Report on St. Pete’s policing shows disproportionate impact for Black residents

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There’s currently no federal requirement for local law enforcement agencies to collect and report data on police use of force. There aren’t any standardized definitions on what use of force means either.

In response, a national coalition called Leadership Conference on Civil and Human Rights launched Accountable Now. It’s a public repository of police use-of-force data and analysis.

Bree Spencer, policing program manager at the Leadership Conference, says Accountable Now is a template for a national police use-of-force database.

“Every police department I mean, every police department records differently,” Spencer said. “So different definitions different categories, some departments have three types of use-of-force,  some have seven. This is a way of trying to make it apples to apples instead of apples to oranges.”

National database of police use-of-force

St. Pete is one of the 15 cities Accountable Now assessed in the last month. Black residents in St. Pete comprise 22 percent of the city’s population. But Accountable Now says 57 percent of subjects of police use of force between 2017 and 2019 were Black.

“So that kind of disparity and use of force is extremely troubling,” Spencer said. “We know that those types of numbers are connected to the over policing that occurs in neighborhoods that are predominantly Black and brown. Certainly, it seems the St. Petersburg is no exception to that.”

Accountable Now’s data on police use of force is made available to the public. Spencer says they want people to use this information in their communities to make systemic change.

Information is meant to help local communities

“People who have lived experience with the St. Petersburg Police Department are going to have a whole list of things and questions probably, that come out of looking at this data and that’s what we want,” Spencer said. “We want to get that information in the hands of people who are advocating for transformational change where they live.”

The site includes a downloadable Freedom of Information request template, for residents to download and submit to local jurisdictions where data hasn’t been made available yet. Findings can be uploaded to the site, and there’s recommendations on reporting use of force standards to bring to local officials.

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