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date: 20 September 2020

Abstract and Keywords

Public knowledge about the administrative management of police departments, as well as their use of force patterns, remains vague due to limitations on police department capacities—and in some cases, desires—to collect and distribute such information. The LEMAS survey, which is administered to police departments every few years by the Bureau of Justice Statistics, is the largest quasi-census of U.S. police departments, though its usefulness remains hindered by several methodological issues, making it difficult for researchers and policy makers to confidently transform LEMAS information into social science data. Moreover, as many police departments fail to gather and/or distribute records on use of force, researchers and others remain largely unable to conduct meaningful analyses on use of force patterns in the United States. This essay proposes a five-point plan for ensuring that police department records can ultimately be collected and used by researchers and policy makers as valid and reliable social science data.

Keywords: LEMAS, use of force records, police department surveys, automated recorded keeping, Bureau of Justice Statistics

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