How and why the BCA collects use-of-force data

Nov. 9, 2020

National Use of Force Data Collection graphic with a squad car

We know more about use-of-force incidents here in Minnesota than most other states. For many years, local law enforcement agencies, at the direction of the Minnesota legislature, have provided information about firearms discharge incidents involving peace officers. That’s not the case in many other states. But that is changing.

The FBI established its National Use of Force Data Collection in 2018 – a program to gather detailed information about use-of-force incidents at a national level. Although participation is voluntary, Minnesota agencies again became national leaders, with participation at nearly double the national average. By this summer, 90 percent of Minnesota law enforcement were sending use-of-force data. The state legislature mandated the reporting starting on Aug. 1, 2020, and since then, participation has continued to grow – currently at 92 percent. That’s compared with 41.9 percent national participation.

So what exactly are law enforcement agencies reporting? There are a few broad categories:

  • When a person dies in connection with use of force by a law enforcement officer.
  • When a person is seriously injured in connection with use of force by a law enforcement officer.
  • When a law enforcement officer discharges a firearm at or in the direction of a person. This gets reported whether or not the person is injured or dies as a result.

With the start of the FBI collection, reporting on use-of-force incidents has become much more detailed. The report must involve details not only of the incident itself (everything from date/time to reason for initial contact), but details about both the officer and the subject involved. Agencies submit these reports monthly – and if there have been no use-of-force incidents that month, the agency must report that too.

Collecting use-of-force data is an all-around good idea. Until it started, there simply wasn’t enough data out there to inform the national conversation. Collecting it allows local agencies and the FBI to analyze the information and to be more transparent about these incidents to the public. In addition, local agencies can use the data from the BCA to look for trends in their own incidents and improve training methods to reduce use-of-force incidents going forward.

Although the FBI has not yet begun to publish this data on a national level, the BCA publishes Minnesota use-of-force data every year in the Uniform Crime Report. The 2019 report is the first to include the more detailed additional information for the FBI collection. And the BCA is working with the remaining agencies to assist them in complying with the new reporting requirement. As discussions about use of force during police encounters take place in our council chambers, our communities and our homes, this data – both from here in Minnesota and nationally – will provide a clearer understanding of these incidents.​