IACP Releases Research on Police Use of Force

Alexandria, Virginia—The International Association of Chiefs of Police (IACP) today released the 2001 edition of its report Police Use of Force in America. The report, which is the culmination of a national data collection effort begun by the IACP in 1995, represents a comprehensive statistical picture of police/citizen contacts and reported use of force incidents. The primary finding of the research effort is that police rarely use force—only 3.6 times for each 10,000 calls for service—or less than one percent of the time. This finding is consistent with other research in the field, most notably the Police Contact Survey from the U.S. Department of Justice, which had similar findings that less than one percent of police-citizen contacts resulted in police use of force. Of particular note was the finding on excessive police use of force. During the time period 1994-2000, 174, 820 incidents were reported to the IACP, which resulted in 750 complaints sustained as alleged. This indicates that excessive police use of force took place only 0.42% of the time. IACP President Bill Berger, Chief of Police of the North Miami Beach, Florida Police Department said, "I am proud of America’s law enforcement officers. The report shows that police are judicious in their application of any kind of force, and now we have the statistics to back it up." Reacting to the low rates of excessive force, Berger said, "Although the rates of excessive police use of force is low, even a small percentage is unacceptable. Law enforcement must continue to address this important issue through the implementation of use of force policies, training and effective leadership." Other highlights of the study:
  • Arrests were the most frequent circumstance of use of force during the latest data collection period of 1999-2000. Arrests accounted for 39%; disturbances for 21% and traffic stops for 14%.

  • Intoxication on the part of subjects appears to be a substantial predictor of police use of force during traffic stops. Where both force and intoxication information was available, 46% of all use of force incidents occurred when the subject was intoxicated or under the influence of drugs.

  • From 1995-2000, there were 8,148 reported incidents where racial descriptions were provided for both the officers and subjects. Of these incidents, 39% involved white officers using force on white subjects; 44% involved white officers using force on African-American subjects; 7% involved African-American officers using force on African American subjects; and roughly 3% involved African-American officers using force on white subjects. The remaining 7% involved all other racial combinations of subjects and officers.

The IACP report on Police Use of Force in America is an outgrowth of the Violent Crime Control and Law Enforcement Act of 1994, which directed the Attorney General to collect information on excessive police use of force. Originally funded by the Justice Department, the IACP has funded this project since 1998. The report is available at http://www.theiacp.org/Portals/0/pdfs/Publications/2001useofforce.pdf www.theiacp.org/profassist/useofforce.htm.

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