How often do police departments use force?

Posted at 8:58 PM, Dec 14, 2015

CINCINNATI -- Some of the videos are captured with smartphones; others come from police dashcams and body cams.

The videos depict law enforcement's use of force, and they quickly go viral through social media.

But tracking down how often police departments use force during an arrest isn't always easy.

Nine local agencies do not provide a regular report on their officers' use of force; those include the Boone County Sheriff's Office, Kenton County Sheriff's Office, city of Middleton Police, Dearborn County Sheriff's Office, Norwood Police Department, Hamilton County Sheriff's Office, Woodlawn Police, University of Cincinnati Police Department and Cincinnati Police Department.

The inconsistent recordkeeping ranges from, in some cases, none at all, to Norwood's mound of police reports covering five years of use-of-force investigations.

Two agencies do provide regular reports: the West Chester Police Department and Covington Police Department. Both showed year-over-year declines in use of force.

Capt. Doug Wiesman, who oversees training for the Cincinnati Police Department, said CPD procedures changed after riots in 2001. Now, he said, there's a greater focus on "de-escalation techniques," or ways to reduce the intensity of a situation so a suspect can be arrested without resorting to force if possible.

"After 2001, we went into an electronic database system ....  it calculated patterns of conduct for us based on use-of-force reports we do in our recording system, you know, when we take reports," he said.

The database, Wiesman said, looks at a variety of factors -- "how many complaints do you have, what do they each say, how many pursuits, how many tasings?"

Officers who go outside normal parameters receive an intervention, including remedial training if necessary and additional follow-ups.

Data show the Cincinnati Police Department's use of force dropped 25 percent from 2010 to 2014, with another drop expected in 2015. Over that same period, the ranks of sworn officers decreased by about 7 percent. Fewer officers can mean fewer use-of-force incidents, and Wiesman also credits the veteran status of officers now working Cincinnati's streets.

The department also focuses on less-lethal forms of force, including an order of 380 new smart TASERs to bring the department total to 720.