser-related fatalities (17%). It should be noted that these fatalities are only excessive or unnecessary use of force related fatalities, not the total number of firearm or taser-related fatalities that may have occurred within this period of time.
When examining reports by last reported status, 45% were in the allegation, investigation, or litigation stage while 24% resulted in criminal charges, 12% were internally disciplined, 10% resulted in criminal convictions, and 8% involved financial settlements or judgments.
When looking at the more general view, 22.4% of reports outlined some sort of negative consequence for the officer and/or department involved including some sort of disciplinary finding (9.7%) or criminal conviction/plead (10.1%).
State by State Statistics
The following statistics only count state, city, and county law enforcement agencies. The statistical rates are based on the NPMSRP statistics and employment data provided by the 2008 US DOJ/FBI UCR.
The first map in this series displays the Police Misconduct Rate (PMR), which is the number of law enforcement officers per 100,000 law enforcement officers per state associated with reports of police misconduct within the time period:
The projected annual average national police misconduct rate is estimated to be 970.57 per 100,000 police officers. In 2008, which is the most recent employment data we have, there were an estimated 712,360 state and local law enforcement officers employed in the US for an average of 1 officer for every 231.5 people.
The following map shows the number of reports tracked per state in the first half of 2010:
The following table shows how the states rank for police misconduct rates based on calculating the rate of misconduct per 100,000 officers in each state based on officers involved in reports over the sample period of January-June 2010 (p/100k) and a projected PMR which takes that number and projects it at a constant rate over a 1 year period (p/100k Proj) for comparison with that national annual PMR:
*note: West Virginia state statistics are based on an estimated law enforcement population since they do not provide statistical information to the federal government.
Local Law Enforcement Agency Ratings
All local population and law enforcement agency employment numbers are supplied by the FBI/DOJ UCR program’s 2008 report, which is the most current data available, and statistical information is generated by utilizing those numbers along with current misconduct data gathered through the NPMSRP.
Please note that, since this project utilizes data about law enforcement agencies as supplied by the FBI/DOJ Uniform Crime Reporting program, not all local law enforcement agencies are included in this report. Notably, among the missing agencies are all agencies in West Virginia and other individual agencies such as Columbus Ohio, which do not participate in the UCR program.
Law Enforcement Agencies Employing 1000+ Officers
The following are the top 20 local law enforcement agencies by 6-month police misconduct rates that employ over 1000 law enforcement officers:
|14||Prince George’s County||MD||15||1724.14|
|18||Palm Beach County||FL||10||1598.72|
Law Enforcement Agencies Employing 500-999 Officers
The following are the top 20 local law enforcement agencies by current 3-month police misconduct rates that employ 500 to 999 law enforcement officers:
Law Enforcement Agencies Employing 100-499 Officers
The following are the top 20 local law enforcement agencies by police misconduct rates that employ 100 to 499 law enforcement officers:
|9||Albemarle County Police Department||VA||5||8130.08|
|13||St. Joseph County||IN||4||6779.66|
Law Enforcement Agencies Employing 50-99 Officers
The following are the top 20 local law enforcement agencies by police misconduct rates that employ 50 to 99 law enforcement officers:
|17||North Myrtle Beach||SC||4||10256.41|
|19||Port Chester Village||NY||3||9677.42|
The following chart displays the number of officers associated with police misconduct reports per month. Please note that this is unfiltered reports so the possibility of duplicate or updates being reported twice does exist, though the number of these are minimal:
*Note: The dip in December was due to the project being shut down for half a month due to a lack of funding.
The following chart displays the trending data by type according to the most prevalent types of misconduct:
Finally, the following chart displays the current projected by-state misconduct rates along with the 2009 misconduct rates:
About This Report
Accountability – Incidents involving evidence of police misconduct cover-ups, lack of investigations, allegations of lax disciplinary response to sustained allegations, and other activities that involve accountability policies or processes.
Animal Cruelty – Acts of violence resulting in harm to animals both on and off duty that may include unnecessary shooting incidents, inappropriate training of K9 units, or other such activities.
Assault – Unwarranted violence occurring while off-duty
Brutality – Unwarranted or excessive hysical violence occurring while on-duty
Civil Rights – Violations of general civil liberties that would be ruled unconstitutional yet not covered by other categories. For example, excessive force would be a violation of constitutionally protected rights, but is already covered in the Brutality class. However, complaints of warrantless eavesdropping or illegal disruptions of lawful protests would be deemed civil rights violations.
Sexual Misconduct- Sex related incidents including rape, sexual assault, harassment, coercion, prostitution, sex on duty, incest, and molestation.
Theft – includes robbery, theft, shoplifting, fraud, extortion, and bribery
Shooting – gun-related incidents both on and off-duty, including self-harm
Color of Law – incidents that involve misuse of authority such as bribery or extortion by threat of arrest
Perjury – includes false testimony, dishonesty during investigations, falsified charging papers, and falsified warrants.
Allegation – First stage of a misconduct complaint, can be from victim, witnesses, relatives of the victim, and other sources. Simply an allegation of misconduct.
Investigation – Second stage of a misconduct complaint, can be an internal investigation, criminal investigation, external investigation, or a DOJ/FBI civil rights investigation.
Lawsuits – Civil complaints filed in court, generally requires more evidence than a simple allegation, but still within the realm of allegations.
Charges – Criminal complaints filed in court, generally requires more evidence than a simple allegation, but still within the realm of allegations.
Trials – Criminal trials in court, requires enough evidence to establish probable cause, higher threshold than civil litigation or criminal charges, but still allegations.
Judgments – These are rulings that support a civil litigation complaint but also include settlement agreements that are typically, officially, said to not be admissions of guilt. Should be considered a confirmed case of misconduct.
Disciplinary – Results of investigations that confirm misconduct complaints but do not result in termination of employment.
Firings – Results of investigations that confirm misconduct severe enough to warrant termination of employment.
Convictions – Results of criminal trials that confirm allegations serious enough to warrant criminal charges. These include both rulings and guilty pleas.
Data is gathered from various media outlets by manual searches and review of daily news stories several times a day. There are no sufficient key terms that work well enough to automate this data gathering tasks, the results must be vetted by human intervention.
Confirmed stories about police misconduct that have been vetted to ensure that the story is about a case of misconduct or allegation of misconduct are published to a Twitter-based National Police Misconduct NewsFeed. From there, the stories are copied to a spreadsheet where they can later be sorted and analyzed.
At the first day of the month, data from the previous month is sorted and analyzed in the spreadsheet. All duplicate stories, stories that are informational, stories involving policy, and legislative issues are purged from the spreadsheet. Any items involving a status change about a specific incident are culled so that only the latest status story remains to avoid duplicate data. Only the most serious charge in a series of charges related to a single incident of misconduct are recorded to maintain parity with the national UCR statistical analysis methodology.
After all data has been analyzed it is presented on this site by General, Geographical, Type, and Status datasets.
The data collected and presented here should only be used to provide a very basic and general view of the extent of police misconduct within the US. It is, by no means, an accurate gauge that truly represents the exact extent of police misconduct since it relies on the information voluntarily gathered and/or released to the media, not from information gathered first-hand by independent monitors who investigate complaints of misconduct since no such agency exists nationally.
This information has been gathered here because nobody else is gathering it and the national government has not gathered it for several years. Keep in mind that geographical distribution of misconduct reports can be representative of concentrations of corruption or permissive attitudes towards abusive police policies or can be indications of more open information sharing between police agencies and local media along with departmental efforts to reduce misconduct by actively engaging problematic officers. There is no real way to determine which is the case since there is no independent monitoring and investigation into allegations of police misconduct.
In generally, monthly reports do not provide as accurate a depiction of the overall extent of police misconduct in the US as do quarterly and yearly reports as there is a fair amount of fluctuation between incident types and rates month by month. Therefore, monthly reports should only be considered as the state of police misconduct in that month itself while the longer-term reports paint a more comprehensive and accurate picture of police misconduct in the US.
As always, I appreciate any recommendations, advice, requests, and general comments.