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Publication Citizen Complaints about Police Use of Force

Matthew J. Hickman, Ph.D.

June 25, 2006    NCJ 210296

Presents data on citizen complaints about police use of force received by large, general purpose State and local law enforcement agencies as well as on complaint dispositions. Findings presented are from new questions on formal citizen complaints about police use of force added to the Law Enforcement Management and Administrative Statistics survey. Detail is presented on the policies and procedures of large municipal police departments relating to the processing of citizen complaints and other administrative features. The report also discusses the limitations of complaints' data and the use of sustained complaints as a measure of police use of excessive force.

Highlights:

  • During 2002 large State and local law enforcement agencies, representing 5% of agencies and 59% of officers, received a total of 26,556 citizen complaints about police use of force.
  • About a third of all force complaints in 2002 were not sustained (34%). Twenty-five percent were unfounded, 23% resulted in officers being exonerated, and 8% were sustained.
  • Using sustained force complaints as an indicator of excessive force results in an estimate of about 2,000 incidents of police use of excessive force among large agencies in 2002.

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Law Enforcement Management and Administrative Statistics (LEMAS)

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