Does it come into play when a department decides which neighbourhoods to police most heavily? Or is it when an officer first lays eyes on a civilian, or is it when they make that split-second decision to pull the trigger? Andrew Wheeler, a criminologist at the University of Texas at Dallas, says that national-level databases should at least include all levels of use of force — down to the drawing of a weapon — in order to answer questions and create change.
In January, after more than three years of pilot development, the FBI unveiled its official National Use-of-Force Data Collection , which covers dozens of variables including fatal and non-fatal injuries incurred through a variety of police encounters. The database, according to the FBI, aims to inform dialogue by filling the information gap. But data submission is entirely voluntary. And no data are yet available for outside review. Nix and others doubt that all of the more than 18, police agencies in the United States will voluntarily report incidents.
But Darrel Stephens, a retired police chief and the interim executive director of the Major Cities Chiefs Association, is more optimistic.
Growing public pressure will force agencies to participate, he says. At the same time, he adds, the increased scrutiny since Ferguson has also come at a cost. Police officers, too, face risks. An average of around 50 officers are shot and killed by civilians every year. In other wealthy nations, where accurate tracking of shootings is generally a given, officials tend to have fewer deaths of both civilians and officers to count. Terry Goldsworthy, a criminologist at Bond University in Queensland, Australia, highlights one potential explanation for the difference: a stark contrast in the attitude towards and availability of guns.
Australia keeps a tally of its approximately five civilian deaths at the hands of the police per year, using a central government database. Similarly, in the United Kingdom, an independent inquiry is initiated every time a police officer is involved in a shooting. To encourage US law-enforcement agencies to report use-of-force information, Stoughton, who has published widely on deadly force, says officials should consider making federal grants conditional on whether departments submit use-of-force data to national collections.
But he recognizes the challenges. Some are refining methods to better analyse the imperfect data they have; others are continually trying to improve the information collected so far. Edwards, F. Natl Acad. USA , — Johnson, D. Nix, J. Public Policy 16 , — Wheeler, A. Justice Res. Policy 18 , 48—76 Download references.
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Tips on citation download. Anaheim Police Department. Police Officer Oath of Office. Google Scholar. Bayley, David. Police for the Future. New York : Oxford University Press. Bratton, W. New York : Random House.
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