Use of Force
The rate at which St. Louis City police officers report use of force per 1,000 residents
Officers report use-of-force incidents nearly three times as often in majority-black neighborhoods as in majority-white neighborhoods.
A score of 100 represents racial equity, meaning there are no racial disparities in outcomes. The lower the Equity Score, the greater the disparity.
For Use of Force, a score of 100 — a score reflecting racial equity — would mean police are equally likely to use force in black neighborhoods as in white neighborhoods. It is important to note that for this indicator, equity is not our only goal: we also want to improve outcomes for all.
What does this indicator measure?
Use of Force measures the rate at which St. Louis City police officers report use of force per 1,000 residents. “Use of force” most frequently means an officer used his or her hands in some manner on the suspect (52% of all use-of-force incidents in 2016), followed by use of a taser (39% of incidents). There were thirty one incidents of use of force in 2016 that involved a firearm, or 3.5% of all incidents reported. In 2016, there were 899 recorded incidents of use of force, for a rate of 2.8 per 1,000 residents.
Use of Force analysis
SLMPD reports of use of force per 1,000 residents by neighborhood in St. Louis City.
|All||Majority Black||Majority White||Disparity Ratio||Equity Score|
|Use-of-force per 1,000 residents||2.8||3.5||1.2||2.912 to 1||34|
Data Source: St. Louis Metropolitan Police Department, 2016; Neighborhood population calculated from American Community Survey 5-year estimates, 2012-2016.
Data Note: Use of force includes the following officer weapons: Hands, Feet, Baton, Nightstick, Mace, Taser, Handgun, and Other. Prior to 2018, use-of-force incidents were not reported for all suspects, but rather if incidents occurred in conjunction with injury of an officer in the course of duty. The City revised its use-of-force reporting system in 2018 and will be able to provide the race of suspects in future reports. We want to note that the racial composition of the neighborhood may not be a good proxy for the race of the victim of use of force. Some use-of-force incidents were recorded in non-residential areas, such as Forest Park, and were not counted in this analysis. This count of use-of-force is a conservative estimate due to limitations in data collection methods.
What does this analysis mean?
Officers report use-of-force incidents nearly three times as often in majority-black neighborhoods (3.5 incidents per 1,000 residents) as in majority-white neighborhoods (1.2 incidents per 1,000 residents). However, neighborhoods without a racial majority had the highest rate of use of force (4.9 per 1,000 residents) with 200 incidents. If use of force were equitable, officers would have used force 291 fewer times in majority-black neighborhoods in 2016.
Why does Use of Force matter?
Appropriate and equitable use of force protects both officers and residents and could lead to a better relationship between the police and the communities they serve. As the Ferguson Commission report states, "The regular use of force has led many citizens to view the police as an occupying force in their neighborhoods, damaging community trust and making community safety even more difficult." According to the report, efforts to repair the relationship between police and the communities they serve "must begin through changes in use-of-force policies."
Which Calls to Action from the Ferguson Commission report are linked with this indicator?
Addressing use of force is one of the central priorities of the Ferguson Commission report. The reflected calls to action include:
Questions for further investigation
- How do officer reports of use-of-force incidents compare to resident reports?
- How will a new reporting system for use-of-force incidents impact the data?
- Why is there racial disparity in Use of Force?
- What can St. Louis do to reduce Use of Force?
- What can St. Louis do to reduce racial disparities in Use of Force?
- What initiatives are currently underway to reduce racial disparities in Use of Force?
How can I learn more about this issue?
The Use of Force Project catalogs the use of force policies for the 100 largest cities in the U.S., including St. Louis.
Organizations involved in reforms related to use of force include:
- St. Louis Metropolitan Police Department
- Civilian Oversight Board
- Ethical Society of Police
- Forward through Ferguson
- American Civil Liberties Union of Missouri
- St. Louis Action Council
- ArchCity Defenders