National Police Misconduct Reporting Project

New Map Available

For interested persons, we took the 2009 Aggregate Reports and 2010 Aggregate Reports previously compiled by David Packman and exported them to a single Fusion table, which we then linked up with a Google Map to visually display the incidents in those reports. To increase the usefulness of the map, we integrated the ability to focus the map on a specific locations, and also to filter the displayed results by words in the incident descriptions (so for example, searching “rape” will display those incidents with “rape” in the description). Thanks to Cato intern Will Hayworth for his efforts on this.

We will be working on other improvements to the site in coming weeks.

2010 NPMSRP Police Misconduct Statistical Report -Draft-

*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)

Contents

  1. Introduction
  2. Summary
    1. Excessive Force
    2. Sexual Misconduct
    3. The Drug War Effect
    1. Geographic Distribution
  3. Misconduct Trending
  4. Prosecuting Police Misconduct
  5. Conclusion
  6. About

Introduction

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.

Summary

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

Excessive Force

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

Sexual Misconduct

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%.

Geographic Distribution

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:

Rank

State

LEO Reported

Officers Reported per 100k officers

Transparency Index

30

SC

95

993.62

0.92

31

OH

227

1026.68

0.93

32

HI

31

1036.79

0.91

33

FL

477

1081.19

0.77

34

NH

28

1101.93

0.60

35

AZ

143

1102.46

0.87

36

UT

54

1128.53

1.13

37

MN

106

1193.42

1.30

38

VT

13

1212.69

1.33

39

PA

310

1239.50

1.58

40

CO

151

1281.29

1.75

41

CT

111

1287.40

1.20

42

OR

78

1292.46

1.48

43

IN

148

1317.55

0.77

44

TN

226

1422.28

0.98

45

NM

64

1430.17

0.74

46

AK

19

1505.55

1.67

47

OK

129

1623.05

1.10

48

WV

60

1726.12

1.16

49

MS

94

1735.28

1.64

50

MT

31

1741.57

1.09

51

LA

198

1777.38

1.15

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:

Agency

State

Officer Pop

Civil Population

# Reported

Misconduct Rate

1 New Orleans LA

1448

18,264

73

5041.44

2 Denver CO

1,510

604,680

62

4105.96

3 Atlanta GA

1,506

552,901

61

4050.46

4 Prince George’s County Police MD

1,564

39

2493.61

5 Fort Worth TX

1,502

723,456

37

2463.38

6 Indianapolis IN

1,619

813,471

34

2100.06

7 Seattle WA

1,351

602,531

27

1998.52

8 Louisville Metro KY

1,206

631,260

23

1907.13

9 Detroit MI

2,930

908,441

54

1843.00

10 Phoenix AZ

3,279

1,597,397

60

1829.83

11 Dallas TX

3,577

1,290,266

62

1733.30

12 Orange County CA

1,807

30

1660.21

13 Newark NJ

1,297

279,203

21

1619.12

14 Jacksonville FL

1,746

810,064

28

1603.67

15 Baltimore MD

3,013

638,755

46

1526.72

16 Albuquerque NM

1,087

530,636

16

1471.94

17 Cincinnati OH

1,113

333,568

16

1437.56

18 Miami FL

1,124

419,205

16

1423.49

19 Milwaukee WI

1,921

604,673

27

1405.52

20 Nashville TN

1,433

610,176

20

1395.67

 

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:

Agency

State

Officer Pop

Civil Population

# Reported

Misconduct Rate

1 Lee County FL

566

36

6360.42

2 Pittsburgh PA

914

312,232

58

6345.73

3 Tulsa OK

812

384,851

42

5172.41

4 Minneapolis MN

888

382,618

37

4166.67

5 Montgomery AL

501

202,818

17

3393.21

6 Portland OR

957

560,908

32

3343.78

7 Oakland CA

793

404,553

23

2900.38

8 Maricopa County AZ

746

20

2680.97

9 WV Highway Patrol WV

613

16

2610.11

10 Collier County FL

609

14

2298.85

11 Marion County IN

500

11

2200.00

12 Bexar County TX

537

10

1862.20

13 St. Petersburg FL

540

244,933

10

1851.85

14 Fresno CA

827

481,370

15

1813.78

15 Toledo OH

604

291,066

10

1655.63

16 Mesa AZ

801

470,833

13

1622.97

17 Kern County CA

856

13

1518.69

18 Buffalo NY

796

268,655

12

1507.54

19 Mobile AL

543

246,171

8

1473.30

20 Anne Arundel County Police MD

641

9

1404.06

 

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:

Agency

State

Officer Pop

Civil Population

# Reported

Misconduct Rate

1 Galveston TX

154

57,040

23

14935.06

2 Bethlehem PA

159

72,349

22

13836.48

3 West Jordan UT

103

107,113

14

13592.23

4 Arvada CO

159

107,943

20

12578.62

5 Hackensack NJ

103

42,801

11

10679.61

6 Riverside CA

370

299,871

37

10000.00

7 Schenectady NY

160

61,087

15

9375.00

8 Hattiesburg MS

121

52,716

11

9090.91

9 Columbia MO

152

102,588

13

8552.63

10 Burbank CA

160

103,248

12

7500.00

11 Altamonte Springs FL

104

39,797

7

6730.77

12 Milwaukee County WI

449

29

6458.80

13 Grand Junction CO

109

50,195

7

6422.02

14 Lake County IL

190

12

6315.79

15 Rialto CA

111

99,386

7

6306.31

16 Eugene OR

191

151,383

12

6282.72

17 South Bend IN

249

103,326

15

6024.10

18 Provo UT

100

119,472

6

6000.00

19 St. Joseph County IN

109

6

5504.59

20 Framingham MA

119

65,478

6

5042.02

 

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:

Agency

State

Officer Pop

Civil Population

# Reported

Misconduct Rate

1 East Haven CT

51

28,633

29

56862.75

2 Other MN state agencies MN

55

16

29090.91

3 Millville NJ

81

29,175

15

18518.52

4 Yellowstone County MT

51

9

17647.06

5 Melrose Park IL

71

21,712

10

14084.51

6 Sandusky OH

52

25,461

7

13461.54

7 Muskogee OK

90

40,197

12

13333.33

8 Elmira NY

76

29,090

9

11842.11

9 Easton PA

57

26,065

6

10526.32

10 University of Florida FL

78

7

8974.359

11 East Lansing MI

59

45,779

5

8474.58

12 Middletown CT

97

48,299

8

8247.42

13 Warren OH

61

43,331

5

8196.72

14 East St. Louis IL

65

28,479

5

7692.31

15 Richmond KY

65

33,546

5

7692.31

16 Lorain OH

93

70,410

7

7526.88

17 Grand Traverse County MI

67

5

7462.69

18 University of Central Florida FL

55

4

7272.73

19 Naples FL

70

21,587

5

7142.86

20 Thibodaux LA

56

14,012

4

7142.86

 

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:

  1. Washington DC    05% (10th)
  2. Washington    16% (27th)
  3. Vermont        18% (38th)
  4. West Virginia    20% (48th)
  5. Oregon        20% (42th)

And here are the five states with the worst law enforcement conviction rates (AVG 37%) with relative rankings:

  1. Alaska        14% (46th)
  2. Washington    17% (27th)
  3. Connecticut    18% (41th)
  4. Colorado        19% (40th)
  5. Georgia        19% (29th)
  6. 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.

Conclusion

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.

About

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 davidp@npmsrp.org

The Problem with Prosecuting Police in Washington State

Recently, here in the state of Washington, King County prosecutors announced that they would not charge Seattle Police Officer Ian Birk for the shooting death of Native American woodcarver John T. Williams despite a police firearms review board deciding that the shooting was unjustified. In this case, prosecutors cited Washington State law which they say sets such a high bar against prosecuting police officers in such cases that they could not charge Birk even though his actions appeared negligent at best.

While most legal experts cited in the news confirmed that Washington’s laws, which require a nearly impossible burden of proving malicious intent to charge an officer who kills in the line of duty, could be a plausible reason for refusing to prosecute Birk. Other experts also cited how difficult it is in general to prosecute a police officer anywhere in the US for any reason, especially when the alleged criminal act occurred on duty. But this presents us with a question; could this be just a Washington problem or is this indicative of a much more systemic problem in the US?

The National Police Misconduct Statistics and Reporting Project has been gathering data including criminal cases against law enforcement officers for nearly two years, perhaps the answer to some of these questions resides within that data.

__

To establish a baseline we can look to the latest data released by the US Bureau of Justice Statistics (BJS) which indicates 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 can use 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.

This would appear to indicate that there are disparities on a national scale between how law enforcement officers are treated in the criminal justice system since conviction and incarceration rates for law enforcement officers are nearly half that of the conviction and incarceration rates for the general public and, even when convicted, law enforcement officers spend 29% less time behind bars on average than the rest of the public.

The disparity becomes even more apparent when we focus only on excessive force cases. Of the 2,716 law enforcement officers involved in alleged incidents where use of force was questioned, only 197 were ultimately charged with a criminal offense and, of that 197, only 77 were convicted. Of even more relevance, for the 426 law enforcement officers who were accused of using excessive force in incidents where a fatality occurred, only 28 faced charges and half of those who were prosecuted ended up being convicted.

It is interesting that, even though the prosecution rates for non-fatal and fatal excessive force incidents are at an identical 7%, the conviction rate for fatal excessive force cases is 11% higher, at 50%, than the non-fatal excessive force conviction rate of 39%. As a comparison point, off-duty assault allegations result in criminal charges 55% of the time and end in a conviction 24% of the time. Off-duty murder allegations result in a prosecution rate of 71% and conviction rate of 45% which appears to indicate that on-duty violence is tolerated more than off-duty violence.

Oddly, this would give the appearance that it may be easier, not harder, to convict police officers accused of fatal use of excessive force, in fact the conviction rate for fatal excessive force cases was higher than any other type of case according to the data we’ve gathered (followed by murder at 45% and sexual offences at 41%). This would also appear to indicate that successfully prosecuting excessive force cases may not be as difficult as suggested since the conviction rates for these cases are actually higher than the overall average law enforcement conviction rate of 37%.

However, these numbers could also indicate that prosecutors are far more particular about what excessive force cases they pursue since the charge rates for both non-fatal and fatal excessive force cases are so much lower than any other type of case. In fact, there does appear to be an inverse relationship between prosecution and conviction rates when it comes to law enforcement officers (when excluding drug-related cases).

So, examining data on the national scale appears to present us with a mixed picture of how the justice system treats law enforcement officers. While it is clear that police are treated with much more leniency than the general public when facing criminal allegations, this still leaves the question of whether the laws themselves have some effect on this pattern.

When we examine the same data on a state-by-state basis the results give us a very interesting answer to this question. To demonstrate, here are the five states with the lowest prosecution rates for law enforcement officers in the US (AVG 32%):

  1. Washington DC        05%
  2. Washington        16%
  3. Vermont        18%
  4. West Virginia        20%
  5. Oregon            20%

And here are the five states with the worst law enforcement conviction rates (AVG 37%):

  1. Alaska            14%
  2. Washington        17%
  3. Connecticut        18%
  4. Colorado        19%
  5. Georgia            19%
  6. New Mexico        19%

Notice how Washington resides near the top of both lists. In fact, for the 21 months of the sample period, Washington state police officers were implicated in 186 alleged incidents of misconduct but only 30 cases resulted in criminal charges and, of that 30, only 5 were ultimately convicted of a criminal act. Of those 5, none were sentenced to any prison or jail time.

Also, of the five convictions in Washington, none involved excessive force and two occurred during the course of the officer’s duties:

  • A Washington State Trooper was convicted on a custodial sexual misconduct charge for groping a woman in a cruiser.
  • A Medical Lake police officer was sentenced to probation in a plea deal in a sexual harassment case.
  • A Wahkiakum County deputy pled guilty to a disorderly conduct charge which was reduced from the original domestic violence charge.
  • A Seattle police officer was convicted in Grays Harbor County for driving under the influence in a case where he was accused of asking for some professional courtesy when he was arrested.
  • A Kitsap County deputy received a diversionary sentence for a DUI charge.

Four of the incidents which resulted in criminal charges for law enforcement officers involved allegations of excessive force and two of those involved fatalities. One of those cases, an Everett Washington police officer charged with manslaughter for fatally shooting an unarmed man in a parking lot, resulted in a not-guilty verdict during a jury trial. This brings us to consider the possible reasons for the apparent difficulties in holding police officers accountable before the law in Washington State.

When we examine the history of law enforcement officers who were prosecuted for excessive use of force in Washington in recent history here is what we find:

  • In December of 2008, US Attorneys failed to convict King County deputy Brian Bonnar on allegations that he dropped a knee on a restrained woman’s head and slammed her head into a cruiser fender after she was compliant, despite testimony from a number of other deputies that supported the prosecution’s case.
  • In March of 2009, King County prosecutors failed to convict King County deputy Don Griffee despite testimony from fellow deputies that supported allegations that Griffee had punched a cuffed man detained on false allegations in his cruiser.
  • In April of 2009, the Spokane Washington prosecutor refused to charge a Spokane County Sheriff’s Sergeant over allegations he was peeping into a teen girl’s window and resisted responding officers despite sufficient evidence. The prosecutor, in an alleged conversation with a sheriff’s lieutenant, claimed that “he felt their job was to go after criminals and not law enforcement officers demonstrating a temporary lapse in judgment.”
  • In August of 2009, a Spokane Washington jury found Sponake police officer Jay Olsen not guilt of assault and reckless endangerment charges for shooting an unarmed man in the back of the head outside of a bar while off-duty.
  • In September 2009, a Spokane Washington jury refused to convict Spokane Police Officer Rob Boothe on allegations he kicked a handcuffed suspect in the face despite testimony from two fellow officers who claimed they saw him kick the prone man.
  • In April of 2010, a Snohomish County jury acquitted Everett Washington police officer Troy Meade of second degree murder and/or first degree manslaughter for shooting an unarmed man to death in a parking lot after tasering him while he was intoxicated behind the wheel of his car but blocked in by police cars and a fence. The verdict was reached despite the testimony of a fellow police officer who claimed that the use of fatal force was unnecessary and that he heard Officer Meade remark “enough is enough, time to end this” before opening fire.
  • In July of 2010, after failing on two occasions to successfully prosecute King County Deputy Paul Schene on a misdemeanor assault charge for beating a 15-year-old girl in a holding cell, prosecutors dropped all charges. The trial and retrial resulted in hung juries both times despite the existence of videotape showing the assault.

In each of these cases juries discounted or ignored the testimony of police officers against the accused and/or video evidence supporting the charges. Additionally, since the specific law cited in the Williams case doesn’t apply to most of these cases it appears as though there are other factors affecting the conviction rate against law enforcement officers in the state of Washington.

What does this mean?

An examination of the numbers indicates that, while law enforcement officers generally enjoy favorable treatment when facing criminal charges in the US generally, the problem appears significantly pronounced in Washington State. When we examine the data in combination with the history of criminal cases involving police officers in Washington it begins to appear as though the reason why police officers are so infrequently prosecuted is a combination of laws that prevent officers from being held accountable, juries who consistently refuse to convict police officers accused of criminal acts even when there is compelling testimony and evidence in favor of conviction, and prosecutors who appear risk averse when it comes to the prospects of prosecuting police officers for any reason.

It also becomes clear that, while it is generally difficult to prosecute law enforcement officers in the US in general, the ability to do so in Washington State is greatly hampered by a perfect storm of all these factors combined together in a way that forms a feedback loop of sorts which discourages prosecutors from prosecuting police officers with the same vigor as other members of the general population.

Because of this complex dynamic at play, bringing the prosecution and conviction rates back towards the norm in Washington would require more than just changing the law, it would also require a sea change of public perception, better training for prosecutors who need to use  tactics than usual when prosecuting officer-involved cases against lawyers who specialize in defending police officers along with efforts to provide incentives to prosecutors who decide whether prosecuting a cop is worth the political risk of angering police unions that represent the officers they depend upon to do their jobs.

Certainly Washington State’s problems with police accountability are not unique to this state, yet they do appear to be far more exaggerated than in any other state. Thus it will take far more than simple fixes to address these problems and the first step must involve convincing the public that such changes need to be made and that holding law enforcement officers to the same standards we are all held to is vital to maintaining a sustainable criminal justice system.

A Premature Alarm Regarding Police Fatality Rates

The big law enforcement related news piece dominating the media today comes courtesy of a press release from the Law Enforcement Officers Memorial Fund (LEOMF) insisting that an apparent increase in law enforcement officer deaths in 2010 in comparison to 2009’s record low number of officer deaths should be alarming and attributes the rise to a number of factors including reduced funding for law enforcement officers and increasingly violent criminals.

While we definitely do find it alarming when any law enforcement officer loses his or her life in an act of violence, we do feel it necessary to examine these numbers in order to put them into perspective, especially since the LEOMF and a professor from the John Jay College of Criminal Justice cited police accountability projects such as ours here at the NPMSRP as the reason for the rise in police officer deaths they claim they were seeing around mid-year.

Interestingly, in response to those wild allegations, we examined the alarming trend cited by the LEOMF in July and did some statistical analysis to determine what the actual homicide rate was for law enforcement officers and, surprisingly, our projected rate of officers who died in acts of homicidal violence ended up being pretty accurate.

Back then we determined that:

…in 2009 there were 127 line of duty deaths, of which, 57 of those fatalities could be attributed to an act of violence that specifically targeted a police officer whether by firearms, intentional vehicular assault, or assault.

So far in 2010, there have been 98 line of duty deaths, of which, 28 are attributed to an intentional act of violence against a police officer.

So, in 2009 the homicidal fatality rate for law enforcement officers was an estimated 8.14 deaths per 100,000 law enforcement officers. Currently the homicidal fatality rate is at 4.16 per 100,000 and, if projected to the end of year at the current rate, that homicidal fatality rate for 2010 would potentially be 8.31 per 100,000 law enforcement officers… a 0.17 per 100,000 increase or, roughly, a 2.1% increase.

The actual numbers cited by the LEOMF for 2010 are that 160 officers died and that 59 of those law enforcement officers died due to apparent homicidal causes for this year. This would translate to a homicide rate of 8.35 officers per 100,000 based on an estimated employment rate of 706,886 sworn law enforcement officers in the US per the latest FBI-DOJ UCR numbers released earlier this year.

So, the homicidal death rate for law enforcement officers in 2009 was 8.14 per 100,000 and the 2010 homicidal fatality rate was 8.35 per 100,000 which translates to a 2.5% increase in the homicide rate for police officers. If we use the numbers according to LEOMF sources in that there are 800,000 active sworn officers in the US, then the homicide rate drops to 7.38 per 100,000 but that 800,000 number cited does not seem to reflect a general decline in law enforcement employment rates that we’ve seen lately due to the declining economy.

So, in conclusion, yes, there has been an increase in deaths by homicidal violence for police officers in 2010 and any increase should be examined rationally to determine if there are prudent ways to address preventable deaths. But the increase seen for 2010 is not as alarming as we are told it should be and definitely not extensive enough from which one could derive any conclusive causative effect, such as blaming it on efforts to increase accountability and transparency within law enforcement agencies in the US as was done earlier this year.

While we do not track total officer-related fatalities, we do track fatalities associated with allegations of police misconduct or use of excessive force.

Per our latest projected 2010 statistical data we determined that, in comparison with the stated law enforcement homicidal death rate of 8.35 per 100,000, that the fatal use of excessive force rate for law enforcement in 2010 was 18.3 per 100,000 and the rate of officers officially charged with murder was 5.3 per 100,000 (compared to an estimated 4.9 per 100,000 murder rate by officers in 2009) as opposed to the murder rate for the general public which was 5.0 per 100,000 in 2009 per the latest UCR data available from the FBI DOJ.

However, these are just projections from our Q3 statistical data and our full 2010 statistical report won’t be released until sometime in mid to late January of 2011.

2010 Q3 National Police Misconduct Statistical Report

Figure 1. Map displaying number of officers involved in reports tracked per county from 01/10-09/10 (clicking on this map will redirect to interactive map at www.targetmap.com)

Introduction

This is the National Police Misconduct Statistics and Reporting Project (NPMSRP) Police Misconduct Statistical Report for the third quarter of 2010. This report is the result of data captured from January 2010 through September 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.

Summary

From January 2010 through September 2010 the National Police Misconduct Statistics and Reporting Project recorded 3,814 unique reports of police misconduct that involved 4,966 sworn law enforcement officers and 5,711 alleged victims.

  • 3,814 – Unique reports of police misconduct tracked
  • 4,966 - Number of sworn law enforcement officers involved (263 were sheriffs or chiefs)
  • 5,711 - Number of alleged victims involved
  • 193 – Number of fatalities associated with tracked reports
  • $213,840,800 – Estimated amount spent on misconduct-related civil judgments and settlements

Misconduct by Type

Of the 4,966 officers involved in reported allegations of misconduct that met NPMSRP criteria for tracking purposes, 1,242 were involved in excessive force reports which were the most prominent type of report at 25% of all reports. This was followed by sexual misconduct complaints at 10.4% of officers reported then drunk driving and drug investigations at 7.9% of all officers reported, (62% of those were DUI allegations). 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

Excessive Force

Figure 3. Map displaying number of officers involved in excessive force cases within the first 3 quarters of 2010. (clicking on this map will redirect to interactive map at www.targetmap.com)

Of all 1,242 officers involved in excessive force complaints, 735 (58.4%) were involved in cases of physical use of force complaints which include fist strikes, throws, choke holds, baton strikes, and other physical attacks. 175 officers (14.1%) were involved in firearm-related excessive force complaints, 126 (10.1%) were involved in taser-related cases, and the remaining officers were involved in other cases involving use of police dogs (1.7%), police vehicles (0.2%), chemical weapons (3.1%), or mixed use of force cases that involved a combination of attacks (11.6%).

Figure 4. Excessive Force by Type

There have been 92 fatalities associated with credible excessive force allegations within the first three quarters of 2010, which means 7% of excessive force cases involved fatalities. Of these excessive force fatalities, 68 were caused by firearms, 15 were caused by physical force, 11 by taser, and 3 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

Sexual Misconduct

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, and acts of sexual assault or molestation. Sexual misconduct is the second most common form of misconduct reported through the first three quarters of 2010 with 517 officers involved in sexual misconduct complaints during that period, 297 of which were involved in complaints that involved 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 all sexual misconduct complaints, 197 officers were associated with complaints that involved children, 86 were associated with sexual harassment complaints, and 234 officers were involved in more serious sexual misconduct complaints.

Figure 7. Alleged victims of officer-involved sexual assaults by age.

For all sexual misconduct complaints there were 419 victims of misconduct that could be classified as sexual assault, rape, sexual battery, or molestation. Of these 419 victims of more serious types of sexual misconduct, 219 were minors. This would appear to indicate that officers involved with sexual misconduct would appear to be more likely to have multiple victims when minors are involved than adults.

Misconduct Per Capita

Figure 8. Map displaying the Police Misconduct Rate by state. (clicking on this map will redirect to interactive map at www.targetmap.com)

The current US average projected police misconduct rate is an estimated 992.81 officers per 100,000 officers (mean 909.61 per 100k) as calculated using data gathered from the first 9 months of 2010. This is also a slight increase over last year’s estimated average of 980.64 officers per 100k and an increase over last quarter’s midyear reported average of 970.57 per 100,000.

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 assault and sexual assault rates 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.

Geographic Distribution

On a state by state basis, 20 states currently have a police misconduct rate above the US average of 992.81 per 100k and the states showing the lowest misconduct rates include Kansas with a rate of 276.09, Maine with 310.97, and Virginia at 502.10. Here are the 20 states with misconduct rates currently above average:

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 1.32 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:

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:

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:

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:

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 states that are trending upward outnumber states with a downward trend for misconduct by 28 to 24. The largest differentials between 2009 and 2010 have been in Washington DC with a decline from a 2009 PMR of 2313.33 to a 2010 PMR of 685.60 and Oklahoma with an increase from 1027.41 to 2013.90 per 100k.

Figure 16. Misconduct Rate comparisons by state from 2009 to 2010

Conclusion

With general misconduct rates showing an increase over last year and over the previous reporting cycles this year as well, it is difficult to pinpoint why the rates are climbing slightly, especially since excessive force rates don’t appear to be climbing at the same rate, though excessive force rates are climbing as well. While some states have exhibited large fluctuations between 2009 and 2010, most states showed a deviation of under +/-25% and 7 showed a deviation of under +/-10%. 8 out of 10 States showing the largest deviation between 2009 and 2010 had law enforcement populations under 10,000 which is as expected since smaller sample sizes tend to be most susceptible to individual incident influences. Since the NPMSRP has only been operational since April of 2009, trending data is limited in scope and long-term trending data is unavailable at this time, hopefully we will be able to generate more meaningful and useful trending information as the project continues.

General responses to police misconduct on a judicial/criminal justice level appear unchanged with no corresponding fluctuation to the increase in general misconduct rates which demonstrates a possible bias built into the justice system which continues to limit prosecutorial effectiveness against law enforcement officers charged with criminal wrongdoing. This appears to correspond to a previous study performed by the NPMSRP showing a large disparity in conviction and incarceration rates between law enforcement officers and the general public.

Accordingly, we’ll perform another comparison between conviction and incarceration rates in our end-of-year statistical report in order to examine the issue further and look to trend that data as well. However, on potential positive was to see an apparent correlation between report rates and internal disciplinary rates.

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 currently in the process of implementing a “Transparency Index” that might 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. While currently in a beta phase, we hope to have that index fully functional for our 2011 reporting cycle.

About

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 davidp@npmsrp.org

Widespread Police Brutality in Vietnam?

Human Rights Watch (HRW) recently issued a report outlining concerns regarding how the Vietnamese government handles the issue of excessive force by police, specifically surrounding the issue of deaths in custody. The report received widespread attention in the media around the world and certainly sounds alarming. However, how do the claims of what was happening in Vietnam compare to the information we’ve been tracking here in the United States through our National Police Misconduct Statistics and Reporting Project (NPMSRP)?

Well, the HRW asserts that they have tracked 19 reported incidents of reported excessive force in Vietnam within the last 12 months (September 2009 – September 2010) that were associated with 15 fatalities.

Based on our 2010 Semi-Annual Statistical Report, the NPMSRP has tracked 439 credible reports of excessive force within the first 6 months of 2010 (January 2010 – June 2010) in the United States that were associated with 60 fatalities.

How does this break down?

People familiar with the NPMSRP should know already that we base our statistical data on the number of sworn/certified law enforcement personnel within any data set. So, when we publish a “Police Misconduct Rate” statistic that number is representative of the number of law enforcement officers involved in police misconduct incidents, not the ratio of people victimized by police misconduct.

However, since we do not have data on the number of law enforcement officers (or the Vietnamese equivalent) in Vietnam we have to switch to a general population per capita comparison to determine how HRW’s representation of the problem in Vietnam compares to what we’ve tracked in the US with the NPMSRP.

When we do that, this is what we find:

Vietnam United States
General Population 89,571,130 309,162,581
Excessive Force Reports 19 (12mo) 439 (6mo)
Excessive Force Fatalities 15 (12mo) 60 (6mo)
Excessive Force Per 100k pop 0.02 *0.14
Excessive Force Fatalities Per 100k pop 0.02 *0.04

*US rates are projected out to 12 months based on data from January 2010 – June 2010

By using a projected rate for our US data and the reported rate via HRW for Vietnam it appears as though US excessive force rates are 7x higher than Vietnam’s and the excessive force fatality rate in the US is twice as high as the corresponding rate in Vietnam.

An important note must be made at this point about the NPMSRP data in that we only track credible reports, not all reports. Also, the fatalities listed are only those associated with credible reports of excessive force, not all use of force incidents.

Another complaint made in the HRW Vietnam report is that the Vietnamese government is not aggressive enough on the issue of excessive force and deaths in custody associated with excessive force. Furthermore, the HRW report complains that many cases go uninvestigated or, when investigated, rarely result in charges or any actual serious disciplinary response.

However, this doesn’t seem unique to Vietnam either. Within the 6 month period cited in the NPMSRP data, 98 law enforcement officers were associated with the 60 reported deaths in custody in the US involving reports of excessive force… and of those 98 law enforcement officers, 5 were criminally charged and, of those, 2 received sentences, one for 15 years and the other for 2 years of prison. One officer was suspended for 30 days and one resigned in the midst of an investigation. So, of those 98, only 8 faced any personal consequences related to an in-custody death. In fact, of the 60 reported in-custody deaths related to excessive force in the US during that same period, 1 case resulted in a civil judgment against the involved agency and only a dozen resulted in a civil settlements made to the surviving families of the victims.

So, it would appear as though the issue of excessive force, in-custody deaths associated with excessive force, and an apparent inability or unwillingness of governments to effectively deal with those issues isn’t just a Vietnamese problem, they are problems all over the world, even in the US.

Now, highlighting how US rates compare with those in Vietnam in no way should make us more or less concerned about the problem in either nation. Nor should this comparison be considered as a slight against Human Rights Watch and the important work that organization does. However, it should be noteworthy that while teams of people as part of a well-funded organization are devoted to studying the issue of police misconduct in other nations, the issue receives comparatively little organized research within the US. After all, the NPMSRP is an incredibly small project in comparison to Human Rights Watch.

The most likely reason for this disparity is likely that most of the world doesn’t think of the US when they think of police brutality or governments turning a blind eye towards abuses by governmental agencies. This kind of comparison, though, shows that it’s equally as important to devote resources to examining this issue in the US as it is to examine it globally.

If anything, the fact that police misconduct research is largely ignored in the US should seem just as problematic as the statistical differences in police misconduct rates between the US and other nations. Especially when the US is often held up as the example of transparent democracy in action for the world.

2010 NPMSRP Q2 Statistical Report Updates

As I mentioned earlier I’ve been working on incorporating the latest data released from the FBI/DOJ UCR report for 2009 into our statistical data that was released in our 2010 mid-year statistical report and some of the results are fairly interesting.

First, while adjusting our comparative data we use to show how the rates for different types of serious police misconduct compares with the crime rates for the general public as compiled by the UCR I noticed an error in the way we calculated the totals for the assault and murder rates for law enforcement officers that was a holdover from our 2009 final report*. Those have been adjusted along with adjustments made to all the stats based on the 2009 UCR data, which shows the following comparison between UCR US crime rates and NPMSRP police misconduct rates:

Second, the US Average Projected Police Misconduct Rate based on 2010 midyear statistical models increased from 970.57 per 100,000 officers to 978.73 per 100,000 due to a reduction of about 6,000 law enforcement officers nationwide from the 2008 sworn LEO employment rate of 712,360 (which our stats were based on) to the 2009 rate of 706,886.

Finally, the state rankings shifted due to fluctuations in statewide LEO employment rates. Previously the rankings went from Oklahoma as the worst with a 2105.26 PMR through to Montana, Vermont, West Virginia, Tennessee, New Hampshire, Oregon, Georgia, Utah, then Alaska as the 10 worst. Now the states rank as follows:

Rank | State | PMR
1. Oklahoma 2038.25
2. West Virginia 1956.27
3. Vermont 1865.67
4. Louisiana 1813.29
5. Montana 1797.75
6. Tennessee 1724..35
7. New Hampshire 1416.77
8. Oregon 1325.60
9. Alaska 1267.83
10. Utah 1253.92

While I would like to revise the 2010 midyear reports in total, which I’m sure would yield more changes, I don’t have the resources to do so at the moment. Hopefully the new data will be incorporated into the 2010 Q3 statistics that should come out next month if I can keep the project going that long.

Feel free to contact us with any questions.

*The error was due to the way we project rates out to one year when what we have is data from less than one year. Basically we simply take the number of reports gathered for a given time frame, divide that number of reports by the number of months in which those reports were gathered, then multiply that by the number of months in a year (12), this gives us a projected annual rate when we don’t have a full 12 months of recorded data.

In 2009 we only gathered 8.5 month’s worth of data, so all rates were projected rates based on a (x/8.5)*12 formula where x is the number of reports (which is why the 2009 report is listed as preliminary). We used a copy of the same spreadsheet from the 2009 report to generate our 2010 mid-year stats and neglected to change the (x/8.5)*12 formula for the murder rate and assault rate fields to the mid-year (x/6)*12 formula, thus making the statistics for those two data sets smaller than they should have been.

Just thought I would explain the error for the curious out there.

Is There a Police Brutality Problem in Denver?

Image of a t-shirt that was sold by the Denver police union as a way to thank their member officers for what they did during the 2008 Democratic National Convention in a way that mocked allegations of excessive force during that event.

Denver Colorado has certainly been in the spotlight after a string of reports involving cases of excessive force came out in August. First there was the DeHerrera and Johnson case that was caught on a police “HALO” camera which oddly zoomed out just as the alleged beating occurred, which was followed by another videotaped instance of alleged brutality involving Mark Ashford who was walking his dog when officers appeared to attack him for taking pictures with his cell phone. This was then followed by the quiet settlement of an excessive force case involving James Watkins who accused police of beating him for saying “cops suck” in response to their flirting with a woman he was with.

All of this appeared to culminate with the resignation of Denver Manger of Safety Ron Perea due to public outcry over the apparent lax disciplinary response to these incidents including a 3-day unpaid vacation for the three officers involved in the DeHerrera/Johnson beating despite recommendations from the Office of the Independent Monitor that the officers be fired, not just for the use of excessive force, but for outright lying on their reports about the incident.

However, now the city council is trying to head off more criticism by promising to look into whether officers need more training based on how much the city has been paying out in police misconduct related legal battles, which is currently alleged to be just under $1,500,000 since 2008. Despite all these problems coming to the fore within just one month, Denver Police Chief Gerry Whitman insists that there isn’t a problem within the Denver Police Department, in fact he insists that Denver police officers are better behaved than most cities based on an interesting “use of force per arrest” statistic he claims is lower than most cities.

Now, if you don’t remember, Police Chief Whitman’s spokesman used a similar “statistic” back in 2009 when the department was facing flack over another series of five excessive force lawsuits that were filed within a short span of one another. That time they claimed that the department didn’t have a problem because, out of 488,192 citizen contacts, only 149 resulted in complaints of excessive force and, of those, none were sustained.

Of course, this is the same as offering up that a murderer shouldn’t be convicted over that one time he killed someone because he had thousands of contacts with other people that ended great. However, there was another problem with that claim in that, according the the Denver Office of the Independent Monitor’s 2008 report, there were roughly 222 excessive force complaints filed against 154 officers within 2008, something that we called out back in July of 2009.

Since that statistic is suspect, let’s look at what the NPMSRP statistics show us about the recent disclosures in Denver and see if there might be a problem despite the police chief’s assurance that the Denver police are not out of control.

In our 2010 Semi-Annual Statistical Report Denver was the sixth worst city as ranked by Police Misconduct Rate for cities that had police departments with more than 1,000 sworn law enforcement officers out of about 63 such agencies that we tracked.

City State Officers Involved PMR
1 Atlanta GA 53 6547.25
2 New Orleans LA 36 4972.38
3 Fort Worth TX 23 3095.56
4 Louisville Metro KY 17 2816.90
5 Jacksonville FL 21 2480.80
6 Denver CO 19 2465.93
7 Newark NJ 16 2429.76
8 Nashville TN 14 2276.42
9 Detroit MI 33 2176.78
10 Seattle WA 14 2124.43
11 Orange County FL 13 2091.71
12 Dallas TX 33 1945.18
13 Orange County CA 16 1726.00
14 Prince George’s County MD 15 1724.14
15 Memphis TN 18 1715.92
16 Miami FL 9 1677.54
17 Baltimore MD 26 1671.49
18 Palm Beach County FL 10 1598.72
19 Milwaukee WI 16 1587.30
20 Jefferson Parish LA 7 1393.03

Beyond this, however, when we compiled our 2010 mid-year we also compiled a subset of our state-by-state Police Misconduct Rate (PMR) comparison which was a state-by-state comparison of excessive force reports and the corresponding per-police capita excessive force rates for each state. Within that subset of statistics we determined that the US average excessive force rate for the first half of 2010 was approximately 210 per 100,000 officers involved in excessive force cases, which is represented by the green vertical line in the following graph.

As you can see, the state of Colorado itself had a slightly above average rate of excessive force, but these numbers are only based on reports gathered between January 2010 and June 2010.

When we dive down and get more granular by comparing the publicized excessive force reports for law enforcement agencies with over 1,000 sworn officers over that same period of time, January through June for 2010, we see something different…

City/County State Officers EF Rate
1 Denver CO 17 2206.36
2 Jacksonville FL 12 1417.60
3 New Orleans LA 7 966.85
4 Orange County CA 8 863.00
5 Orange County FL 5 804.51
6 Milwaukee WI 8 793.65
7 Newark NJ 5 759.30
8 Baltimore MD 11 707.17
9 Prince George’s County MD 6 689.66
10 Seattle WA 4 606.98
11 Miami FL 3 559.18
12 Louisville Metro KY 3 497.10
13 Nashville TN 3 487.80
14 Palm Beach County FL 3 479.62
15 Los Angeles CA 17 348.97
16 Detroit MI 5 329.82
17 Memphis TN 3 285.99
18 Chicago IL 11 164.68
19 Fort Worth TX 1 134.59
20 New York NY 23 128.63

Denver appears to rank worst out of all 63 of those law enforcement agencies for credible excessive force reports with an estimated Excessive Force Rate of 2,206 officers involved in excessive force complaints per every 100,000 officers.

However, when we recalculate that rate based on reports issued up to August of this year, Denver looks even worse with an estimated Excessive Force Rate of 2,531 per 100,000, which is over 10x higher than the national average Excessive Force Rate of 210 per 100,000.

Clearly, Denver has a problem even if the police chief insists that there isn’t a problem, which is likely half of the reason why there is such a large problem in Denver since a problem ignored is a problem that is never fixed. This can be seen when we look at Denver’s 2009 numbers which, while better than the 2010 rate, is still an exceptionally high 1,071 per 100,000.

So, how can Denver lower their excessive force incident rate? The first step, of course, is to acknowledge that there is a problem. Once that’s done it’s clear that the city needs to re-examine how the department deals with allegations of misconduct, namely how earnestly they investigate such complaints and act upon sustained instances of misconduct. Report after report confirm that the problem in Denver is directly tied to an unwillingness to honestly investigate complaints and an unwillingness to effectively discipline officers involved in confirmed and repeated instances of misconduct.

To see what we mean, and to get an idea of what our numbers are based on, here are the reports that were tracked by the NPMSRP for 2009 and 2010 so far:

January 2009 – Denver settled an excessive force lawsuit for $10,000 to a woman who was caught on video when police shoved her to the ground, causing her to break her wrist, then lying about what happened on their report by alleging that she tripped over her own high-heel shoes, which she wasn’t wearing. The officer received no discipline for the use of force or for lying on his report.
Officer: Nicholas Rocco-McKee
Victim: Trudy Trout

April 2009 – The Denver police department was the subject of an excessive force lawsuit filed by John Heaney in April of 2009. Heaney was allegedly beaten by undercover detectives  assigned to catch scalpers but, instead, allegedly decided to stop Heaney for allegedly running a stop light on his bicycle (must have been a slow scalping day). Parts of the incident were caught on video showing Heaney being punched and choked before taken to the sidewalk where it appeared as though the detective bounced his face off the concrete, breaking his front teeth. The officer was later found not-guilty of assault by a jury in September 2009 based on defense claims that the loud crack heard as the victim’s head appeared to bounce off the pavement wasn’t his teeth, but the sound of a baseball bat at the nearby stadium. That suit appears to still be winding it’s way through to trial after a settlement conference was vacated in August.
Officers: Michael Cordova, other unnamed officers
Victim: John Heaney

September 2009 – Denver settled a wrongful death lawsuit for $225,000 to the family of a man who died after being repeatedly tasered and beaten with “impact weapons” by police when he was arrested while wearing only boxer shorts. The suit alleges he presented no threat that merited the use of such extensive force that broke 8 of his ribs and split open his tongue before he died.
Officers: Unspecified
Victim: Alberto Romero

December 2009 – Witnesses reported that they watched as multiple Denver police officers repeatedly beat and pistol-whipped a man that they had shot, yelling at him to shut up, until he went silent and died. While the DA justified the shooting itself, there appeared to be no investigation into the allegations of excessive force used after the shooting with the department justifying it out of hand.
Officers: Officers Ford, Garber, Mudloff, and DiManna
Victim: Nicolas Alvarado

May 2010 – Denver settled an excessive force lawsuit to Eric Winfield who suffered 2 black eyes, broken teeth, a broken nose, and permanent nerve damage after two officers mistook him for a bar fight participant in a bar he was never in and repeatedly beat him without provocation. The officer who inflicted the most damage was also a “cage-fighting” enthusiast and the other two officers involved apparently falsified their reports to cover for the incident. The department’s own investigation cleared the officers though charges against Winfield were also dropped.
Officers: Antonio Milow, Thomas Johnston, Glen Martin
Victim: Eric Winfield

June 2010 – 3 Denver police officers were involved in an excessive force incident that left a 16-year-old boy severely injured with a lacerated liver and broken ribs after one of the officers was accused of using a fence as leverage to jump up and down on the boy’s back while he laid prone on the pavement. The officer accused of that was found not guilty of assault in March 2009 even though the other two officers with him testified against him. The city paid out $885,000 in 2008 to settle a civil suit brought over that incident and later fired all three officers for their involvement in June of 2010.
Officers: Charles Porter, Luis Rivera and Cameron Moerman
Victim: Juan Vasquez

June 2010 – Four Denver police officers are the subject of an excessive force lawsuit alleging that officers beat a man while arresting him on suspicion that he was involved in a fight in the Lower Downtown area and then failed to report the use of force or identify themselves when asked. Three of the officers involved are accused of participating in the beating and the fourth is accused of lying about the incident in order to cover it up.
Officers: Michael Morelock, Adam Barrett, Stephen Kenfield, Eric Golladay
Victim: Nick Lynch

June 2010 – A denver police officer is the subject of an investigation that was opened in June of 2010 in association with 21 alleged incidents of excessive force within a span of 2 years including allegations by witnesses who claim he beat a man with a billy club then smashed his his own cruiser window in an attempt to justify the beating.
Officers: Michael Morelock
Victim: Alonzo Barrett

June 2010 – A Denver police officer was accused in a federal civil rights lawsuit filed in June of 2010 of beating a man without justification during an arrest for alleged vandalism and then lying when he reported that the suspect hit him so hard he nearly blacked out. The alleged victim suffered head injuries and a collapsed lung from being beaten with a flashlight. One of the officers in question is the subject of an internal investigation into 21 allegations of excessive force involving him over a period of two years which was opened in February of 2010 after the officer was arrested on a DUI charge.
Officers: Michael Morelock and Kimberly Thompson
Victim: Tyler Mustard

June 2010 – Four Denver police officers are the subject of a suit alleging that they followed a 17-year-old boy home after he allegedly witnessed the officers using excessive force on a group of kids and, according to witnesses, kicked his legs out from under him, put him in a chokehold, cuffed him, then beat him for 15-20 minutes with police batons.
Officers: Eric Sellers and 3 other unnamed officers
Victim: John Crespin

August 2010 – Three Denver police officers were investigated and one was suspended for 45 days over an incident in November of 2008 where one of the officers put a volunteer firefighter into a choke hold until he nearly passed out then cuffed him while berating him after he tried to get the officers to take his report about being assaulted by a man who punched him and knocked a pizza out of his hand in the LoDo district. The public safety manager was roundly criticized for not firing the officer for that unnecessary use of force or for lying about it, causing him to begin reconsidering the lax discipline in August of 2010 just before he resigned instead.
Officers: Eric Sellers and two unnamed officers
Victim: Jared Lunn

August 2010 – Two Denver police officers were caught on the department’s own HALO camera system using excessive force on two people in the town’s LoDo district while trying to arrest one of them on suspicion that he used a woman’s restroom at a bar and the other for talking to his father, a deputy, about what was happening to his friend. The officers could be seen on the ground with the one man when one points out the other, telling officers that he was recording and to get him. The camera then shows one officer get up, walk over, then almost immediately takes him to the ground without provocation when the camera mysteriously zoomed out. Still, despite zooming out a succession of rapid repetitive movements indicative of repeated blows could be seen being delivered by an officer who admittedly used a department-issued sap (which are illegal in most states). After the camera zoomed back in the officer is seen dragging the man to a police cruiser where he slams the door on the man’s leg after putting him halfway in. The officers were given a 3 day suspension for filing misleading reports despite a review that indicated the officers used excessive force and outright lied about what happened. This was also after the city settled suit for $17,500 to the man beaten while talking on his cell and $15,500 to his friend. The investigation was reopened after public outcry over the lax discipline.
Officers: Deven Sparks and Randy Murr
Victims: Shawn Johnson and Micheal DeHerrera

August 2010 – Two Denver police officers were the subject of a lawsuit and quiet settlement for $20,000 that was made over an incident where they allegedly beat a man after they overheard him saying “cops suck” when they allegedly began flirting with a woman he was with. The officers were accused of hitting him several times before driving him face-first into the pavement, leaving him with facial injuries. The man’s lawyer claims it settled because there was a witness and videotape involved.
Officers: John Ruddy and Randy Penn
Victim: James Watkins

August 2010 – Two Denver police officers are under investigation over a videotaped incident in March of 2010 where they detained a man who was walking his dog because he told a motorist that the officers pulled over that he would testify on his behalf since he witnessed the driver stop when he was pulled over for failing to stop. However, once the man started to use his cell phone to take pictures when he became nervous police officers took him to the ground and began to punch him while attempting to take his cell phone, all of which was caught on a bystander’s video.
Officers: John Diaz and Jeff Cook
Victim: Mark Ashford

August 2010 – Denver settled an excessive force lawsuit for $22,500 to a man in August of 2010 over an incident that was caught on video in April of 2010 where an officer entered an apartment building after resident over a supposed jaywalking incident and jumped him from behind, leaving him with facial injuries. The officer’s report appeared to be contradicted by the video evidence but it didn’t appear as though the officer faced any disciplinary actions.
Officer: Kenneth Johnson
Victim: Chad Forte

The National Police Misconduct Statistics and Reporting Project (NPMSRP) is an independent project designed to analyze reports of misconduct in order to produce statistical data about police misconduct and accountability that are not otherwise available.

This effort is solely funded by reader donations and receives no organizational or governmental support whatsoever, which means this project cannot exist and continue to provide statistical-based reporting an analysis of police misconduct issues like this without your continued support.

So please consider donating to this project today, thank you!

Does Honesty Kill?

Something interesting caught my eye the other day as I was reading Scott Greenfield’s Simple Justice blog. Apparently, FoxNews ran a piece the other day in which a professor from the John Jay College of Criminal Justice suggested that police are being targeted and that sites like this one are to blame because we discuss the topic of police misconduct.

Now, this was interesting because it made me wonder what empirical evidence this person, a Eugene O’Donnell, had to back up his claim that “an unprecedented level of disrespect and willingness to challenge police officers all over the place.” was to blame for an alleged increase of violence specifically targeting law enforcement.

So, I decided to do the heavy lifting for Mr. O’Donnell and see if his hyperbole had any real factual merit.

Homicide Rates

So far this year, Mr. O’Donnell claims that there has been a 43% increase in line of duty deaths for police officers in the US. But, does this number reflect an actual increased level of violence specifically targeting police?

Well, in 2009, per ODMP.ORG, there were 127 line of duty deaths, of which, 57 of those fatalities could be attributed to an act of violence that specifically targeted a police officer whether by firearms, intentional vehicular assault, or assault.

So far in 2010, there have been 98 line of duty deaths, of which, 28 are attributed to an intentional act of violence against a police officer.

So, in 2009 the homicidal fatality rate for law enforcement officers was an estimated 8.14 deaths per 100,000 law enforcement officers. Currently the homicidal fatality rate is at 4.16 per 100,000 and, if projected to the end of year at the current rate, that homicidal fatality rate for 2010 would potentially be 8.31 per 100,000 law enforcement officers… a 0.17 per 100,000 increase or, roughly, a 2.1% increase.

While an increase, it’s a very slight one which is far less ominous than the 43% increase cited as a cause for alarm.

So, is this 2.1% increase in homicidal fatalities possibly related to an alleged increased availability of reports about police misconduct?

Causality

If what Mr. O’Donnell alleges had any basis in fact we would be able to see a correlation between homicidal fatalities and an increased availability of information about police misconduct. In other words, we would see a notably higher rate of homicidal deaths of police officers in states where police misconduct information was openly available.

But, when we break down the homicidal fatality incidents by state we don’t really see a correlation:

So, what do we see? We see that, of the homicidal fatalities for police officers so far in the US this year:

  • 6 occurred in states with laws that keep police misconduct information open to the public.
  • 10 occurred in states that keep police misconduct information secret.
  • 12 occurred in states that have some limitations on the availability of  police misconduct information.

In fact, when I examined this issue earlier this year, I not only found no correlation between violence against law enforcement officers, but found the opposite may be true, that officers suffer an increased rate of violence in states that keep information about police misconduct a secret than in states where the government is open about incidents of misconduct.

Graph displaying comparison of assault and homicide rates for police officers by state misconduct transparency levels.

Conclusion

So, we see that if we look at the total line of duty deaths we might see an increased fatality rate, but most of that increase appears to be associated with auto accidents, accidental deaths, and fatalities associated with natural causes than with actual homicides. While total deaths may be up over the same period last year, the homicidal death rate increase is a negligible 2.1% from 8.14 per 100,000 to 8.31 per 100,000 (projected).

If we look further into the numbers, we see that there is no real evidence that indicates that any perceived increase is related to an increased amount of information being shared about police misconduct and, in fact, the inverse may be true, that there maybe an increased amount of violence against law enforcement officers in areas where information about police misconduct is kept secret from the public.

Therefore, we’re left to question where Mr. O’Donnell is coming up with the basis of his opinion about violence against police and the causative factors behind this alleged increase. Because, as we can see, the evidence just isn’t in the numbers… or the facts.

At the least, there is no evidence that an honest and transparent discussion about police misconduct puts anyone at risk, but remaining silent about it can.

2010 Q2 NPMSRP National Police Misconduct Statistical Report

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)

Introduction

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.

Summary

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):

Categorization

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:

City State Officers Involved PMR
1 Atlanta GA 53 6547.25
2 New Orleans LA 36 4972.38
3 Fort Worth TX 23 3095.56
4 Louisville Metro KY 17 2816.90
5 Jacksonville FL 21 2480.80
6 Denver CO 19 2465.93
7 Newark NJ 16 2429.76
8 Nashville TN 14 2276.42
9 Detroit MI 33 2176.78
10 Seattle WA 14 2124.43
11 Orange County FL 13 2091.71
12 Dallas TX 33 1945.18
13 Orange County CA 16 1726.00
14 Prince George’s County MD 15 1724.14
15 Memphis TN 18 1715.92
16 Miami FL 9 1677.54
17 Baltimore MD 26 1671.49
18 Palm Beach County FL 10 1598.72
19 Milwaukee WI 16 1587.30
20 Jefferson Parish LA 7 1393.03
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:

City State Officers Involved PMR
1 Tulsa OK 32 7776.43
2 Minneapolis MN 24 5387.21
3 Lee County FL 14 4361.37
4 Collier County FL 11 3514.38
5 Pittsburgh PA 14 3294.12
6 Oakland CA 11 2872.06
7 Portland OR 14 2831.14
8 Maricopa County AZ 9 2346.81
9 Shelby County TN 6 2272.73
10 Buffalo NY 9 2250.00
11 Kern County CA 10 2202.64
12 Fresno CA 9 2184.47
13 St. Paul MN 5 1672.24
14 Baton Rouge LA 5 1592.36
15 St. Petersburg FL 4 1571.71
16 Toledo OH 5 1564.95
17 Mobile AL 4 1562.50
18 King County WA 4 1538.46
19 Bexar County TX 4 1512.29
20 Mesa AZ 6 1444.04
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:

City State Officers Involved PMR
1 Riverside CA 33 17142.86
2 Burbank CA 12 15483.87
3 Schenectady NY 12 14457.83
4 Framingham MA 7 11864.41
5 Hackensack NJ 6 10526.32
6 Erie County NY 7 9790.21
7 Altamonte Springs FL 5 9615.38
8 Pasadena TX 11 8560.31
9 Albemarle County Police Department VA 5 8130.08
10 Greenville SC 7 7865.17
11 Columbia MO 6 7843.14
12 Springfield MA 17 7280.51
13 St. Joseph County IN 4 6779.66
14 Eugene OR 6 6741.57
15 Bethlehem PA 5 6622.52
16 Cedar Rapids IA 6 6091.37
17 Camden NJ 12 6060.61
18 Clayton County GA 10 6042.30
19 Burlington NC 3 5882.35
20 Billings MT 4 5839.42
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:

City State Officers Involved PMR
1 West Jordan UT 14 28865.98
2 Muskogee OK 12 26666.67
3 Elmira NY 9 22784.81
4 Yellowstone County MT 5 19230.77
5 Streamwood IL 4 13114.75
6 Normal IL 5 12500.00
7 Middletown CT 6 12244.90
8 East Haven CT 3 11538.46
9 Stoughton MA 3 11538.46
10 Glendale Heights IL 3 10714.29
11 Puyallup WA 3 10714.29
12 Houma LA 4 10666.67
13 Kingman AZ 3 10526.32
14 Paducah KY 4 10526.32
15 Lake County CA 3 10344.83
16 Manteca CA 4 10256.41
17 North Myrtle Beach SC 4 10256.41
18 Opelousas LA 3 9677.42
19 Port Chester Village NY 3 9677.42
20 Millville NJ 4 9638.55

Trending Data

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

Terminology

Misconduct Types:

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.

Misconduct Status/Outcomes:
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.

Methodology

Information Gathering:
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.

Information Storage:
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.

Data Analysis:
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.

Data Presentation:
After all data has been analyzed it is presented on this site by General, Geographical, Type, and Status datasets.

Important Notes:
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.

Thank you.