BJS: Bureau of Justice Statistics

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Bureau of Justice Statistics (BJS)
Use of Force
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An essential element in law enforcement is the potential for suspect resistance and police use of or threatened use of force. In the Police Public Contact Survey (PPCS), persons who had contact with police during the previous 12 months, whether as a driver in a traffic stop or for some other reason, were asked if the police officer(s) used or threatened to use force against them during the contact. Survey respondents who reported more than one contact during the year were asked about the use or threat of force by police during their most recent contact. 

Summary findings

  • Among persons who had contact with police in 2008, an estimated 1.4% had force used or threatened against them during their most recent contact, which was not statistically different from the percentages in 2002 (1.5%) and 2005 (1.6%).

     
  • Males were more likely than females to have force used or threatened against them during their most recent contact with police during 2008, and blacks were more likely than whites or Hispanics to experience use or threat of force.

     
  • Of persons who had force used or threatened against them by police in 2008, an estimated 74% felt those actions were excessive.

     
  • Of those individuals who had force used or threatened against them in 2008, about half were pushed or grabbed by police. About 19% of persons who experienced the use or threat of force by the police reported being injured during the incident.

     
  •  Among persons experiencing police use or threat of force in 2008, an estimated 22% reported that they argued with, cursed at, insulted, or verbally threatened the police.

     
  • About 12% of those involved in a force incident reported disobeying or interfering with the police.

     
  • Among individuals who had force used or threatened against them in 2008, an estimated 40% were arrested during the incident.

     
  • An estimated 84% of individuals who experienced force or the threat of force felt that the police acted improperly. Of those who experienced the use or threat of force in 2008 and felt the police acted improperly, 14% filed a complaint against the police.

Data Collections & Surveys

Publications & Products


Requests for Police Assistance, 2011 Examines the characteristics and experiences of persons age 16 or older who contacted police to request assistance in 2011.
  Press Release | PDF (952K) | ASCII file (23K) | Comma-delimited format (CSV) (Zip format 33K)

Police Behavior during Traffic and Street Stops, 2011 Examines the characteristics and experiences of persons age 16 or older who were stopped by police during traffic and street stops, and their perceptions of police behavior and response during these encounters.
  Press Release | PDF (1.8M) | ASCII file (52K) | Comma-delimited format (CSV) (Zip format 64K)

Contacts between Police and the Public, 2008 Presents findings from a nationally representative survey of nearly 60,000 residents age 16 or older about their contact with police during the 12 months prior to the interview.
  Press Release | PDF (932K) | ASCII file (48K) | Spreadsheet (Zip format 51K) | Codebooks and Datasets
Part of the Contacts between Police and the Public Series

Contacts between Police and the Public, 2008 CONTACTS BETWEEN POLICE AND THE PUBLIC DECLINED FROM 2002 TO 2008
  Press Release
Part of the Contacts between Police and the Public Series

Contacts between Police and the Public, 2005 "Police stop white, black and Hispanic drivers at similar rates according to Department of Justice report"
  Press Release | More information about this release

Citizen Complaints about Police Use of Force "Citizens complained more than 26,000 times in 2002 about excessive police force - Evidence in about 8% of complaints justified disciplinary action"
  Press Release | More information about this release

Citizen Complaints about Police Use of Force 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.
  Press Release | PDF (337K) | ASCII file (34K) | Spreadsheet (Zip format 60K) | Codebooks and Datasets | To order paper version

Characteristics of Drivers Stopped by Police, 2002 Provides data on the nature and characteristics of traffic stops, as collected in the 2002 Police-Public Contact Survey, a supplement to the National Crime Victimization Survey.
  PDF (337K) | ASCII file (34K) | Spreadsheet (Zip format 60K)

Contacts between Police and Public: Findings from the 2002 National Survey Presents data on the nature and characteristics of contacts between residents of the U.S. and the police over a 12-month period.
  PDF (886K) | ASCII file (62K) | Spreadsheet (Zip format 25K) | To order paper version
Part of the Contacts between Police and the Public Series

Characteristics of Drivers Stopped by Police, 1999 Provides data on the nature and characteristics of traffic stops, as collected in the 1999 Police-Public Contact Survey.
  PDF (198K) | ASCII file (48K) | Spreadsheet (Zip format 145K) | Codebooks and Datasets

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