4 Mandatory reporting by police and correctional agencies
Mandatory reporting of use of force benefits both the agency and community. First, agencies can learn much from mandatory use of force reporting. Agencies can learn why use of force is being used by capturing important data points. For example, the time of day, the day of week, the location in the community, officer demographics (such as time on the job and assignment) and additional information about the person upon whom force was used and the incident response – will assist the police agency. 505 The data captured from a use of force incident will enable an agency to learn why force was used. Patterns, trends, and reasons for the use of force will better assist the agency to develop training programs and to design alternative plans for the deployment of officers.
Secondly, agencies will begin to share with the public their action that at times cause mistrust – the use of force. A public review of force would allow communities to see how force is used. Force will begin a process of openness, which will build trust between the agency and the public. Transparency has a way of doing that.
What we have learned from police and correctional agencies across America from DoJ pattern and practice investigations is that an improper use of force incident and the reasons for the failure are often never communicated to the community. The lack of transparency on these failures results in organizational frustration in police and correctional agencies and distances of a community from the agency.
The time is right for mandatory use of force reporting. There is a movement in our profession as we have witnessed the recent work of the President’s Task Force on 21st Century Policing. Several action items and recommendations from the Task Force directly target mandatory use of force reporting. The following are two examples from the Task Force, which supports our position:
2.2.4 ACTION ITEM: Policies on use of force should also require agencies to collect, maintain, and report data to the
Federal Government on all officer-involved shootings, whether fatal or nonfatal, as well as any in-custody death.
2.2 RECOMMENDATION: Law enforcement agencies should have comprehensive policies on the use of force that
include training, investigations, prosecutions, data collection, and information sharing. These policies must be clear,
concise, and openly available for public inspection.
Following the 1991 Rodney King incident, the Congress in 1994 passed legislation and gave the authority to the U.S. Attorney General to investigate any police agency or jail with reasonable suspicion that someone’s Constitutional rights were violated under 42 U.S. Code §14141.
Since 1995, the DoJ’s Special Litigation Section has investigated numerous police agencies and jails. Excessive use of force is one of the common findings in police agencies. A series of best practices has been learned over the past twenty years using information from those investigations and applying these templates to mandatory use of 506 force reporting. What can be learned from these investigations is a standard template for police agencies to use.
An agency can see what a use force report should contain, what data points should be included, and required elements from the force encounter. The documents exist to demonstrate to police agencies what supervisors should do at a police use of force event – data point gathering, collection of evidence, officer and witness interviews, and a detailed report of force. An internal management review process examines police conduct and whether internal police procedures were followed. It also reviews training and tactics.
All of these important policies and practices are available via the Special Litigation Section website to assist police agencies manage use of force. These policies and practices provide constitutional policing principles for agencies to serve their communities.
Mandatory police use of force reporting for all police agencies is reasonable, achievable, and sustainable within our profession. Failure of our profession to act this time in light of the current unrest will only forecast an uncertain future for our young peace officers.
Now is the time for police leaders to step forward and acknowledge that mandatory use of force reporting is good for the police and good for the community as well.
5 Defining use of force
Use of force is defined in various DoJ consent decrees, which are a good starting point for the discussion. For example, the April 2015 Los Angeles County Settlement Agreement states:
32. “Reportable use of force” means any use of force that is greater than that required for unresisted
searching or handcuffing. Additionally, any use of force