Milwaukee Police “Use of Force” Totals Jump As Its Definition is Changed


A change in the use-of-force reporting policy for Milwaukee police officers has more than quadrupled the number of “bodily force only” incidents in the first six months of 2013 and more than doubled the total number of incidents for the period over the previous year, says a report from the city’s Fire and Police Commission quoted by the Milwaukee Journal Sentinel. Before 2013, incidents that involved “bodily force only” without injury or complaint of injury from the subject were not required to be documented. “It is critical to highlight that it appears that this increase is a direct result of the use-of-force reporting policy change, not the actions of officers,” the report states, noting the jump was an expected consequence of the change.

The report by Steven Brandl, associate professor of criminal justice at the University of Wisconsin-Milwaukee, says that the department defines a use-of-force incident as an incident that requires a report to be “completed by a supervisory officer when a department member discharges a firearm; uses a baton in the line of duty; discharges an irritant, chemical, or inflammatory agent; deploys an electronic control device… a department canine bites a person; forcible blood draws requiring use of force to obtain a sample where a subject claims injury or is injured as a result of police action; uses bodily force that involves focused strikes, diffused strikes, or decentralizations to the ground; uses any type of force in which a person is injured or claims injury, whether or not the injury is immediately visible.” From Jan. 1 through June 30, there were 514 use-of-force incidents, compared with 209 during the same period in 2012.

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