National Police Misconduct Reporting Project

Putting Police Misconduct Statistics In Perspective

PMRLifeCompPlease Note that statistics listed in this post are very rough estimates based on rough projections so don’t accept them as gospel… This is just a demonstration to put the numbers this project generates into perspective.

Statistics are an interesting thing, simply put it’s nothing more than distilling a limited sample of something into a ratio or likelihood of occurrence. So, it’s a way that we gauge how often something happens within a certain time range in comparable sample sets, whether that’s how many people might die of a certain disease within a year or how many police officers are likely to be involved with an incident of misconduct within a year.

Now, the number of occurrences within a set period of time, let’s say within a year, might seem small. For example, based on 2008 statistics, the US murder rate was 5.4 per 100k. Now, that’s a pretty small number, especially expressed as a percentage (.0054%) but we can look at it this way:

US Murder Rate 2008 = 5.4 per 100k
US Murder Rate Avg Lifetime = 389.5 per 100k
In other words, 1 in 256.7 Americans might be murdered within the course of their lifetimes based on the 2008 statistics.

As we see, in statistics, the frame of reference means everything and that’s something we have to keep in mind when we look at the statistics this project generates.

Again, for example, the 2009 semi-annual NPMSRP statistics report indicated that about 834.7 of every 100k police officers may be involved in a reported police misconduct incident this year.

Might not seem like much, especially when we express it as a percentage (.835%) but let’s look at what happens when we look at what that means over the average career span of a law enforcement officer in the US.

Within the average 25 year career span of a US law enforcement officer, based on the 2009 NPMSRP Semi-Annual PMR, roughly 1 out of every 4.7 police officers will be involved in an alleged act of police misconduct egregious enough to wind up reported in the news. So let’s break that down:

Estimated Police Misconduct Rate (PMR) in 2009 = 834.69 per 100k
Average career PMR = 20,867.25 per 100k
In other words, 1 in 4.7 police officers may be implicated in an act of misconduct over the course of their career.

So, if you were a police officer, you are more likely, about 55 times more likely in fact, to be implicated in an act of police misconduct over the course of your 25 year career than the likelihood that any given average US citizen will die of murder.

In fact… given the current number of line-of-duty officer deaths so far this year, we can estimate that 16.71 of 100,000 officers will die in the line of duty this year, which happens to be a projected 119 deaths based on the total of 99 deaths so far this year.

Over the 25 year average service length, based on this average over time, would mean that, very roughly, 1 in 239.4 police officers will die in the line of duty within their career on average… again, breaking that down:

Estimated Law Enforcement Deaths in 2009 = 16.71 per 100k
Est Career Law Enforcement Death rate = 417.75 per 100k
In other words, 1 in 239.4 police officers may die in the line of duty in the course of their career.

So, police officers may be over 7x more likely to be implicated in an act of police misconduct than they are to die in the line of duty from any cause.

What about officer deaths from homicidal or felonious assaults you ask?

Estimated 2009 LEO deaths by violence = 6.4 per 100k
Est Career LEO deaths by violence = 160 per 100k
In other words, 1 in 625.0 police officers might be killed by violence, (firearms, vehicular assault, assault, etc), in the line of duty over the course of their career.

which means an officer is over 130 times more likely to be implicated in an act of misconduct than to be killed by intentional violence in the line of duty.

So, with the statistics we can do a number of comparisons:

Per Year per 100k Per Career Lifetime Probability Estimated lifetime Total
Police Misconduct Allegation Rate 834.7 20867 1 in 4.7 148650
Police Misconduct Sustained Rate 274.8 6844 1 in 14.6 48757
Questionable Officer-Caused Deaths 60.4 1508 1 in 66.3 10750
Officer Deaths While On-Duty 16.7 418 1 in 239.4 2978
Officer Deaths By Homicide 6.4 160 1 in 625.0 1412
US Murder Rate 5.4 390 1 in 256.7 1184942

Of course, as I warned at the beginning, these calculations are all very rough estimates that don’t take into account variables like projected trending based on historical trending data. But none of that exists for police misconduct rates, so it’s the best that can be done at the moment… which is something this project is trying to address. But at least this might help you put these numbers in a bit of perspective.

Updated 10/28/09 20:18 – Corrected police fatalities via homicide to correspond with DOJ/FBI UCR murder rate statistical criteria per comments below.

Per Year per 100k Per Career / lifetime per 100k Probability Estimated career / lifetime Total
Police Misconduct Allegation Rate 834.7 20867 1 in 4.7 148650
Police Misconduct Sustained Rate 274.8 6844 1 in 14.6 48757
Questionable Officer-Caused Deaths 60.4 1508 1 in 66.33 10750
Officer Deaths While On-Duty 16.7 418 1 in 239.4 2978
Officer Deaths By Homicide 7.9 198 1 in 505.1 1412
US Murder Rate 5.4 390 1 in 256.7 1184942

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