Competing Narratives on Police Use of Force

motorcycle cop high fiving kids in a paradeThe Office of Civil Rights Examination (OCRE) presented the results of a study into police use of force in the United States in a report and briefing before the U.S. Commission on Civil Rights (USCCR). The report, “Police Use of Force: An Examination of Modern Policing Practices” comes as a response to the inability to objectively measure the real extent of police use of force in the United States.

Safer communities exist where public confidence in law enforcement is high.  When communities trust that police are engaging in fair, reasonable, and impartial treatment, they are more inclined to partner with law enforcement to reduce crime. This report addresses the public perception that the use of force by police is excessive, unjust, and discriminatory. This belief stems from several highly publicized incidents of police brutality; however, data to support this belief is lacking and flawed. Federal reporting of police use of force is not mandatory, and standards for reporting do not exist.

The public continues to hear competing narratives by law enforcement and community members, and the hard reality is that available national and local data is flawed and inadequate.

This report examines the multitude of issues that surround the question of police use of force and discrimination. It provides suggestions on improving community-police relations, reducing abuses of power in law enforcement, and implementing federal reporting standards. The report highlights the need to preserve the civil liberties of all people while ensuring that law enforcement personnel, who risk their lives daily, are safe from the very crime they work to prevent. Furthermore, the report contends that a cooperative relationship between communities and law enforcement can develop when police adopt a mentality of working with communities instead of for communities.

Commissioner Karen K. Narasaki states:

This report has been many years in the making. It is an issue with life and death consequences for both law enforcement and the communities they serve. I strongly support our findings and recommendations and seek to focus on two particular areas. One is the cultural shift that must be made within policing itself and the role that the Department of Justice can play in supporting that shift. The other is the shared interest that law enforcement and communities have in the need to address the mental health crisis we as a country have too long ignored.


More resources and reports on police use of force in the U.S. can be found at the Homeland Security Digital Library (HSDL).

Some links require HSDL login, click here to view the report directly.

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Note: you may need to login to the HSDL to view some resources mentioned in the blog.

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