The National Police Misconduct Statistics and Reporting Project utilizes news media reports of police misconduct to generate statistical information in an effort to approximate how prevalent police misconduct may be in the United States.
As part of this project, reported incidents of misconduct are aggregated into a news feed on Twitter and added into an off-line database where duplicate entries and updates are removed and remaining unique stories are catagorized for statistical information in monthly, quarterly, and yearly reports here on this site.
The following quarterly report for the second quarter of 2009 was generated from data gathered in April, May, and June of 2009.
1,313 Alleged incidents tracked in national news media.
14.4 Reported incidents tracked per day on average.
1,457 Law enforcement officers cited in reports.
122 Law enforcement leaders (police chiefs & sheriffs) cited.
1,390 Alleged victims specifically cited.
142 Fatalities reported in connection with alleged instances of misconduct or criminal activity.
$72,049,301 Reported costs in police misconduct related civil litigation.
When examining misconduct reports by type we see that excessive force complaints are most common at 17.7% of all reports, followed by sexual misconduct complaints at 14.2% and then fraud/theft reports at 9.3%.
When examining reports by last reported status we see that 22.2% result in any direct findings against the officer involved in the complaint (when adding disciplinary actions, resignations, and criminal findings) while civil litigation success rates appear to be at 6.0%.
By state, the following states are the 10 worst as ranked by projected incidents per population:
- Vermont – 7 cases for a 4.5 per 100k incident rate
- Washington DC – 6 cases for a 4.1 per 100k incident rate
- Louisiana – 40 cases for a 3.6 per 100k incident rate
- Mississippi – 25 cases for a 3.4 per 100k incident rate
- West Virginia – 14 cases for a 3.1 per 100k incident rate
- Minnesota – 31 cases for a 2.4 per 100k incident rate
- Tennessee – 36 cases for a 2.3 per 100k incident rate
- Delaware – 5 cases for a 2.3 per 100k incident rate
- Arizona – 37 cases for a 2.3 per 100k incident rate
- Wyoming – 3 cases for a 2.3 per 100k incident rate
(National average is 1.804 per 100k)
The state rankings by sheer number:
- California – 120 reports for a 1.3 per 100k incident rate
- Florida – 104 reports for a 2.25 per 100k incident rate
- Texas – 80 reports for a 1.315 per 100k incident rate
- New York – 79 reports for a 1.6 per 100k incident rate
- Pennsylvania – 63 reports for a 2.0 per 100k incident rate
- Illinois – 60 reports for a 1.9 per 100k incident rate
- Ohio – 50 reports for a 1.7 per 100k incident rate
- Michigan – 45 reports for a 1.7 per 100k incident rate
- Louisiana – 40 reports for a 1.8 per 100k incident rate
- Arizona – 37 reports for a 2.3 per 100k incident rate
10 worst cities by total number of reports:
1. New York NY 26
2. Chicago IL 23
3. Philadelphia PA 18
4. Baltimore MD 16
5. Oakland CA 11
6. Los Angeles CA 10
7. Dallas TX 9
8. Atlanta GA 8
8. Detroit MI 8
10. Greece NY 7
10. Denver CO 7
10. Maricopa County AZ 7
10. Minneapolis MN 7
10. New Orleans LA 7
10. Newport News VA 7
10. Orange County CA 7
By projecting the current quarterly results out to one year the following comparisons can be made between the reported police misconduct allegation rate and the reported crime allegation rate as published by the FBI and DOJ for 2007/2008:
1 out of every 139 police officers in the US will be implicated in an act of misconduct or criminality in the news.
- 1 out of every 254 police officers will be accused of a violent crime.
- 1 out of every 213 citizens will be accused of a violent crime.
- 1 out of every 1,549 police officers will be accused of murder, manslaughter, homicide, or causing a fatality unnecessarily in an act of assault or brutality.
- 1 out of every 17,857 citizens will be accused of homicide, manslaughter, murder, or other act that unnecessarily takes a life.
- 1 out of every 944 police officer will be accused of sexual assault or sexually-related criminal acts.
- 1 out of every 1,177 citizens will be accused of sexual assault or a sexually-related criminal act.
Assault – Physical violence occurring while off-duty
Brutality – Physical violence occurring while on-duty
Sexual – 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
Perjury – includes false testimony, dishonesty during investigations, falsified charging papers, and falsified warrants.
Allegation – First stage of a misconduct complaint, can be from victim, witnesses, relatives of the victim, and other sources. Simply an allegation of misconduct.
Investigation – Second stage of a misconduct complaint, can be an internal investigation, criminal investigation, external investigation, or a DOJ/FBI civil rights investigation.
Lawsuits – Civil complaints filed in court, generally requires more evidence than a simple allegation, but still within the realm of allegations.
Charges – Criminal complaints filed in court, generally requires more evidence than a simple allegation, but still within the realm of allegations.
Trials – Criminal trials in court, requires enough evidence to establish probable cause, higher threshold than civil litigation or criminal charges, but still allegations.
Judgments – These are rulings that support a civil litigation complaint but also include settlement agreements that are typically, officially, said to not be admissions of guilt. Should be considered a confirmed case of misconduct.
Disciplinary – Results of investigations that confirm misconduct complaints but do not result in termination of employment.
Firings – Results of investigations that confirm misconduct severe enough to warrant termination of employment.
Convictions – Results of criminal trials that confirm allegations serious enough to warrant criminal charges. These include both rulings and guilty pleas.
Data is gathered from various media outlets by manual searches and review of daily news stories several times a day. There are no sufficient key terms that work well enough to automate this data gathering tasks, the results must be vetted by human intervention.
Confirmed stories about police misconduct that have been vetted to ensure that the story is about a case of misconduct or allegation of misconduct are published to a Twitter-based National Police Misconduct NewsFeed. From there, the stories are copied to a spreadsheet where they can later be sorted and analyzed.
At the first day of the month, data from the previous month is sorted and analyzed in the spreadsheet. All duplicate stories, stories that are informational, stories involving policy, and legislative issues are purged from the spreadsheet. Any items involving a status change about a specific incident are culled so that only the latest status story remains to avoid duplicate data.
After all data has been analyzed it is presented on this site by General, Geographical, Type, and Status datasets.
The data collected and presented here should only be used to provide a very basic and general view of the extent of police misconduct within the US. It is, by no means, an accurate gauge that truly represents the exact extent of police misconduct since it relies on the information voluntarily gathered and/or released to the media, not from information gathered first-hand by independent monitors who investigate complaints of misconduct since no such agency exists nationally.
This information has been gathered here because nobody else is gathering it and the national government has not gathered it for several years. Keep in mind that geographical distribution of misconduct reports can be representative of concentrations of corruption or permissive attitudes towards abusive police policies or can be indications of more open information sharing between police agencies and local media along with departmental efforts to reduce misconduct by actively engaging problematic officers. There is no real way to determine which is the case since there is no independent monitoring and investigation into allegations of police misconduct.
As always, I appreciate any recommendations, advice, requests, and general comments.