New Orleans Improves Transparency About Police Use-of-Force Incidents

A New Orleans police cruiser in the French Quarter.

A New Orleans police cruiser in the French Quarter. Shutterstock

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The data-focused effort comes at a time when the city is carrying out police department reforms.

Data about incidents involving the use of force by New Orleans police officers became more accessible Friday, when the city’s police department began publishing it online.

The New Orleans Police Department is now posting the use-of-force information on its website. The dataset currently includes incidents reported in 2016. It will be updated daily, according to the department. On Friday afternoon, the figures showed 1,027 incidents since January of this year.

In an announcement, the department said it was one of the first in the U.S. to publish this type of data online.

The information’s release comes at a time when discussions are unfolding throughout the country about how to improve relationships between law enforcement agencies and minority communities, and as New Orleans works to carry out reforms within its police department.

Of the reported incidents shown in the data available Friday, 896, roughly 87 percent, involved subjects who were black. And 766, about 74 percent of the total incidents, involved black men. U.S. Census Bureau estimates from 2010 identify about 60 percent of New Orleans’ population as black or African American.

In addition to information about the race, ethnicity, gender and age of the subjects in the incidents, the data include the same demographic details for the police officers who were involved, along with the number of years the officers have served with the New Orleans Police Department.

Among the officers involved in the use-of-force incidents reported so far this year, 510 were black and 413 were white, according to the data.

That data are available in a downloadable spreadsheet format, and through a visualization option that shows totals for the various demographic characteristics of subjects and officers both numerically and in chart form.

(via Tableau)

The raw data includes finer-grained information about each incident. For instance: the type of force used; whether alcohol, drugs, or mental instability were a factor in what took place; whether the use of force was effective; and the bureaus and divisions for the involved officers.

According to an annual report from last year, there were 724 use-of-force incidents and 27,974 arrests by New Orleans city police officers in 2015.

New Orleans is currently working through a long-term police reform process under an agreement, known as a consent decree, which it entered into with the U.S. Department of Justice back in 2012.

A 2011 report from the Justice Department’s Civil Rights Division concluded that the police department had exhibited patterns of misconduct that violated federal law and the Constitution, including the routine use of unnecessary and unreasonable force by officers.

Bill Lucia is a Reporter for Government Executive’s Route Fifty and is based in Washington, D.C.

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