U.S. flag

An official website of the United States government, Department of Justice.

NCJRS Virtual Library

The Virtual Library houses over 235,000 criminal justice resources, including all known OJP works.
Click here to search the NCJRS Virtual Library

Collect and Release Data on Coercive Police Actions

NCJ Number
Criminology & Public Policy Volume: 6 Issue: 4 Dated: November 2007 Pages: 773-780
Robert J. Kane
Date Published
November 2007
8 pages
This essay argues that all police departments should collect comprehensive data on all coercive activities of their officers, including disciplinary actions, and make these data available to the public with minimal editing and commentary.
Many, if not most, U.S. police departments do not systematically collect data on coercive officer actions and their outcome. When they do collect such data, many departments do not review the data for accuracy and consistency. Typically, data on a department's use of force, including deadly force, are compiled only in response to mandated inquiries associated with a publicized use-of-force incident and/or the threat of coming under Federal control. Further, when such data are kept by departments, including citizen complaints about officer use of force, they are viewed as for the private use of departments for the purposes of monitoring and managing personnel actions. This practice violates the principles of the democratic process, which gives priority to the transparency of government actions that bear upon the rights and safety guaranteed to the citizenry. The public has authorized the police to carry arms and other coercive weapons in order to facilitate their law enforcement and public-safety efforts. The public has a right to know how a police department and its sworn officers are using weapons and coercive actions in the course of performing services to and for the citizenry. Not all information, however, should be made readily available to the public, particularly when it relates to ongoing investigations, but the burden of proof is on police departments to justify withholding from the public any information on police actions. 16 references