Use of Force Reporting Best Practices: Does My Incident Qualify?
On January 1, 2019, the FBI launched the National Use-of-Force Data Collection as a voluntary program to gather data on law enforcement use-of-force incidents and provide an aggregate view of the associated circumstances, subjects, and officers involved.
While certain states (and localities) may have expanded use-of-report reporting requirements, it's important to note that the FBI's data collection is predicated on answering "Yes" to one (or more) of the following qualification questions:
Did this incident result in…?
The death of a person due to law enforcement use of force? (Yes/No)
The serious bodily injury* of a person due to law enforcement use of force? (Yes/No)
The discharge of a firearm by law enforcement at or in the direction of a person that did not otherwise result in death or serious bodily injury? (Yes/No)
*The definition of serious bodily injury will be based, in part, on 18 United States Code (USC) Section 2246 (4), to mean "bodily injury that involves a substantial risk of death, unconsciousness, protracted and obvious disfigurement, or protracted loss or impairment of the function of a bodily member, organ, or mental faculty."
What is a "serious bodily injury?"
Two of the three qualification questions seem straightforward. However, the "serious bodily injury" classification often raises questions. Namely, the sections discussing "protracted and obvious disfigurement, or protracted loss or impairment of the function of a bodily member, organ, or mental faculty."
The terms "Protracted" or "Protracted Loss" generally mean "lasting for a long time or longer than expected or usual."
Some examples of "Protracted Disfigurement" or "Protracted Loss" can include:
Facial lacerations (with scarring or other permanent disfigurements)
Severe burns (that take a long time to heal or leave permanent marks on the skin)
Traumatic brain injury
Anoxic brain injury
Trauma that causes punctures or lacerations to internal organs
Does my Incident Qualify for Use-of-Force Reporting?
Certain states (and localities) may require officers to file an internal/county/state use-of-force form whenever they use physical restraint, OC spray, or a Taser on a subject.
Regarding the FBI, agencies should only submit a use-of-force incident if they can answer "Yes" to one (or more) of the previously outlined qualification questions.
What if my agency has no use-of-force incidents?
The FBI's Use-of-Force Data Collection allows agencies to submit a "Zero Report" for months in which no "qualifying" use-of-force incidents occurred in their jurisdiction. These "Zero Reports" are just as crucial to the national statistics as qualifying incidents.