Society, Justice and Law

Seattle U in the News: Faculty expert talks about police use of force data and research

June 4, 2020

Share this

Matthew Hickman, PhD, chair of the Criminal Justice Program, and research partner Bob Scales, spoke with NBC News Bay Area about the need to track use of force data so that police officials can learn about unrecognized bias and more effective techniques, achieving better, less violent results.

Read or watch the NBC News Bay Area story here.

An excerpt from the story:

While some individual agencies do their own analysis of use of force data experts and social scientists say those individual or private analyses can be restrictive because they only have one department’s data and the sample size can be small and therefore the conclusions are non-instructive. In other cases, experts say other law enforcement departments don’t analyze or even collect this specific data at all.

Those experts say that should change.

They say police officials can learn about unrecognized bias and more effective techniques, achieving better, less violent results by precisely tracking each use of force incident.

“It's one of the most critical pieces of information we can collect about the police,” said Dr. Matthew Hickman, Chairman of the Department of Criminal Justice at Seattle University. We really do need systematic data collection to help establish the reality of police use of force.”

“With these data, we can start to understand … how use of force incidents evolve,” said Dr. Hickman. And we can learn “what are the characteristics of those incidents that are more or less likely to lead to injury. And hopefully lead to better policies and training so that we can try to minimize injury.”

Because of that in 2015, Dr. Hickman teamed with a private company, Police Strategies LLC, also based in the Seattle area, to begin tracking data, voluntarily provided by police departments from around the country, showing precisely how, when and where police use force.

“It [use of force data collection] should be nationwide,” said Dr. Hickman. “And that's really the shame of all this, is that the federal government has been required for 25 years to collect data on the use of excessive force by police and report on it annually. And they've never done that.”

Share this