Reporting Project – FAQs

What is the National Police Misconduct Reporting Project (NPMRP)?

The NPMRP is a non-governmental, non-partisan independent project that will attempt to determine the extent of police misconduct in the United States, identify trends affecting police misconduct, and report on issues about police misconduct in order to enhance public awareness on issues regarding police misconduct in the U.S.

What does “” have to do with the NPMRP?

The NPMRP is comprised of several different components and is the general term with which we describe the entirety of the project. One of those components, as it is currently designed, is the site where we present police misconduct stories. Other parts of the NPMRP include the National Police Misconduct News Feed.

Why do this?

Simply because nobody else does. Only a small fraction of the 18,000 law enforcement agencies actually track their own misconduct in a semi-public manner, and even when they do, the data they provide is generic and does not specify what misconduct occurred, who did it, and what the end result was.

What is the source of information that Cato uses to generate these statistics?

The Cato Institute uses media reports detailing both alleged and confirmed cases of police misconduct from all available media sources in the U.S. All information gathered is manually validated to determine the credibility of the report, whether the report is a duplicate of an existing report, and how each report should be categorized before recording each report to a police misconduct database.

Why not use civil court records?

Not all incidents of police misconduct are answered by civil lawsuits. In fact, as far as we can determine, only a fraction of the incidents that occur actually end up in litigation. Despite popular rumor, organizations like the ACLU take only a small number of cases of police misconduct each year and lawyers tend to be very reluctant to take on cases without payment up front.

Why not use criminal court records as your source of information?

Just as with civil courts, very few instances of police misconduct are actually prosecuted. Generally, this is because most police departments are reluctant to charge fellow officers with criminal offense. Prosecutors are reluctant to pursue cases since they rely on the police in their work, and the general public has a strong bias that favors police testimony in court.

Why not use police department misconduct records?

There are about 18,000 law enforcement agencies in the United States. Most states have laws on the books that either prevent those departments from releasing disciplinary and internal investigation records or permit those agencies to keep those records secret. Even if it were feasible to submit public records requests to each law enforcement agency in the U.S. to give us all disciplinary and complaint records for an entire year, it is safe to say that the vast majority of agencies would be unresponsive.

Why not just let the U.S. Department of Justice track police misconduct?

The Department of Justice and the Bureau of Justice Statistics compile reports on the number of use of force incidents by police officers, last reported in 2015. This is an important measure but does not cover the wide range of misdeeds, crimes, and other misconduct that occur in law enforcement agencies all over America.

Why do you hate cops?

This project is about police misconduct. There is a fundamental lack of information about police misconduct in the U.S. and we are simply trying to do what we can to find the truth about how extensive a problem police misconduct really is, what types of misconduct are most prevalent, what factors increase or decrease the likelihood of police misconduct, and what trends might affect police misconduct rates.

Also, ordinary citizens are not the only people who become victims of police misconduct, sometimes police officers themselves are victims of misconduct and we track those reports as well. Police misconduct affects everyone, the public and police alike. By being open and transparent about police misconduct, this project can help police do their jobs better since gaining the trust of the public helps them gather the information and cooperation they need to do their jobs effectively.