Ohio and Tennessee Enroll as National Use-of-Force Data Collection Bulk Contributors

Ohio and Tennessee are First and Second States to Enroll as Bulk Contributors

In recent years, high-profile events involving the use of force in the law enforcement community have drawn attention to the need for a national collection of use-of-force data. In response to requests from major law enforcement agencies and local, state, tribal, and federal partners, the FBI launched a six-month pilot study, which included the involvement of 98 law enforcement agencies, spanning the time period of July 1 through December 31, 2017. Participants voluntarily reported law enforcement use-of-force incidents that resulted in the death or serious bodily injury of a person, along with incidents that involved the discharge of a firearm at or in the direction of a person. In January, the FBI officially launched the National Use-of-Force Data Collection and the first full data publication year.

Although the pilot study has been completed, a number of participants in the pilot continue to submit their data. In addition, thousands of law enforcement agencies have enrolled in this collection in preparation for the national launch. On February 13, 2018, the Ohio Department of Public Safety (ODPS) was the first state to enroll in the National Use-of-Force Data Collection as a bulk submitter. Bulk data submission occurs when a state or agency provides the FBI their data in one file, rather than by submitting individual reports via the Use-of-Force Portal. James Luebbers, criminal justice planning supervisor for the Office of Criminal Justice Services, a division of the ODPS, said the ODPS is a strong supporter of data-driven approaches in decision making. “The collection of a standardized set of statistical data is a way to better understand any systemic patterns of these incidents. Otherwise, we are far more limited in our analysis when making decisions,” he said.

Logo for the National Use-of-Force Data collection.

On March 6, 2018, all 586 agencies in Tennessee signed on to participate in the data collection program via the Tennessee Bureau of Investigation (TBI), making Tennessee the second state to enroll as a bulk contributor. Yeselin Melendrez, CJIS support specialist for the TBI, explained that the Tennessee legislature passed a bill requiring the TBI to publish an annual report regarding deaths related to law enforcement. The legislation came about after a highly publicized use-of-force death in Memphis in 2016. “Our agency was interested in the details about these occurrences and how we could use this information to possibly educate the public, our elected officials, and law enforcement,” she said. “We believe the community will appreciate the transparency.”

Melendrez believes the National Use-of-Force Data Collection will assist law enforcement agencies in developing specialized training on how to handle use-of-force confrontations and similar topics. “We hope that our data can assist law enforcement officers in preparing for whatever they may encounter in a use-of-force situation,” she said.

From his perspective, Luebbers thinks the data in the collection can help agencies analyze their own use-of-force patterns as well as the patterns of other agencies. “Identifying patterns and trends can help agencies prioritize any specific training needs and determine if policies need to change,” he said.

The merit of improving use-of-force training and policies, Melendrez believes, “lies in saving live—both law enforcement and the public.” Luebbers agreed, saying, “The preservation of human life is of the highest value in Ohio.”

Based on her agency’s experience, Melendrez recommends that other agencies participate in the Use-of-Force Data Collection. “The information will be useful to you, your lawmakers, your fellow law enforcement agencies, and the public in general,” she said. Luebbers added, “We strongly encourage agencies to participate, as this knowledge sharing is a benefit for all.”

The FBI is aware of budget and time constraints already placed upon law enforcement agencies. In efforts to decrease financial and time burdens, the FBI developed two methods of data submission. Agencies may use the use-of-force portal application housed on the FBI’s Law Enforcement Enterprise Portal (LEEP) to enter applicable use-of-force incidents individually, which requires zero financial investment. Agencies may also choose to use bulk submission. The FBI is encouraging law enforcement agencies planning to participate in this collection to apply for LEEP accounts at www.cjis.gov. If your law enforcement agency is interested in enrolling or would like more information, visit www.fbi.gov/useofforce, e-mail useofforce@fbi.gov, or call 304-625-9998.