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US Department of Justice Issues Report on Use of Force Complaints Made by Citizens against Officers

Tuesday, July 18, 2006

(Washington, DC) A survey recently released by the US Department of Justice (DOJ) reported that in 2003, 19% of large municipal police departments – those with at least 100 full-time sworn officers – had a citizen oversight office or agency within their jurisdiction to review use of force complaints against officers.

Among those citizen review agencies, one in four had independent investigative authority with subpoena power, as is the case with the District of Columbia’s Office of Police Complaints (OPC).

The DOJ report, entitled “Citizen Complaints about Police Use of Force,” was produced by the Department’s Bureau of Justice Statistics (BJS) and the Office of Community Oriented Policing Services (COPS).

Other findings in the survey relating to citizen oversight offices included the following:

  • Among all police agencies having a citizen review office in their jurisdiction, the rate of complaints per 100 officers was significantly higher than those not having a citizen review office (11.9 versus 6.6).
  • The overall percentage of complaints sustained was lower in jurisdictions having a citizen review office.
  • In 2003, about three-quarters of large municipal police departments authorized collective bargaining for sworn personnel.  Among those departments, the rate of force complaints per 100 officers was higher than those not authorizing collective bargaining (9.9 versus 7.3).
  • The sustain rate in agencies authorizing collective bargaining for officers (7%) was about half that in agencies not authorizing collective bargaining (15%).

Since OPC opened in Washington, DC, in 2001, approximately 19.5 percent of the allegations in citizen complaints have involved the use of force by officers.

“The DOJ study confirms what the District Government envisioned when it established the Office of Police Complaints,” according to Philip K. Eure, the executive director of OPC.  “People are more likely to report alleged police misconduct when there is a viable mechanism for doing so outside the police department.”

Every year, OPC issues an annual report providing information on the number and nature of citizen complaints received by the agency.  OPC’s 2005 Annual Report and the DOJ report are available online:

For more information about this news release, please contact OPC Public Affairs Specialist Melanie Deggins at (202) 727-3838.