Policy decisions involving policing require an accurate and comprehensive picture of what policing in America actually looks like. Too often, the media portrays police departments in ways that distort the public’s perception of their important work. Moreover, many police departments do not know how they compare to similar departments on certain key metrics, leaving leaders without data to back their policy decisions. Use-of-force reporting provides a constructive solution: transparency that contextualizes media coverage and rebuilds the public’s trust, and data sharing that helps police chiefs make evidence-based decisions.
Many state lawmakers see the potential of public use-of-force databases to shift perceptions of law enforcement. Use-of-force data helps identify both law enforcement agencies that need improvement and those that use force prudently. This information helps communities feel more confident in their local police departments, which in turn can use the data to compare strategies with other departments and ultimately learn innovative practices from one another.