Citizen Complaints about Police Use of Force


1 U.S. Department of Justice Office of Justice Programs Bureau of Justice Statistics Special Report June 2006, NCJ 210296 Law Enforcement Management and Administrative Statistics Citizen Complaints about Police Use of Force Matthew J. Hickman, Ph.D. BJS Statistician Highlights Large State and local law enforcement Citizen complaints about police use of force per 100 full-time agencies — those with 100 or more sworn officers, by type of agency, 2002 sworn officers — received more than 26,000 citizen complaints about officer All large agencies use of force during 2002. This total figure resulted in overall rates of 33 Municipal police complaints per agency and 6.6 complaints per 100 full-time sworn Sheriffs' offices officers. County police Overall rates were higher among large municipal police departments, with 45 Primary State agencies complaints per agency, and 9.5 complaints per 100 full-time sworn 0246810 officers. Force complaints per 100 full-time sworn officers Among those complaints having a final • About a fifth (19%) of large munici- • During 2002 large State and local disposition at the time of data collection, pal police departments had a civilian law enforcement agencies, represent- , meaning sustained about 8% were complaint review board (CCRB) or ing 5% of agencies and 59% of offic- there was sufficient evidence of the agency within their jurisdiction. Over- ers, received a total of 26,556 citizen allegation to justify disciplinary action all, departments with a CCRB had a complaints about police use of force. against the subject officer(s). higher rate of force complaints as This corresponds to an overall rate of 2003 Law These findings are from the compared to those without a CCRB 6.6 force complaints per 100 full-time Enforcement Management and (11.9 versus 6.6 per 100 officers). sworn officers. (LEMAS) Administrative Statistics • Using sustained force complaints as • About a third of all force complaints survey, sponsored by the Bureau of an indicator of excessive force results in 2002 were (34%). not sustained Justice Statistics (BJS) and the Office of in an estimate of about 2,000 inci- Twenty-five percent were , unfounded Community Oriented Policing Services dents of police use of excessive force 23% resulted in officers being exoner- (COPS). This report presents data on citizen complaints about use of force and C among large agencies in 2002 an ated , and 8% were sustained . complaint dispositions in large agencies. overall rate of 1 incident per 200 full- • Complaint volumes, rates, and dis- Because the majority of force complaints time sworn officers. positions varied by agency character- were received by large municipal police istics, such as the size and type of departments, additional detail is agency, as well as policies and proce- provided on policies and procedures dures related to the handling of com- relating to the processing of complaints plaints. in these departments.

2 Background Table 1. Citizen complaints about police use of force per agency, per 100 full- time sworn officers, and per 100 full-time sworn officers responding to calls for Violent Crime Section 210402 of the service, by type of agency, 2002 Control and Law Enforcement Act of large law enforcement agencies Force complaints received by requires the Attorney General to 1994 Per 100 full-time sworn “acquire data about the use of Per Per 100 full-time officers responding to Total agency Type of agency sworn officers calls for service excessive force by law enforcement officers.” Over the past decade, BJS 6.6 33 26,556 All large agencies 10.9 has undertaken several projects to 35 25,816 Local agencies 12.9 7.5 address this requirement. 22,238 Municipal police 15.4 9.5 45 Sheriffs' offices 13 3.4 7.1 2,815 As an initial step, BJS and the National 4.5 24 2.9 County police 763 Institute of Justice (NIJ) held a work- Primary State agencies 1.7 740 15 1.3 shop on police use of force in May 1995. The purpose of the BJS/NIJ complaints about police use of force On a per agency basis, municipal workshop was to draw on the expertise during 2002. police departments received the of criminal justice researchers and greatest number of force complaints practitioners while discussing the (45 per agency), followed by county Complaints received provisions of Section 210402. One police departments (24 per agency) result of this workshop was a summary During 2002 a total of 26,556 citizen and the primary State law enforcement of prior research and data collection on complaints about police use of force agencies (15 per agency). Sheriffs’ National Data police use of force (see were received by large law offices received the least (13 per Collection on Police Use of Force, enforcement agencies. This agency). corresponds to overall rates of 6.6 per ndcopouf.htm.) Rates of complaint generally increased 100 full-time sworn officers and 10.9 with agency size. On a per agency BJS subsequently developed the per 100 full-time sworn officers basis, rates ranged from 7 per agency Police Public Contact Survey (PPCS), responding to calls for service among those with less than 250 full- a supplement to the National Crime (table 1). time sworn, to 214 per agency among Victimization Survey (NCVS). The The majority of force complaints those with 1,000 or more officers. On a PPCS, conducted in 1999, 2002, and (22,238 or 84% of all complaints) were per officer basis, rates ranged from 4.2 2005, asked citizens about their received by large municipal police per 100 among agencies with less than interactions with police officers during departments. Municipal departments 250 officers, to 7.7 per 100 among the previous 12-months, including also received the greatest number agencies with 1,000 or more officers. incidents involving the use of force by of force complaints on a per officer Contacts between Police officers (see Force complaints received basis (9.5 per 100) and per officer and the Public: Findings from the 2002 by large law enforcement responding to calls for service agencies , National Survey (15.4 per 100). Per 100 bjs/abstract/cpp02.htm.) full-time Sheriffs’ offices received 2,815 force Per 100 sworn As part of continuing efforts to develop full-time officers complaints (11% of all complaints) in data resources on police use of force, Full-time Per sworn responding 2002, and had rates of 3.4 per 100 full- BJS recently expanded its LEMAS sworn agency officers to calls time sworn officers and 7.1 per 100 survey in order to collect data on To t a l 33 6.6 10.9 officers responding to calls for service. formal citizen complaints about officer 12.4 7.7 214 1,000 or more 48 6.9 11.8 500-999 use of force. The complaints data were County police departments received 250-499 5.6 20 9.6 collected from agencies employing 100 763 force complaints (about 3% of all 7 4.2 6.7 100-249 or more full-time sworn officers as of complaints) in 2002, and had Methodology June, 2003. See the corresponding rates of 2.9 per 100 Rates per officer responding to calls section on page 7 for greater detail. officers and 4.5 per 100 officers for service ranged from 6.7 per 100 responding to calls for service. Included in this report are 496 among agencies with less than 250 municipal police departments, 32 The primary State law enforcement officers, to 12.4 per 100 among county police departments, 221 agencies received 740 force agencies with 1,000 or more officers. sheriffs’ offices, and the 49 primary complaints in 2002 (about 3% of all State law enforcement agencies. complaints), and had the lowest rates These 798 agencies comprise about per officer (1.3 per 100 officers, 1.7 per 5% of all general purpose State and 100 officers responding to calls for local law enforcement agencies, but service). employ 59% of all full-time sworn officers. Ninety percent of these agencies received one or more citizen Citizen Complaints about Police Use of Force, 2002 2

3 Complaint dispositions The percentage of force complaints Forty-two percent of force complaints having a disposition varied slightly by received by departments with 1,000 or Of the total force complaints received agency size, ranging from 97% among more officers were not sustained, during 2002, 94% had a final agencies having fewer than 250 roughly twice the rate of all other disposition at the time of data officers to 93% among those with departments. Departments with 1,000 collection (table 2). The percentage 1,000 or more officers (table 3). or more officers also had the lowest with a disposition varied only slightly sustain rate (6%), roughly half that of by type of agency. all other departments. Among force complaints having a final disposition: not sus- • 34% of the complaints were Table 2. Complaint dispositions in large law enforcement agencies, , meaning there was insufficient tained by type of agency, 2002 evidence to prove the allegation. Complaint dispositions Other Not Total with • 25% of the complaints were disposition sustained Unfounded Exonerated Sustained disposition Type of agency , meaning that the complaint unfounded % 34 % 94 All large agencies % 9 % 8 % 23 % 25 was not based on facts, or the reported % % 35 % 26 % 23 94 8 % 9 % Local agencies incident did not occur. 94 9 8 21 37 25 Municipal police 6 12 32 30 20 95 Sheriffs' offices • 23% of the complaints resulted in 25 County police 93 17 35 6 17 exonerated , meaning officers being 4 19 % 52 % 95 % 9 16 Primary State agencies % % % that the incident occurred, but the officer’s action was deemed lawful and proper. Table 3. Complaint dispositions in large law enforcement agencies, by number of full-time sworn officers, 2002 sustained , • 8% of the complaints were meaning there was sufficient evidence Complaint dispositions to justify disciplinary action against the Not Total with Other officer(s). sustained Unfounded Exonerated Sustained disposition Full-time sworn disposition 23 To t a l % 9 % 8 % 94 % 25 % 34 % other • 9% of the complaints had some 10 % 6 % 19 % 23 % 42 % 93 % 1,000 or more (for example, the complaint disposition 96 21 12 500-999 28 14 26 was withdrawn). 29 33 19 95 250-499 6 12 34 31 3 22 97 100-249 10 The most common disposition for force complaints received by municipal police departments was not sustained Complaints about police use of force in England and Wales (37%). A quarter of force complaints in these agencies were unfounded, and How do police in the United States compare to those in other countries with in about a fifth (21%) officers were regard to citizen complaints about use of force? Although comparative exonerated. Eight percent of force international data on police use of force and citizen complaints are scarce, one complaints were sustained. possible comparison is with the police in England and Wales. The Research Development and Statistics (RDS) Directorate of the British Home Office Among county police departments, reports annually on police complaints and discipline. force complaints most frequently resulted in officers being exonerated During the 12-month period ending March, 2003, the police in England and (35%). A quarter were not sustained, Wales received a total of 6,154 complaints alleging assault by officers. This 17% were unfounded, and 6% were results in an overall rate of 4.6 complaints of assault per 100 FTE officers.* If sustained. A larger proportion of other “oppressive behavior” is included (oppressive conduct or harassment, complaints in these agencies resulted and unlawful or unneccesary arrest or detention), the total number of in some other disposition (17%), as complaints was 9,584, resulting in an overall rate of 7.2 complaints of compared to other types of agencies. oppressive behavior per 100 FTE officers. About 6 in 10 complaints received by To the extent that the LEMAS data on citizen complaints about police use of sheriffs’ offices resulted in officers force in the United States are comparable in substance to citizen complaints being exonerated (32%) or the about police assaults and other oppressive behavior in England and Wales, the complaint being unfounded (30%). A overall rates of complaint per 100 officers in both countries are similar (7.5 force fifth of complaints were not sustained. complaints per 100 officers in large U.S. local agencies, versus 7.2 oppressive Compared to other types of agencies, behavior complaints per 100 officers in England and Wales). sheriffs’ offices had the highest *Police strength based on total FTE’s in the 43 police forces at March 31, 2003 (132,509 FTE’s), proportion of complaints that were Police Service Strength , Home Office, October 2003. Complaints data represent as published in sustained (12%). the total number of complaints received, and may include multiple complaints arising from individual , Home Office, February 2004). Police Complaints and Discipline complaints cases (see 3 Citizen Complaints about Police Use of Force, 2002

4 Limitations of complaints data Table 4. Force complaints received by large municipal police departments, by number of full-time sworn officers, 2002 Citizen complaints data must be Per 100 respond- interpreted with caution. Differences To t a l f o r c e Per 100 full- Per 10,000 ing to calls for in how agencies receive, process, time sworn complaints Per agency Full-time sworn service population and record complaints can account To t a l 22,238 45 9.5 15.4 2.38 for differences in the volume and rate 1,000 or more 14,838 380 11.3 19.1 3.64 11.3 2.49 2,594 500-999 18.0 79 of complaints across agencies. 250-499 27 7.8 12.2 1.66 2,430 Likewise, the citizen’s decision 0.86 4.7 7 100-249 2,376 7.4 whether to file a complaint may be influenced by both citizen and agency characteristics, and other factors. Table 5. Complaint dispositions in large municipal police departments, by number of full-time sworn officers, 2002 The data presented in this report Complaint dispositions represent the number of officially Total with Other recorded citizen complaints reported disposition Not sustained Unfounded Exonerated Sustained disposition Full-time sworn to BJS by large State and local 8 94 To t a l % % 37 % 25 % 21 % 9 % law enforcement agencies. 1,000 or more 10 % 6 % % % 17 23 % 45 % 93 20 95 500-999 31 25 10 15 Administrative factors, including the 30 13 9 250-499 94 20 28 overall quality of agency records as 3 9 33 32 23 97 100-249 well as specific policies and procedures related to complaint Municipal police departments The overall distribution of complaint processing, may vary across dispositions among municipal police departments. In addition, the Complaints received departments was similar to all large categories and definitions of State and local agencies. complaint dispositions used in During 2002 a total of 22,238 citizen LEMAS may not be used by all complaints about police use of force Civilian Complaint Review Boards agencies. Some agencies may were received by large municipal record multiple dispositions, police departments (table 4). Rates In 2003, 19% of large municipal police or other unique outcomes. generally increased by size of departments had a civilian complaint department, ranging from 7 per agency review board (CCRB) or agency within Force complaints represent a subset among those with fewer than 250 their jurisdiction that was empowered of all force events. That is, not all officers, to 380 per agency among to review use of force complaints force events result in citizens filing those with 1,000 or more officers. against officers. About 1 in 4 of these formal complaints. How often do CCRBs had independent investigative citizens actually complain? Estimates On a per officer basis, rates ranged authority with subpoena powers. from the 2002 Police-Public Contact from 4.7 to 11.3 per 100 officers, and Survey indicated that although 75% from 7.4 to 19.1 per 100 officers Among all agencies having a CCRB in of citizens experiencing force thought responding to calls for service. By their jurisdiction, the overall rate of the level of force used was population, rates ranged from 0.86 to citizen force complaints was higher excessive, about 10% filed a 3.64 per 10,000 residents. than those not having a CCRB (158 complaint with the agency employing per agency versus 18 per agency) as the officer(s). About 1% filed a Complaint dispositions were the rates of complaint per 100 complaint with a CCRB. officers (11.9 versus 6.6), per 100 Ninety-four percent of force complaints officers responding to calls for service Finally, the meaning of a complaint received by municipal departments (19.6 versus 10.6), and per 10,000 rate is not entirely clear: a low force during 2002 had a final disposition at residents (3.70 versus 1.35) (table 6). complaint rate could mean that police the time of data collection (table 5). are performing well or that the The percentage with a disposition The overall percentage of complaints complaint process is inaccessible; ranged from 97% among those with sustained was lower in jurisdictions likewise, a high force complaint rate fewer than 250 officers, to 93% among having a CCRB (6% versus 11%) could mean that officers use force those with 1,000 or more officers. (table 7). These jurisdictions were also often or that the complaint process is less likely to find complaints to be more accessible. unfounded (23% versus 31%) or exonerate officers (18% versus 26%), For greater detail on issues related to and more likely to find complaints not complaints data and processes, see sustained (42% versus 25%). Police Accountability: The Role of Citizen Oversight by Samuel Walker, Wadsworth Publishing, 2001. Citizen Complaints about Police Use of Force, 2002 4

5 Internal affairs unit Table 6. Citizen complaints about police use of force in large municipal police departments, by selected agency administrative characteristics, 2002 In 2003, 82% of large municipal police Force complaints received departments had an internal affairs or Per 100 full-time equivalent special unit staffed with full- Per 100 full- Per 10,000 sworn responding time personnel. Among all agencies time sworn Per agency population to calls for service having an internal affairs unit, the 2.38 15.4 9.5 45 To t a l overall rate of citizen force complaints Civilian Complaint Review Board Jurisdictions with CCRB 11.9 19.6 3.70 158 was higher than those not having a unit Jurisdictions without CCRB 1.35 10.6 6.6 18 (54 per agency versus 5 per agency), Internal affairs capacity as were the rates of complaint per 100 Specialized unit 2.51 16.0 9.8 54 officers (9.8 versus 3.7), per 100 5 No specialized unit 5.5 0.68 3.7 officers responding to calls (16.0 Personnel monitoring system versus 5.5), and per 10,000 residents 9.0 14.6 2.33 Jurisdictions with system 69 Jurisdictions without system 33 10.1 2.45 16.5 (2.51 versus 0.68). Policy requiring external Overall, force complaints received by investigation agencies having an internal affairs unit 2.80 Jurisdictions with policy 67 10.0 16.3 8.0 1.55 Jurisdictions without policy 21 13.0 were more than twice as likely to be Right to administrative appeal found not sustained than in agencies 29 1.96 14.3 8.8 Citizen may appeal not having an internal affairs unit (37% 54 Citizen may not appeal 15.8 2.56 9.7 versus 16%). Force complaints in Collective bargaining agencies not having an internal affairs 53 9.9 16.4 2.58 Authorized for officers unit were more likely to result in 1.60 7.3 23 Not authorized for officers 11.3 officers being exonerated (47% versus 20%). The sustain rate was roughly Table 7. Complaint dispositions in large municipal police departments, equivalent in both types of agencies. by selected agency administrative characteristics, 2002 Complaint dispositions Personnel monitoring systems Total with Other Not Un- Sus- disposi- Exon- dispo- As of 2003, 33% of large municipal founded tained sustained erated tion sition police departments had a currently % % 9 To t a l 94 % 37 % 25 % 21 % 8 operational, computer-based Civilian Complaint Review Board personnel performance monitoring 10 % % % Jurisdictions with CCRB 93 % 42 % 23 % 18 6 and/or assessment system (such as an 25 Jurisdictions without CCRB 95 31 26 11 7 early warning or early intervention Internal affairs capacity system) for monitoring or responding % 20 9 Specialized unit 94 % 37 % 25 % % 8 % No specialized unit 99 16 28 47 9 1 to officer behavior patterns before they Personnel monitoring system become problematic. Among all 11 8 % 30 % Jurisdictions with system 95 % % % 28 % 23 agencies having personnel monitoring 22 8 Jurisdictions without system 93 44 8 18 systems, the overall rate of force Policy requiring external complaints was higher on a per agency investigation basis (69 per agency versus 33 per Jurisdictions with policy 93 % 39 % 25 % 20 % 7 % 9 % Jurisdictions without policy 97 28 27 24 12 9 agency), but rates on a per officer and Right to administrative appeal per resident basis were slightly lower. 24 Citizen may appeal 33 % 21 % % % 14 % 8 % 97 Citizen may not appeal 93 38 27 20 6 10 Collective bargaining % 94 % 39 % 25 Authorized for officers 20 % 7 % 10 % 15 6 Not authorized for officers 95 24 30 26 5 Citizen Complaints about Police Use of Force, 2002

6 External investigation force Police use of excessive In 2003, 53% of large municipal police What can this report tell us about disciplinary action against the subject departments had a written policy excessive force? Discussions about officer(s). requiring that citizen complaints about police use of force require careful inappropriate use of force receive A total of 2,036 citizen complaints use attention to definitions. The terms separate investigation outside the received by large agencies in 2002 and excessive use of excessive force chain of command where the accused were sustained, and may indicate are often used of force officer is assigned. Among all agencies incidents of police use of excessive interchangeably when in fact they having such a policy, the overall rate of force. On a per officer basis, this Use of have different meanings. force complaints was higher (67 per results in 1 incident per 200 full-time refers to incidents excessive force agency versus 21 per agency), as sworn officers overall, and nearly 1 where police apply too much force, were rates per 100 officers (10.0 per 100 officers responding to calls for excessive use of force refers to while versus 8.0), per 100 officers service. police applying force legally in too responding to calls (16.3 versus 13.0), Sustained force complaints in National Data many incidents (see and per 10,000 residents (2.80 versus large law enforcement agencies Collection on Police Use of Force, Per 100 Per 100 1.55). Full-time full-time responding Total sworn sworn to calls ndcopouf.htm.) Administrative appeal 0.5 2,036 To t a l 0.8 Sustained force complaints from the In 2003, 37% of large municipal police 0.7 0.4 876 1,000 or more LEMAS survey can serve as an 0.9 500-999 469 1.6 departments provided citizens the right estimate of the incidence of police use 408 1.1 0.7 250-499 to administrative appeal in cases 0.4 283 100-249 0.6 of excessive force, with limitations involving inappropriate use of force. noted earlier in this report (see box on Among all agencies allowing citizen Municipal police departments page 4). The International Association appeal, the overall rate of force accounted for 1,625 (or 80%) of the of Chiefs of Police (IACP) has defined complaints was lower than those not total incidents, with slightly higher sustained force complaints as allowing citizen appeal (29 per agency overall rates on a per officer basis (0.7 incidents of excessive force (see versus 54 per agency). Rates per 100 per 100 full-time sworn officers, and Police Use of Force in America, 2001 , officers (8.8 versus 9.7), per 100 1.1 per 100 responding to calls for IACP). This definition is reasonable officers responding to calls (14.3 service). since a sustained complaint indicates versus 15.8), and per 10,000 residents there was sufficient evidence of the (1.96 versus 2.56) were also slightly allegation for the agency to justify lower among these agencies. The overall sustain rate for force Collective bargaining as complaints was more than twice Overall, the sustain rate in agencies high in agencies where citizens had authorizing collective bargaining for In 2003 about three-quarters (73%) of the right to administrative appeal (14% officers (7%) was about half that in large municipal police departments versus 6%). agencies not authorizing collective authorized collective bargaining for bargaining (15%). Complaints in these sworn personnel. Collective bargaining jurisdictions were more likely to be agreements often cover disciplinary found not sustained (39% versus processes and, in some instances, the 24%). handling or processing of citizen complaints. Among all agencies authorizing collective bargaining, the rate of force complaints was higher than those not authorizing collective bargaining (53 per agency versus 23 per agency), as were the rates per 100 officers (9.9 versus 7.3), per 100 officers responding to calls (16.4 versus 11.3), and per 10,000 residents (2.58 versus 1.60). Citizen Complaints about Police Use of Force 6

7 Methodology Imputation cells were based on agency type, size, and population served, The Law Enforcement Management following procedures developed by the and Administrative Statistics (LEMAS) U.S. Census Bureau for previous survey collects data from a nationally LEMAS surveys. Ratio imputation representative sample of publicly based on the number of full-time sworn funded State and local law officers was used to impute total enforcement agencies in the United complaints data. The ratio of States. LEMAS surveys have been complaints per officer was calculated conducted in 1987, 1990, 1993, 1997, in each imputation cell. Within cells, 1999 (limited scope), 2000, and 2003. the median ratio was multiplied by the number of officers in non-responding The 2003 LEMAS survey was the first agencies to produce the imputed to collect data on the number and value. Imputations for complaint dispositions of citizen complaints about disposition data were based on the police use of force. The items were median percentage within imputation included on surveys sent to all cells. agencies with 100 or more full-time sworn officers. Additional data for large general purpose State and local law This report presents data from the enforcement agencies can be found in 2003 LEMAS survey for large general Law Enforcement the BJS report, purpose State and local law Management and Administrative enforcement agencies, defined as Statistics, 2003: Data for Individual those employing 100 or more full-time State and Local Agencies with 100 or sworn officers, with 40 or more officers forthcoming. More Officers, assigned to respond to calls for service. A total of 798 agencies met Additional detail on LEMAS survey these criteria, including 496 municipal methodology can be found in the BJS police departments, 32 county police reports, Local Police Departments, departments, 221 sheriffs’ offices, and 2003, the 49 primary State law enforcement lpd03.htm Sheriffs’ Offices, 2003, and agencies. For purposes of this report, a large tribal police department was s03.htm. treated as a municipal police department. Some agencies did not report complaints data. Total complaints data were imputed for 92 (11.5%) of the 798 large general purpose agencies. This included 42 (8.5%) municipal police departments, 41 (18.6%) sheriffs’ offices, and 9 (18.4%) of the primary State law enforcement agencies. By agency size, this included 7 agencies with 1,000 or more officers (9.1%), 10 agencies with 500-999 officers (13.5%), 19 agencies with 250-499 officers (10.7%), and 56 agencies with 100-249 officers (11.9%). Overall, 1,369 complaints were imputed, or 5.2% of the total complaints for large general purpose agencies. 7 Citizen Complaints about Police Use of Force, 2002

8 PRESORTED STANDARD U.S. Department of Justice *NCJ~210296* POSTAGE & FEES PAID Office of Justice Programs DOJ/BJS Permit No. G-91 Bureau of Justice Statistics Washington, DC 20531 Official Business Penalty for Private Use $300 The Bureau of Justice Statistics is This report in portable document the statistical agency of the U.S. format and in ASCII and its related Department of Justice. Jeffrey L. statistical data and tables are Sedgwick is director. available at the BJS World Wide Web Internet site: by Matthew J. Hickman, Ph.D. Brian A. Reaves, Ph.D. verified the report. Tina Dorsey and Marianne Zawitz produced and Office of Justice Programs edited the report. Jayne Robinson Partnerships for Safer Communities prepared the report for final printing. June 2006, NCJ 210296 8 Citizen Complaints about Police Use of Force, 2002

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