WASHINGTON- Eight percent of citizen complaints that police officers used too much force turned up enough evidence to justify discipline of an officer, a Justice Department survey of large state and local forces reported Sunday.
The survey by department's Bureau of Justice Statistics found that 26,556 complaints of excessive police force were filed in 2002 with state and local law enforcement agencies that have at least 100 full-time officers.
Taken together, police agencies of this size account for 59 percent of the nation's law enforcement officers but only about 5 percent of law enforcement agencies in the country.
The data was collected in 2003, the first time the government asked about the outcome of citizen complaints about police use of force. So there is no historical data with which to compare the results.
At the time of the survey, a year after the complaints were lodged, some 94 percent of the complaints had a final disposition. The survey found these outcomes among the cases that had reached final disposition:
_34 percent of these complaints turned up insufficient evidence to prove the allegation.
_25 percent of them were ruled unfounded, meaning either that the complaint was not based on facts or the reported incident did not occur.
_23 percent of the complaints ended with the exoneration of the accused officers as having performed lawfully.
_8 percent were sustained, meaning that sufficient evidence was found to justify disciplining the accused officers.
_9 percent had some other disposition, such as withdrawal of the complaint.
The figures add to 99 percent rather than 100 percent because of rounding.
Using the complaints that found discipline justified, the bureau estimated there were 2,000 instances of excessive police force among large departments in 2002. That is a rate of one incident per 200 full-time officers.
Almost one-fifth of large municipal police departments had a civilian complaint review board or agency within their jurisdiction. Those with such a civilian board had a high rate of complaints than those without such a board, 11.9 versus 6.6 complaints per 100 officers.
Advocates of civilian review boards long have maintained that abused citizens are more willing to bring complaints to civilians than to officers of the department they believed abused them.
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