BJS: Bureau of Justice Statistics

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Home  | Terms & Definitions: Law Enforcement
Terms & Definitions: Law Enforcement

The act of detaining in legal custody. An "arrest" is the deprivation of a person's liberty by legal authority in response to a criminal charge.

COSIS is an acronym for Combined DNA Index System, which is a computer software program that operates local, state, and national databases of DNA profiles from convicted offenders, unsolved crime scene evidence, and missing persons.

Cause of death
A description of the specific factors leading to the termination of the biological functions that sustain life

Chemical agents
A chemical compound which has deleterious effects on human health. There are a number of different types of chemical agents, and a range of uses for these compounds, from crowd control to chemical warfare.

Community policing
A philosophy that promotes organizational strategies, which support the systematic use of partnerships and problem-solving techniques between the police and the community. These strategies proactively address the immediate conditions that give rise to public safety issues such as crime, social disorder, and fear of crime. For more information about community policing, please visit the Office of Community Oriented Policing Services (COPS) website.

Crime laboratories
A scientific laboratory (with at least one full-time natural scientist) that examines physical evidence in criminal matters, and provides reports and opinion testimony with respect to such physical evidence in courts of law.

Criminal jurisdiction in tribal areas
Jurisdiction over offenses in Indian country may lie with federal, state, or tribal agencies, depending on the particular offense, offender, victim, and offense location. For more information on tribal jurisdiction, see Census of Tribal Justice Agencies in Indian Country, 2002, and Jails in Indian Country, 2001.

Cross deputization agreements
Allow law enforcement personnel from state and tribal entities to cross jurisdictions in criminal cases. Cross deputization agreements have been used to enhance law enforcement capabilities in areas were state and tribal lands were contiguous and intermingled. Under some agreements, federal, state, county/local, and/or tribal law enforcement officers have the power to arrest Indian and non-Indian wrongdoers wherever the violation of law occurs.

The abbreviation for deoxyribonucleic acid, which is the genetic material present in the cells of all living organisms. DNA is the fundamental building block for an individual's entire genetic makeup. A person's DNA is the same in every cell (with a nucleus). DNA is contained in blood, semen, skin cells, tissue, organs, muscle, brain cells, bone, teeth, hair, saliva, mucus, perspiration, fingernails, urine, feces, etc.

Deadly or lethal force
Force that a law enforcement officer uses with the purpose of causing, or that the officer knows to create a substantial risk of causing, death, or serious bodily harm.

Excessive use of force
The application of lawful use of force in too many separate incidents.

Killing of a human being by another human being. The arrest-related death (ARD) program gathers data on homicides that occur during an arrest process regardless of whether the homicide was attributed to law enforcement personnel or a civilian. Homicides by law enforcement personnel were included in the ARD collection because they resulted from a direct use of force by law enforcement officers. However, not all homicides by law enforcement personnel involve shooting deaths. Other types of homicides by law enforcement officers included deaths attributed to asphyxia during restraint, injuries sustained during an altercation, and the use of technologies such as, chemical sprays and conducted energy devices.

Large law enforcement agencies
Non-federal departments employing 100 or more full-time sworn officers.

Law enforcement
The generic name for the activities of the agencies responsible for maintaining public order and enforcing the law, particularly the activities of prevention, detection, and investigation of crime and the apprehension of criminals.

Less-lethal weapons
Less-lethal technologies give police an alternative to lethal force. These weapons are especially valuable when lethal force (1) is not necessary, (2) is justified and available for backup, but lesser force may resolve the situation, or (3) is justified, but its use could cause serious injury to bystanders or other unacceptable collateral effects. The weapons currently in use include chemical agents, batons, soft projectiles, and electrical devices, such as stun guns and Tasers.

Local law enforcement officer
An employee of a local law enforcement agency who is an officer sworn to carry out law enforcement duties. Examples of this class are sheriffs, deputy sheriffs, chiefs of police, city police officers, and sworn personnel of law enforcement subunits of port and transit authorities. For national level general data, this class includes campus police officers employed by of local city and community college districts. Private campus police are excluded.

Manner of death
An explanation of how a person died, typically illustrated by a one word description of the intentions and circumstances that led to the stated medical cause of death. Essentially, the manner of death is the way in which death was caused and is typically listed as natural, accident, homicide, suicide, or undetermined.

Of, relating to, or concerned with medicine and law; pertaining to legal aspects of the practice of medicine.

An administrative entity composed of a clearly defined territory and its population and commonly denotes a city, town, or village, or a small grouping of them. A municipality is typically governed by a mayor and a city council or municipal council.

Deaths attributed to natural agents such as illness or internal malfunctions of the body. The majority of arrest-related deaths recorded as "natural" were due to heart complications. Other natural deaths included complications from long term illnesses.

Non-deadly or less-lethal force
The level of force required to gain compliance that is not known to or intended to create serious bodily harm or death.

Process of arrest
Any actions by law enforcement officers in an attempt to apprehend a criminal suspect. For the purposes of the arrest-related death (ARD) program, a death occurring during the "process of arrest" can happen any time after a law enforcement officer invokes his or her authority to detain a criminal suspect and before custody of the suspect is transferred to a correctional authority.

Public Law 83-280 (commonly referred to as Public Law 280 or P.L. 280)
Establishes criminal justice responsibilities among American Indian tribes with tribal land, the states in which tribes are located, and the federal government. Public Law 280 is mandatory or optional for 204 tribes, about two-thirds of the total in the lower 48 states. In states where P.L. 280 does not apply, the federal government retains criminal jurisdiction for major crimes committed under the Indian Country Crimes Act (18 U.S.C. § 1152), the Indian Country Major Crimes Act (18 U.S.C. § 1153), and the Assimilative Crimes Act (18 U.S.C. § 13).

Public Law 93-638
The Indian Self-Determination Act of 1975 affords tribes the opportunity to provide for their own police departments and other institutional services through federal grants and contracts.

SARA stands for Scanning, Analysis, Response, and Assessment. SARA is a commonly used problem-solving method involved in community policing. For more information visit the Center for Problem-Oriented Policing site.

The elected chief officer of a county law enforcement agency, usually responsible for law enforcement in unincorporated areas and for the operation of the county jail.

Intentional killing of oneself. BJS recorded arrest-related deaths as suicides only if medical staff deemed the decedent deliberately took his or her life. The most common type of suicide reported to the the arrest-related death (ARD) program included decedents engaging in armed standoffs with law enforcement prior to taking his or her life. Other suicides occurred while law enforcement officers were attempting to apprehend the deceased, who committed suicide to avoid being taken into custody. Drug and alcohol overdoses were not considered to be suicides unless there was evidence the overdose was intentional. Unintentional over use of alcohol or drugs for recreational purposes were coded as intoxication deaths. Deaths that were submitted as suicide by cop, were recorded in the ARD collection as homicides because the death was directly attributed to actions taken by law enforcement personnel.

Sworn officers
Persons formally authorized to make arrests while acting within the scope of explicit legal authority.

The Clery Act
The Jeanne Clery Disclosure of Campus Security Policy and Campus Crime Statistics Act was signed into law in 1990. It requires institutions of higher education that participate in federal financial aid programs to keep and disclose information about crime on and near campus. Clery Act statistics are available on the Campus Safety and Security Data Analysis Cutting Tool site.

Tribal police powers
Authority to exercise criminal jurisdiction over all tribal members and the authority to arrest and detain non-Indians for delivery to state or federal authorities for prosecution. These tribal police powers are generally limited to tribal lands.

Use of excessive force
The application of force beyond what is reasonably believed to be necessary to gain compliance from a subject in any given incident.

Use of force
The amount of effort required by law enforcement to gain compliance from an unwilling subject.

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