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Wednesday, October 24, 2012

Dealing with what goes wrong or helping things go right



Bureau of Justice Statistics research indicates that up to 10% of the people who have contact with the police feel they have been mistreated.  Furthermore, up to 83% of people who had force used on them by police; felt the force used was excessive.  Noteworthy however, is this - of the people who reported feeling mistreated by the police, only 13% filed a complaint and only 1% filed a lawsuit.  

While an individual's experience is not necessarily objectively correct - these statistics are potentially very insightful.  One can see pressure and resentment mounting on a day-to-day basis.  At the same time, the vast majority of the people apparently have so little trust in the system that they make no formal complaint.  However we know they talk, blog and write comments on public forums regarding police stories in the media.  This animosity continues to build until an event releases the pressure and explodes into open hostility.   
It is common to deal with the explosion and act as if “these people” are unreasonable and ignorant.  However, that belief does not make the associated costs go away.  One police chief recently commented that the overtime alone for the recent unrest was over $600,000, but that cost pales in comparison to the “international black eye” suffered by a city that depends upon tourism – defending a $20 million law suit and potential results of an FBI probe.

Some agencies are beginning to see the  folly of remaining on the well worn path of simply dealing with what goes wrong.  Does yours?

MATTHEW R. DUROSE ET AL., BUREAU OF JUSTICE STATISTICS, U.S. DEP’T OF JUSTICE,
CONTACTS BETWEEN POLICE AND THE PUBLIC: FINDINGS FROM THE 2002 NATIONAL SURVEY, at v (2005)
Joanna C. Schwartz. What Police Learn From Law Suits. Cardozo Law Review. 2012, Volume 33:3

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