International Human Rights Clinic student Ryan Maher, '18, on police accountability, "National Use-of-Force Data Collection Program"

A Step Towards Police Accountability: The National Use of Force Data Collection Program

It’s clear that officers must be permitted to apply some amount of force to police effectively. But the degree or kind of force available to an officer in any given situation runs along a spectrum. Tenets of justice and equality demand that every effort be applied to strike the right balance along that fine-lined spectrum; that unnecessary or excessive force is never used by police officers.

So what is a “normal” amount of shots fired at a subject? As a student in the International Human Rights Clinic at the University of Chicago Law School, I was involved in a project gathering and analyzing use of force by police in selected cities in the United States. It turns out that, while sixteen shots fired at one subject is higher than normal, it is not such an outlier.

Our study on police use of force did not come by this information easily. We spent over a year and a half collecting data from fewer than two dozen police departments, and still failed to obtain all of the statistics we set out to gather. Such important data should be systematically collected, centralized, and accessible. The difficulty we experienced in obtaining information about parameters like the number of shots fired by an officer at a human subject shows the urgent need for improved data collection, like that offered by the National Use of Force Data Collection Program.

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