Crime Data Gap

April 1, 2021
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How Often Do Police & Citizens Clash?

We actually can’t answer that question definitively.

Here’s why.


National Database

  • Currently, state, local & tribal law enforcement agencies *voluntarily* report data to the federal government.
  • This includes incidents when U.S. residents attack law enforcement, as well as “use-of-force” incidents by law enforcement officers against residents.

What Is “Use Of Force”?

  • FBI defines a “use-of-force” incident as one that occurs when an officer discharges their firearm or takes another action that results in someone’s death or “serious bodily injury.”
  • Serious bodily injury = “substantial risk of death, unconsciousness, protracted and obvious disfigurement, or protracted loss or impairment of the function of a bodily member, organ, or mental faculty.”


In 2015, the FBI revamped the use-of-force data it collects. As of last year, participating law enforcement agencies are now asked to provide data including:

  • Age, race and sex of officer & person
  • Reason for officer’s initial contact
  • Type of force & injury to person
  • Whether person resisted arrest, threatened officer or another person
  • Whether officer was injured

What Data Do We Have?

Federal, state, local & tribal law enforcement agencies representing 41% of America’s sworn officers provided “use-of-force” data to the FBI in 2019.

Submission of this data – like other crime data – is *voluntary.* Many widely-reported figures come from independent analysis of police data by nonprofits & others, some with political bias/funding.

What Did The Data Say?

  • In 2019, more than 5,000 of the more than 18,500 federal, state, local, and tribal law enforcement agencies nationwide reported 790 use-of-force instances.
  • We won’t publicly know more details about the incidents (like race or circumstances) until more agencies report. We can’t compare 2019 data to previous years for context because the FBI is collecting data in a new way.

In light of the recent police shooting of Kenosha, Wisconsin, many may ask about clashes between police & citizens and vice-versa. The FBI collects annual data on incidents in which law enforcement officers are killed or assaulted in the line of duty. 33 officers have been fatally wounded in 2020 as of Sept. 1.

FBI Press Release

Learn More …

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