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Learn about the data on police shootings and non-fatal civilian injuries Heading link

Frequently asked questions and definitions Heading link

In news reports and analyses of law enforcement interventions, readers often find common terms used by the media and general public. Below, we provide a brief explanation of each of these terms and why we use some terms on this website and not others.

What do people mean by "defund the police"?

Law enforcement plays a critical role in modern society by acting as the primary agency to enforce laws relating to the general public. Policy makers and researchers use the term “defund the police” to refer to reallocation of some budgetary funds for other social services. They do not mean the abolition of police agencies. The scope of responsibilities of law enforcement has grown substantially over time. While the curriculum can vary by jurisdiction/academy, law enforcement training principally focuses on law, policing procedures/tasks, physical fitness, communications, investigations, and use of force. While many departments require officers to complete Crisis Intervention Training, many officers lack comprehensive training in addressing non-violent social issues despite being required to handle these situations daily. Stakeholders across domains are advocating for using some funds allocated to law enforcement to develop response teams and services aimed at addressing non-violent social issues, specifically persons with substance use disorders and other mental health issues. Currently, in many jurisdictions, jails inadvertently serve as some of the largest mental health providers. This will allow law enforcement to focus on issues they are most adept to deal with. For further reading, see this article by Dr. Rashawn Ray.

What is the definition of police brutality?

The term police brutality is a term used by the general public. It is principally used to refer to the excessive use of force, but also can refer to false arrest, illegal detention, illegal search and seizure, and other civil rights violations. Based on data from the Bureau of Justice Statistics, the surveys consistently demonstrate that more than 80% who had force threatened or used against them, felt it was excessive or that the officer/s acted improperly. Most injured civilians and the medical staff that treat them do not report these incidents to police review boards, and when the case is reported about 1% will be referred to the Attorney General (the latter is based on Chicago data).

What is the Black Lives Matter movement?

Life experiences and the data clearly demonstrate that African-Americans, especially males, are for more likely to likely to be stopped, detained, arrested, injured and killed by law enforcement personnel. Members of the African-American community have been attempting to raise these issues and implement policies to address these problems since the founding of the US. The statement “Black Lives Matter” refers to a sense by many within the African-American community that their lives are not valued by others in our society.

Discrepancies in CDC reporting

The number of deaths reported by the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC) differ markedly from those reported by many media outlets.  This is because the data provided by the CDC are based on death certificates. There are multiple reporting barriers that can impact the accuracy of the cause of death reported on a death certificate. Poor data capture of injuries suffered by civilians is the impetus for our Law Enforcement Epidemiology Program.

What is "suicide by police?"

Suicide by police refers to incidents when a person attempts to be killed by an officer with the sole purpose of self-harm. There is a lack of quality data to characterize the frequency and circumstances related to these events.