Police ombudsman rolls out new use-of-force dashboard to increase transparency

click to enlarge Ombudsman Bart Logue - YOUNG KWAK PHOTO
Young Kwak photo
Ombudsman Bart Logue

The Spokane Office of Police Ombudsman unveiled a new online dashboard last week that tracks and analyzes Police Department use-of-force incident data between 2013 and 2018. The initiative is aimed at increasing transparency and public insight into the behavior of local police officers.

“The goal of this is to help improve policing practices and minimize risk,” Spokane Police Ombudsman Bart Logue says in a press release. “The transparency of data and meaningful analysis available can help the community examine issues like racial disparity or other issues of interest related to uses of force.”

While the Spokane Police Department previously published annual reports on its use-of-force data, the new dashboard centralizes the data and allows users to break down the incidents in various ways, such as by neighborhood, the type of force used, and the demographics of subjects that force was used on. The dashboard will also be regularly updated going into the future.

“The system provides officers feedback on the tactics they employ and allows police administrators a more robust analysis of data to better understand what line level officers are experiencing,” Logue says.

The dashboard, which is now active, was created through a contract with Police Strategies LLC, a Washington consulting firm that works with law enforcement agencies on use-of-force data collection.

Police Strategies also produced an analytical report on the Spokane Police Department’s use-of-force data. On average, 108 use-of-force incidents were recorded annually, while six officers made up 18 percent of all incidents logged during that six-year window. While Tasers and canine were the two most frequently used weapons in these incidents, 43 percent of incidents involved only physical force where weapons weren’t used; another 35 percent involved weapons.

Additionally, the report identified significant racial disparities in the demographics of people subjected to police use-of-force. While Spokane is only 2 percent black — per the U.S. Census Bureau — African Americans accounted for 14 percent of all use-of-force subjects.
The analysis also notes that the Police Department does not count incidents involving physical force that do not result in injury as uses-of-force, skewing the data. There would be roughly 300-400 reportable incidents each year if all force incidents were recorded, the Police Strategies LLC estimates. 

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About The Author

Josh Kelety

As a staff writer, Josh covers criminal justice issues and Spokane County government. Previously, he worked as a reporter for Seattle Weekly. Josh grew up in Port Townsend and graduated from the University of Washington. Message him through Signal @ (360) 301-3490.