A first-of-its-kind report on use of force incidents among Connecticut police officers released Thursday found UConn analysts unable to offer a thorough evaluation of the data as a result of inconsistent reporting practices and the failure of some departments to participate.
The report, issued by the University of Connecticut’s Institute of Municipal and Regional Policy, is the first analysis of force incidents statewide in Connecticut and the second across the country after New Jersey.
Analysts reviewed 1,261 use of force incidents involving 1,315 people reported by 59 police departments and the Connecticut State Police, which took place in 2019 and 2020, and found that such incidents occurred in roughly 1% of arrests.
However, researchers warned against drawing conclusions from the data, which suffered in the absence of standardized use of force data collection guidelines leading departments to arrive at differing conclusions about which types of incidents needed to be reported and how.
“Given these inconsistent reporting practices and data limitations, this report provides a summary of the limited descriptive statistics gathered from the data that were reported. The data were not sufficient to complete a thorough analysis,” the report’s authors wrote.
Meanwhile, nine departments reported no data. Those departments included the Eastern CT State University police as well as police in New Britain, New Canaan, Portland, Shelton, Stonington, Thomaston, Torrington, and Windsor Locks.
“A problem with data collection methods on an organizationally sensitive and controversial act, such as the use of force by police, underscores the need for reliable, valid, and standardized measures,” the report read. “It is difficult to obtain information on the use of force and the data that are available are difficult to interpret.”
The report anticipated that future iterations would be more instructive as a result of more streamlined data collection policies adopted this July.
“Connecticut is once again leading the nation in developing a data-driven approach to understanding and evaluating interactions between law enforcement and the public,” Ken Barone, co-author of the report, said in a press release. “Increased police transparency will have a positive impact on police legitimacy in our state.”
The available data included in the report suggested that use of force incidents are largely concentrated in the state’s largest cities. Bridgeport reported the most such incidents over the two year period with 264 or 20.9% of the statewide total. Waterbury followed with 229 or 18.2% of the total. However, the report again warned against making comparisons.
“Given the inconsistent reporting practices, cross-departmental comparisons cannot be made, and any comparison must be viewed with great caution,” the report said. “Some departments reported incidents involving force that may not have been reported by other departments.”
Meanwhile, demographic information included in the report suggested that use of force incidents disproportionately involved people who were male, younger than 40, and of Black and Hispanic ethnicity. Although the disparity decreased when compared to arrest records over the same period, the report’s authors concluded it still appeared to exist with regard to incidents involving Black individuals.
The report found that about 40% of people involved in a use of force incident were identified as under the influence of drugs or alcohol and roughly 31% were reported as being “emotionally disturbed.”
Across both years, the vast majority (87%) of people involved in use of force incidents were unarmed, according to the report.