State releases long-awaited police use of force data

By Published On: July 8th, 2021Categories: Capitol Notes

Nearly two years after police departments around New York were required to begin submitting detailed information to the state about incidents involving use of force – including the race of officers and subjects – the Cuomo administration has released more than 15 months of acquired data.

The data reporting requirement was added to the state budget adopted in the spring of 2019 and required law enforcement agencies to document instances when officers used force in the line of duty, including brandishing or discharging a firearm, applying chokeholds, displaying or deploying pepper spray and utilizing a baton.

During the budget debate on the issue, proponents of the requirements argued they could inform future police training, identify problematic trends and increase transparency, while critics contended it would have a “chilling effect” on appropriate use of force.

The state was tasked with compiling the data into an annual public report, which omits officers’ names but includes a description of the circumstances that led to the use of force and the parties involved. The first report from the Division of Criminal Justice Services was published this week.

The data is from July 11, 2019 – when the law took effect – through Oct. 31, 2020 – when the state updated its data collection portal. In response to concerns about the vagueness of some terms, the state tweaked the definition of some terms in January 2020 and again in November of 2020.

Based on the 6,052 incidents reported to the state, there were 8,381 separate types of force used, of which 36 percent involved a firearm.  There were 7,011 subjects who had some form of force used against them, of which 46 percent  were white and 49 percent were black.  There were 10,731 officers involved in the reported incidents, with 76 percent of them being white.

There were 16 incidents that resulted in death to a subject – 10 total fatalities – and seven incidents that resulted in serious bodily injury.

There are some caveats in the data, such as the New York City Police Department only reporting  “incidents where a firearm was used or discharged, or where a chemical agent, electronic control weapon, or impact weapon was used or deployed” and not reporting whether a “chokehold or restraint was used or if there was conduct that resulted in serious bodily injury or death.”

Use of Force Incidents Final Report by Capitol Pressroom on Scribd