Eye for Evidence: Vehicle Accident Photos

Story and Photo By Hilary Rodela for Officer.com

Vehicle accidents are one of those situations where it can be easy to overlook evidence. An accident scene should be treated just as though it were any other crime scene. Here are a few pieces of advice to keep in mind when it comes to processing and documenting vehicle accident scenes.

One key point to remember is that your photos should be so detailed that someone could look at them, not knowing anything about the location, and still be able to find it. Ensure that landmarks are included. You need these reference points to show the exact location of the crash scene. Take photos of street signs and make your way to the actual scene. Just as you would take overall and close up photos at a crime scene, you need to take overall and close up photos of a crash site. When it comes to your overall photos take photos from all angles so that if need be a panoramic view could be pieced together.

The next set of photos should be of the tire tracks or skid marks. These need to be taken from the median range and the close up range. This way they may be reviewed and directionality as well as breaking distance may be determined.

Other aspects to consider that must be documented through photographs. The vehicles at the scene need to photographed as well as any debris around. Ensure that license plates are included and any damage.

Each of these pieces will help you record a crash scene in a well-documented way that will help you determine the truth.

Tips on How to Improve Report Writing

By Joshua Lee | Police1.com​

Last year, I attended a weeklong regional technical training course tailored for first-line supervisors. The course covered best practices in managing large-scale chaotic scenes and conducting after-action reviews. After the training, I spoke to one of the instructors, a retired LEO, for more information on after-action reports. I was quickly met with an interesting and borderline discouraging comment: “Officer’s don’t care about reports; they care about tactics. Focus on tactics, and someone else will do the after-action report.”

“Officers don’t care about reports; they care about tactics.” Was that statement true?

I returned to work and decided to review my internal training records. I had plenty of advanced defensive tactics, active shooter and mass casualty response training but to my surprise, I had nothing related to law enforcement report writing. My external training records were just as slim – lots of courses on teaching, fraud investigations and accounting, but very few on how to write a better police report.

My colleagues were in the same boat: lots of tactics training with little to no police report writing training.

Tactics keep you alive, but a well-written police report keeps you out of trouble; however, report writing is something most agencies dismiss as an important officer survival skill.

Luckily, there are three techniques you can do to instantly improve your police report writing, avoid case dismissal and protect yourself as an officer. And the best part is that you do not need formal training and it only takes minutes a day.

1. DON’T WRITE WHEN YOU ARE TIRED

OK, I hear you: “I am always tired, so how can I write when I am not tired?”

Police exhaustion is such a major concern for police agencies that Police1 dedicated an entire podcast segment to fighting fatal fatigue in law enforcement. Unfortunately, being tired is part of the career. So, let me rephrase the heading: Write when you are less tired.

Writing while alert is necessary because the police report-writing process is mentally taxing. An officer starts by reviewing their mental and physical notes, then progresses through a series of prewriting, writing, responding, revising, editing and publishing (sending the report to a supervisor for review). When an officer is mentally exhausted or physically tired, this will lead to mistakes. Note I didn’t say, “this may lead to mistakes.” Being tired will lead to mistakes.

Most police agencies make bad report writing worse with write-it-before-you-go-home policies. After a 10+ hour shift, the last thing any officer wants to do is sit down and write a shoplifting or found property report. Of course, some investigations should be written before going home because of due process rights, immediate follow-up, or investigators are still on scene. But most police reports can be held until the officer returns the next day.

Having a small break between shifts gives an officer’s mind time to process the information and organize their thoughts subconsciously. When an officer is alert and their thoughts are organized, they will be prepared to write accurate accounts of what happened.

Time helps the mind process information.

Even if your agency requires same-day reports, there is a little trick to help mitigate mistakes. In these cases, try to write your report directly after the incident but wait two to three hours to proofread it. You will be surprised at how much extra information your brain will naturally find during that short break. If you think of any additional information after you submitted your police report, just write a supplemental report when you get in the next day.

2. USE SPELLING AND GRAMMAR CHECKERS

Over the past five years, I have read thousands of police reports from around the United States. Many of these reports are packed full of simple grammar and spelling mistakes that a word processor’s spellcheck would have caught.

I know that many of these agencies, including mine, use Microsoft Word’s spellcheck feature. So why do we continue making basic spelling and grammar mistakes? I decided to do some digging, and each time I read an exceptionally bad report, I called the agency, not to complain or call them out, but to ask questions. I found that most poorly written reports from 2010 to the present day share three traits:

  • The officer wrote the report directly in the agency’s records management system (RMS);
  • The officer did not configure spellcheck; or,
  • The officer wrote in UPPERCASE.

RMS spell checkers are improving, especially in the new AI integrated RMS 3.0 versions. But as of right now, even the most basic version of Microsoft’s Word spellcheck outperforms any RMS spellchecker. Try to write your report in a word processor first, then copy and paste it into your agency’s RMS.

(If you want to learn more about how to set up spellcheck correctly, read the next article in this series, How to set up spellcheck to proofread your police report, available for Police1 members only.)

Writing in uppercase is an unnecessary annoyance. If you are writing in uppercase, please stop. Your boss, your prosecutor and all the agencies reading your report will thank you. Writing in uppercase is an old technique used to correct bad penmanship, but since we are writing in a word processor, all uppercase writing is not needed. Spellcheck also must be configured correctly for it to catch mistakes in uppercase.

3. READ YOUR REPORT ALOUD

The best advice I ever received in school is to read reports aloud. Even if your spoken grammar is not perfect, reading your report aloud will help you catch many small grammar and sentence mistakes not caught by spellcheck. If a sentence sounds weird, change it. Nine times out of 10, you will be correct.

Just remember, you don’t need to read LOUD, just aloud. Be courteous of those around you by just whispering.

GOOD REPORT-WRITING SKILLS PROTECT OFFICERS

You don’t have to become a novelist or a professional writer to be a good writer. But you should put a little effort into becoming a better writer than where you are now. These three techniques are simple and easy to apply and more importantly, they work. Good police report-writing skills will not only protect you on the street from overzealous anti-police lawyers but also in the courtroom, internal affairs investigations and school.

BONUS CONTENT: HOW TO TRAIN YOUR EAR TO CATCH WRITING MISTAKES

If you spend time training your ear for writing, you will catch even more mistakes. An excellent way to train your ear for good sentence structure and grammar is to read good literature aloud. I recommend “The Stories of Vladimir Nabokov” not because it is an enjoyable read but because his sentences are as close to perfect as they come, and he really focuses on the sound of a sentence. Read one page a day aloud. Ignore the content, just listen to the words and sounds. Your mind will automatically notice sentence parallelism, assonance, rhythm and alliteration – all critical features of a good sentence. When you read your police report aloud, your ear will suddenly pick up the smaller mistakes in your writing.

About the Author

Joshua Lee is an active-duty police sergeant for the City of Mesa (Arizona) Police Department. Before promoting, Joshua served five years as a patrol officer and six years as a detective with the Organized Crime Section investigating civil asset forfeiture, white-collar financial crime and cryptocurrency crimes.

Joshua is a cryptocurrency, money laundering and dark web consultant for banks, financial institutions and accountants throughout Arizona. He also serves as one of Arizona’s subject matter experts on cryptocurrency crimes and money laundering.

Joshua holds a BA in Justice Studies, an MS in Legal Studies and an MA in Professional Writing. He has earned some of law enforcement’s top certifications, including the ACFE’s Certified Fraud Examiners (CFE) and the IAFC’s Certified Cyber Crimes Investigator (CCCI).

Joshua is also an adjunct professor at a large national university and smaller regional college teaching, law, criminal justice, government and English courses. He instructs police in-service training and teaches at the regional police academy.

Sketching From the Skies: Documenting Crime Scenes with Drones, Other 3D Scanning Provides Accuracy at its Best

Utilizing drones to document a crime scene is a great way to document your scene quickly, accurately, and interactively.


Crime scene documentation is one of the most important aspects of a case. Since no crime scene can be completely revisited, it is crucial to ensure the documentation of each scene is accurate, and as detailed as possible.

The Evolution of Crime Scene Sketching

In the past, crime scene documentation included photos, (maybe videos taken with a camcorder), and manual diagram sketching. Though these tools were helpful in the past, presently there are much more advanced tools that can be used to document each detail of your scene.

If you have ever had the opportunity to reopen a cold case, often you will immediately notice the difference in quality, (and quantity), of the photos in the case file as well as any video that was captured with a camcorder. Even if in your career you used those types of tools, looking at those case files compared to the current ones is a huge difference.

Sketches were originally done with graph paper. From there they progressed into basic software programs that would generate sketches based on dimensions and measurements entered by the investigator to make them closer to scale. More recent software programs enhance a scene by bringing it to life in 3D. This method is still used today of course for smaller scenes.

When it comes to larger scenes or outdoor in particular it can be difficult to capture every detail. Drones have made the unthinkable possible when it comes to crime scene documentation on a large scale.

Drones

Drones have given a whole new outlook on diagramming and documenting outdoor crime scenes. One problem that crime scene investigators and detectives often run into is the inability to capture the whole scene. So often a scene will be in an obscure location making it difficult for investigators to photograph the scene. Having a drone allows investigators to document every inch quickly and accurately.

The mdMapper1000DG aaS from Microdrones brings the task of mapping a scene out to a whole new level. It offers a fast and safe way to get the job done accurately in a 2 or 3D form and is rain and heat resistant.

The mdLiDAR1000 aaS produces 3D point clouds which are excellent for a variety of fields including mapping and documenting crime scenes. This particular drone is extremely accurate with an accuracy of 0.2 feet when it is flown at 130 feet at the speed of a little over 6 miles per hour. Instead of having a drone and then a LIDAR system.

The mdLiDAR1000 already has software built into it that way data collected can easily be integrated.

Drone Accessories and Necessities

In order to properly use drones, you must have a radar too. Echodyne specializes in radar equipment for drones. Their focus is on radars for UAS and other like products. Radar works as a sensor with drones to navigate environments. Echodyne’s high-performance electronically scanned MESA unit is a new line of high-performance ESA radar for drones. This helps with both security and accuracy.

EchoGuard is the ideal radar for counter-UAS site protection. With a large vertical field of view and fast update rates thanks to true 3D electronic beam steering, EchoGuard accurately detects, tracks, and classifies small UAS where it matters most – within 1 km of your protected site. It provides precise and reliable target location for putting eyes on target, cueing optical sensors, and directing mitigation responses.

With proven performance in live operations and in countless defense, federal, and private tests across diverse environments (urban, suburban, rural, maritime, and even airborne), EchoGuard has earned its place as the preferred C-UAS radar for dozens of counter-UAS system suppliers. Echodyne offers the counter-drone radar of choice for defense and homeland applications.

Zenith Aeroteh (ZAT) products are designed and built in the United States that designs and builds tethered drones—also called tethered aerial systems (TAS)—for public safety, defense, and industrial applications. They use high quality components such as such as radars, EO/IR cameras, wide-area aerial lighting systems, and mobile ad hoc networking (MANET) radios to name a few.

ZAT’s tethered aerial systems can operate for hours or even days making investigation or any other use efficient and long lasting while providing persistent ISR, and force protection. “The TAS products are designed to work in remote locations with a ground power unit that has a backup battery if an emergency should take place”, Don Leckrone, Director of Zenith AEROTECH. “Select models can fly while tethered at an altitude of 400 to 800 feet, providing point-of-need capabilities helping in all types of use.” ZAT’s tethered aerial systems have incorporated the Echodyne Flight radar, for ground-based ISR activity and counter-UAS applications as well.

“What makes ZAT special is that its engineers have a profound and far-ranging understanding of TAS development and operations, including heavy-lift system design and ground power/tether management,” says Leckrone. “In addition, the company takes a highly customizable approach to its product line, tailoring TAS platforms and payloads to specific missions.”

3D Mapping

3D scanning for crime scene mapping is an excellent tool to use whether it includes a drone or not. Faro has excellent options for crime scene mapping too. The technology used both on the ground and in the air is amazingly accurate. With some software systems you and combine the footage you acquire from a scanner  you may already have.

Scanners such as Faro’s Focus Laser Scanner offer investigators the chance to make their crime scene a 3D reality. The Focus Laser Scanner has an 8-mega pixel, HDR camera and is light in weight making it easy and convenient to use on scenes. The ScanPlan which is 2D from FARO would also work well for documenting crime scenes. Though great for floor designs it is another great way to capture the layout of a crime scene location. Simply record the scene, and upload it into software quickly so you can document your scene in a way that will help you revisit the scene even months later.

Training

Anytime a person flies a drone for any purpose other than hobby use, they must do so as a FAA Certified Part 107 Remote Pilot. When it comes to using drones for crime scene 3D mapping and documentation, additional training is required that is specific to crime scenes. This is so that important elements of the crime scene are not missed, lost or overlooked. The purpose of utilizing a drone at a crime scene is to capture the scene as a whole, so that all of the evidence can be seen in one complete 3D model. The other reason to use drones for crime scene 3D mapping is so that a scene can be captured from an aerial view with images showing the scene from every angle. This is especially advantageous when a scene is spread out over a large area or in an area that is hard to reach by foot.

As a way of supporting the law enforcement community, GRADD provides free professional FAA Part 107 Remote Pilot Certification test prep training for all law enforcement departments. In addition to a professional self-paced online learning system, every Saturday GRADD holds a training class on Google Meet that teaches different aspects of operating drones, reviews best practices, and provides participants the opportunity to obtain essential knowledge and training in preparation for an FAA Remote Pilot Certificate. The class is ideal for those who want to become certified drone pilots as well as for those who want to be better prepared for operating drones at crime scenes and crash scenes.

Reza Karamooz, CEO of GRADD, says the class is free for public safety professionals, as well as for military veterans, high school educators and students. Though the company’s focus is use of drones for law enforcement in crime scene and accident reconstruction, their training course and technical workshops are helpful to many professionals in a variety of industries.

Trainings such as these are excellent for those who will be using drones for crime scenes 3D mapping and documentation. You must be FAA Certified as a Part 107 Remote Pilot for any type of drone use (besides hobby use), but understanding how to properly document crime scenes and what to look for, is an entirely different mindset. GRADD offers an all-encompassing training for documenting crime scenes and crash scenes.

The GRADD team shares their expertise in creating 3D models using drone images/videos, DSLR photos/videos, and laser scans. GRADD utilizes the RealityCapture Photogrammetry software to process images, videos and laser scans into high detail, highly accurate 3D models. This is a seamless process that can utilizes both new drone equipment and laser scanning equipment already at an agency. Then using GRADD’s LAS3D software, investigators can inspect and measure in 3D in the crime scene 3D point cloud. While the GRADD VR (Virtual Reality) software is a great tool to virtually walk-around and inspect crime scenes. GRADD VR gives investigators the ability to be virtually immersed into a crime scene for close-up inspections, and for collaboration with other stakeholders.

Once the 3D model is uploaded into a the LAS3D or GRADD VR software, investigators can virtually revisit the scene, even zooming in on evidence markers. This brings the crime scene to life for the investigator and can potentially be helpful in the courtroom too. By allowing the jury to “step into” the crime scene, it provides a perspective that sometimes crime scene photos cannot give. It can also provide insight to investigators years later should a case grow cold.

Drones in Use

Departments around the country are implementing drones in various ways at their departments and budgeting for start up, use, and maintenance too. The Brookhaven (GA) Police Department recently started using drones last November. The department’s Unmanned Aerial System Unit now has four drones and intends to have twelve operators providing more insight to investigations and 911 calls in general. By using drones they will cut costs and response and result time will be quicker.

Benefits

The advantages of using drones far outweighs the disadvantages. Aside from crime scene documentation they are a great tool for search and rescue situations. For scene use they provide access to places you would normally not be able to reach. Using them to document is quick and easy using a drone does not cost anything except the time investigators spend on scene. Having an eye on the sky is certainly a new and increasing option for investigators.  

By Hilary Rodela | Officer.com

About the author

Hilary Rodela is a licensed private investigator through the state of New Mexico, a former crime scene investigator, and evidence technician. She worked for the Ruidoso (NM) Police Department as well as the Lubbock (TX) Police Department. She has written for several public safety publications and has extensive law enforcement and forensic training and is pursuing forensic expertise in various disciplines. Hilary is also an investigator with the Cold Case Foundation and is part of the International Law Enforcement Auditor’s Association.

Attorney General William P. Barr Announces Results of Operation Legend

Attorney General William P. Barr announced the results of Operation Legend, which was first launched in Kansas City, Missouri, on July 8, 2020, and then expanded to Chicago and Albuquerque, New Mexico, on July 22, 2020; to Cleveland, Ohio, Detroit, Michigan, and Milwaukee, Wisconsin, on July 29, 2020; to St. Louis, Missouri, and Memphis, Tennessee, on August 6, 2020; and to Indianapolis, Indiana, on August 14, 2020. His announcement was made on Tuesday, December 22.

“Operation Legend removed violent criminals, domestic abusers, carjackers and drug traffickers from nine cities which were experiencing stubbornly high crime and took illegal firearms, illegal narcotics and illicit monies off the streets. By most standards, many would consider these results as a resounding success—amid a global pandemic, the results are extraordinary. I commend our federal law enforcement and prosecutors for seamlessly executing this operation in partnership with state and local law enforcement,” said Attorney General Barr. “When we launched Operation Legend, our goal was to disrupt and reduce violent crime, hold violent offenders accountable and give these communities the safety they deserve in memory of LeGend Taliferro, whose young life was claimed by violent crime, undoubtedly, we achieved it.”

Since Operation Legend’s launch on July 8, 2020, over 6,000 arrests – including approximately 467 for homicide – were made; more than 2600 firearms were seized; and more than 32 kilos of heroin, more than 17 kilos of fentanyl, more than 300 kilos of methamphetamine, more than 135 kilos of cocaine, and more than $11 million in drug and other illicit proceeds were seized.

Of the more than 6,000 individuals arrested, approximately 1,500 have been charged with federal offenses. Approximately 815 of those defendants have been charged with firearms offenses, while approximately 566 have been charged with drug-related crimes. The remaining defendants have been charged with various offenses.

The Attorney General launched the operation as a sustained, systematic and coordinated law enforcement initiative in which federal law enforcement agencies work in conjunction with state and local law enforcement officials to fight violent crime. Operation Legend is named in honor of four-year-old LeGend Taliferro, who was shot and killed while he slept early in the morning of June 29 in Kansas City.

The Office of Community Oriented Policing Services (COPS Office) provided a total of $60 million to fund 290 officers as part of Operation Legend and related efforts. Additionally, the Office of Justice Programs (OJP) awarded nearly $9 million in grant funding to support Operation Legend.

Breakdown of Operation Legend charges:

Kansas City, MO.

196 defendants have been charged with federal crimes outlined below.

  • 75 defendants have been charged with narcotics-related offenses;
  • 107 defendants have been charged with firearms-related offenses; and
  • 14 defendants have been charged with other violent crimes.

Chicago, Ill.

176 defendants have been charged with federal crimes outlined below.

  • 40 defendants have been charged with narcotics-related offenses;
  • 130 defendants have been charged with firearms-related offenses; and
  • Six defendants have been charged with other violent crimes.

Albuquerque, NM.

167 defendants have been charged with federal crimes outlined below.

  • 60 defendants have been charged with narcotics-related offenses;
  • 85 defendants have been charged with firearms-related offenses; and
  • 22 defendants have been charged with other violent crimes.

Cleveland, OH.

119 defendants have been charged with federal crimes outlined below.

  • 60 defendants have been charged with narcotics-related offenses;
  • 55 defendants have been charged with firearms-related offenses; and
  • Four defendants have been charged with other violent crimes.

Detroit, MI.

100 defendants have been charged with federal offenses outlined below.

  • 33 defendants have been charged with narcotics-related offenses;
  • 64 defendants have been charged with firearms-related offenses; and
  • Three defendants have been charged with other violent crimes.

Milwaukee, WI.

74 defendants have been charged with federal crimes, broken down as follows:

  • 34 defendants have been charged with firearm related offenses;
  • 32 defendants have been charged with narcotic related offenses;
  • Eight defendants have been charged with other violent crimes.

St. Louis, MO.

450 defendants have been charged with federal crimes.

  • 193 defendants have been charged with narcotics-related offenses;
  • 231 defendants have been charged with firearms-related offenses; and
  • 26 defendants have been charged with other violent crimes.

Memphis, Tenn.

124 defendants have been charged with federal offenses outlined below:

  • 53 defendants have been charged with narcotics-related offenses;
  • 47 defendants have been charged with firearms-related offenses; and
  • 24 defendants have been charged with other violent crimes.

Indianapolis, IN.

94 defendants have been charged with federal crimes outlined below.

  • 18 defendants have been charged with narcotics-related offenses;
  • 64 defendants have been charged with firearms-related offenses; and
  • 12 defendants have been charged with other violent crimes.

 The year 2020 marks the 150th anniversary of the Department of Justice.  Learn more about the history of our agency at www.Justice.gov/Celebrating150Years.

FBI Releases 2019 NIBRS Crime Data

Today, the FBI released detailed data on nearly 7.7 million criminal offenses reported vi​​a the National Incident-Based Reporting System (NIBRS) in 2019. The Uniform Crime Reporting (UCR) Program’s latest report, NIBRS, 2019, presents data about victims, known offenders, and relationships for offenses reported in 23 categories with 52 offenses. It also presents arrest data for those crimes, as well as 10 additional categories for which only arrest data is collected.

Highlights of NIBRS, 2019

In 2019, 8,497 law enforcement agencies, whose jurisdictions covered more than 146.5 million U.S. inhabitants, submitted NIBRS data to the UCR Program. These agencies accounted for 51.3% of the 16,551 law enforcement agencies that submitted data to the UCR Program in 2019. The remaining agencies submitted their data to the program via the Summary Reporting System (SRS). NIBRS agencies reported 6,572,870 incidents involving 7,688,645 offenses, 8,116,849 victims, and 6,543,257 known offenders. In addition, these agencies reported 3,931,924 arrestees. (Currently, the FBI does not estimate for agencies that do not submit NIBRS data.)

Of the reported offenses, 59.6% were crimes against property, 24.6% were crimes against persons, and 15.8% were crimes against society. (Due to rounding, some percentage breakdowns may not add to 100%.) Among these categories, the offenses most reported include larceny/theft offenses, assault offenses, and drug/narcotic offenses, respectively.

Victims

Victim types, collected for all offenses reported via NIBRS, include individuals, businesses, institutions, or society as a whole. For 2019, the data regarding the 5,547,758 victims who were individuals reveal the following:

  • Of these victims, 23.6% were between 21 and 30 years old.
  • A little more than half (51%) were female, 48.2% were male, and the gender of 0.8% of victims was unknown.
  • Most victims (68%) were white; 23.3% were Black or African American, 1.9% were Asian, 0.7% were American Indian or Alaska Native, and 0.5% were Native Hawaiian or Other Pacific Islander. The race of 5.6% of victims was unknown.

Known Offenders

Law enforcement reported information about 6,543,257 known offenders, meaning some aspect of the suspect—such as age, gender, or race—was known.

  • Of these offenders, 38.4% were between 16 and 30 years of age.
  • By gender, most offenders (61.7%) were male, 25.4% were female, and gender for 12.9% was unknown.
  • By race, more than half (51.9%) of known offenders were white, 29.5% were Black or African American, and 2.2% were of other races. The race was unknown for 16.4% of reported known offenders.

Victim-to-Offender Relationships

Relationship data were captured for 1,888,491 victims of crimes against persons (e.g., murders, sex offenses, assault offenses) and robbery offenses, which are from the crimes against property category.

  • Just over half (50.4%) of the victims knew their offenders (or at least one offender when more than one was present) but did not have a familial relationship to them.
  • Approximately one quarter (24.4%) of the victims were related to their offenders (or at least one offender when more than one was present).
  • Of the remaining 25.1% of victims, the relationships to their offenders were categorized as strangers, mutual combatants (victim was offender), or unknown.

Arrestees

Law enforcement agencies submitted data to the UCR Program through incident reports and arrest reports for 3,931,924 arrestees.

  • Of these arrestees, 31.5% were 21 to 30 years of age.
  • By gender, 71.5% were male; and 28.5% were female.
  • By race, most arrestees (68.1%) were white, 26.4% were Black or African American, and 2.9% were of other races.
  • The race was unknown for 2.6% of arrestees.

Agency-level NIBRS Data

State offense tables present statistics for each agency that reported 12 months of NIBRS data in 2019. In addition, federal offense tables present statistics for each federal agency that reported 12 months of NIBRS data. The interactive NIBRS map on the home page of NIBRS, 2019, also provides agency-level data.

Availability of NIBRS Data

In addition to the annual NIBRS report, the UCR Program’s Crime Data Explorer (CDE) provides NIBRS data, including national- and state-level downloads. Users can also access the CDE to build customized tables and to view SRS data for 2019 and previous years by state.

Note: This edition of NIBRS and the previous annual reports released earlier this year are the final UCR crime data publications to be released in the traditional format on fbi.gov. Beginning January 1, 2021, UCR data will be released exclusively to the FBI’s CDE. The traditional publications for 2019 and previous years will remain on fbi.gov for the foreseeable future.

On January 1, 2021, the FBI will complete its transition to a NIBRS-only crime data collection. The original data collection, the SRS, will be decommissioned effective that day. Although the FBI will continue the long-running index on the CDE, data presentations will include more detailed data captured through NIBRS.

Five Things to Know About NIBRS

Transitioning to the National Incident-Based Reporting System Will Offer More Robust Crime S​​tatistics Data to Police, Public

Next year, the National Incident-Based Reporting System (NIBRS) will become the national crime data collection program. The result will be more robust and complete data for law enforcement, researchers, and the public.

And while the transition to NIBRS is new, publishing reliable, informative crime statistics has been part of the FBI’s role since its earliest days. This transition is the latest in a more than 90-year effort to ensure police and communities have accurate crime data.

Here are some key facts about NIBRS:

1. NIBRS will have better data. That makes police more effective and communities safer. The original UCR data collection, the Summary Reporting System (SRS), has existed in some form since the 1920s. But NIBRS, which was created in the 1980s, offers much more detail and context around crimes. NIBRS has more thorough data and will help law enforcement target their resources to fight crime effectively. For example, SRS only counts the most serious crime at one particular incident. So, if there is a robbery and a murder at the same time and place, SRS would only count the murder. NIBRS will count both the robbery and the murder and provide much more context, such as the day and time of the crime and the relationship of the victim to the offender.

2. Most of the country has already transitioned to NIBRS. Many more agencies plan to by the beginning of next year. Transitioning to NIBRS requires technological upgrades and staff time for police departments across the country. To help, the FBI partnered with the Bureau of Justice Statistics (BJS) to increase the number of NIBRS participants. This helps create nationally representative crime statistics using NIBRS data through the National Crime Statistics Exchange initiative. Through this initiative, the FBI and the BJS provided more than $120 million in financial support to state and local agencies to help them move to NIBRS.

This transition has been in progress since 2015, when the January 1, 2021 deadline for the transition to NIBRS was set by the FBI and law enforcement partners. (The deadline was not pushed back due to the pandemic because departments were already years into the transition when the pandemic began early 2020.) In 2021, the FBI expects 75% of law enforcement agencies to have moved to NIBRS. Those departments serve more than 80% of the U.S. population.

NIBRS will have better data. That makes police more effective and communities safer.

3. Crime statistics experts will use statistical modeling to fill in gaps. In the current SRS system, FBI and Department of Justice statisticians use advanced methodologies to estimate national crime statistics when a particular state or locality doesn’t provide data, or the data does not meet the criteria to be published. The same will occur with NIBRS. When estimates are used, they will be disclosed.

While communities that have not transitioned may be missing data for a year or two, estimates will still allow people to understand crime patterns and national trends. Those communities will have more comprehensive data after they make the switch to NIBRS.

4. Researchers and the public will still have access to long-term trends. Even with the transition to NIBRS, the public will still be able to see long-term crime trends. That’s because the FBI will convert the NIBRS data back into the SRS format, specifically for long-term trend analysis. This will offer researchers and the public an “apples to apples” comparison.

5. The FBI is working to help law enforcement transition to NIBRS. For more than five years, the FBI has worked with law enforcement agencies across the country to provide technical expertise, data integration support, and free training to move to NIBRS. Federal grants are also available to help them with the cost of upgrades.

The transition to NIBRS is a shift for police departments, both culturally and technologically, but the higher quality data will be worth the effort in the long term.

Resources: NIBRS

Attorney General William P. Barr Announces Updates on Operation Legend

During a visit with law enforcement in Memphis today, Attorney General William P. Barr announced updates on Operation Legend, which was expanded to Memphis on Aug. 6, 2020.

Since Operation Legend’s launch in July 2020, nearly 5,500 arrests – including approximately 276 for homicide, 66 of which occurred in Memphis – have been made; more than 2,000 firearms have been seized; and nearly 28 kilos of heroin, nearly 16 kilos of fentanyl, more than 200 kilos of methamphetamine, more than 30 kilos of cocaine, and more than $7.3 million in drug proceeds have been seized.

Of the more than 5,500 individuals arrested, approximately 1,124 have been charged with federal offenses.  Approximately 602 of those defendants have been charged with firearms offenses, while approximately 441 have been charged with drug-related crimes.  The remaining defendants have been charged with various offenses.

The Attorney General launched the operation as a sustained, systematic and coordinated law enforcement initiative in which federal law enforcement agencies work in conjunction with state and local law enforcement officials to fight violent crime.

Breakdown of Operation Legend charges:

The initiative, which was first launched first in Kansas City, MO., on July 8, 2020, is named in honor of four-year-old LeGend Taliferro, who was shot and killed while he slept early in the morning of June 29 in Kansas City.  The operation was subsequently expanded to Chicago and Albuquerque on July 22, 2020; to Cleveland, Detroit, and Milwaukee on July 29, 2020; to St. Louis and Memphis on Aug. 6, 2020; and to Indianapolis on Aug. 14, 2020.  A breakdown of the federal charges in each district is below.

Kansas City, MO

174 defendants have been charged with federal crimes outlined below.

  • 67 defendants have been charged with narcotics-related offenses;
  • 94 defendants have been charged with firearms-related offenses; and
  • 13 defendants have been charged with other violent crimes.

Chicago, IL

176 defendants have been charged with federal crimes outlined below.

  • 40 defendants have been charged with narcotics-related offenses;
  • 130 defendants have been charged with firearms-related offenses; and
  • 6 defendants have been charged with other violent crimes.

Albuquerque, NM

126 defendants have been charged with federal crimes outlined below.

  • 52 defendants have been charged with narcotics-related offenses;
  • 64 defendants have been charged with firearms-related offenses; and
  • 10 defendants have been charged with other violent crimes.

Cleveland, OH

101 defendants have been charged with federal crimes outlined below.

  • 59 defendants have been charged with narcotics-related offenses;
  • 38 defendants have been charged with firearms-related offenses; and
  • 4 defendants have been charged with other violent crimes.

Detroit, MI

100 defendants have been charged with federal offenses outlined below.

  • 33 defendants have been charged with narcotics-related offenses;
  • 64 defendants have been charged with firearms-related offenses; and
  • 3 defendants have been charged with other violent crimes.

Milwaukee, WI

57 defendants have been charged with federal crimes outlined below.

  • 25 defendants have been charged with narcotics-related offenses;
  • 27 defendants have been charged with firearms-related offenses; and
  • 5 defendant has been charged with other violent crimes.

St. Louis, MO

274 defendants have been charged with federal crimes.

  • 125 defendants have been charged with narcotics-related offenses;
  • 125 defendants have been charged with firearms-related offenses; and
  • 24 defendants have been charged with other violent crimes.

Memphis, TN

64 defendants have been charged with federal offenses.

  • 35 defendants have been charged with narcotics-related offenses;
  • 16 defendants have been charged with firearms-related offenses; and
  • 13 defendants have been charged with other violent crimes.

Indianapolis, IN

65 defendants have been charged with federal crimes outlined below.

  • 10 defendants have been charged with narcotics-related offenses;
  • 46 defendants have been charged with firearms-related offenses; and
  • 9 defendants have been charged with other violent crimes.

FBI Releases 2019 Use of Force Data

According to the FBI, 5,043 federal, state, local, and tribal law enforcement agencies submitted use-of-force data to the National Use-of-Force Data Collection for 2019. Agencies submitted data for each qualifying instance of an officer using force. Qualifying uses of force include any action that resulted in the death or serious bodily injury1 of a person, or the discharge of a firearm at or in the direction of a person. If no qualifying incidents occurred, agencies submitted a zero report for that month. Only agencies that submitted at least one incident report or zero report for 2019 were included in this total.

The FBI developed the National Use-of-Force Data Collection at the request of major law enforcement organizations that noted the lack of nationwide statistics on the topic. Participation by law enforcement agencies is entirely voluntary. For the data collection’s inaugural year, the agencies submitting 2019 data represented 41% of all federal, state, local, and tribal sworn officers.2 Participation details for federal agencies and states can be found on the FBI’s Crime Data Explorer.

The U.S. Office of Management and Budget, which oversees various data collections, worked with the FBI to establish parameters for publishing use-of-force data based upon the number of sworn officers represented by participating agencies. These parameters align with best practices and serve to protect the privacy of officers and subjects, as well as to ensure the data is nationally representative of qualifying uses of force. As participation levels reach specific milestones, increasingly more detailed use-of-force statistics will be shared.

Inside the FBI: National Use-of-Force Data Collection

On this episode of Inside the FBI, learn about the National Use-of-Force Data Collection, which works to promote transparency between law enforcement and the communities they serve.

At this time, because the agencies submitting use-of-force data represent more than 40% of the officers in the nation, participation data may be released. When 60% of the total officer population is represented, ratios and percentages, as well as the most frequently reported responses to questions (in list format without actual counts) may be published. When 80% of officers are represented by submitted data, aggregate use-of-force data may be presented. If at any time the data from agencies represents less than 40% of the total officer population, the FBI will not disseminate use-of-force data.

As more agencies become aware of the opportunity, participation in the data collection is expected to continue to grow. Some states and agencies not yet submitting data have reported they are in the process of developing technological solutions to do so. For more information on the data collection, see the National Use-of-Force Data Collection website and the Crime Data Explorer.

1 For the purpose of this data collection, the definition of serious bodily injury is based, in part, on Title 18 United States Code, Section 2246 (4): The term “‘serious bodily injury’ means bodily injury that involves a substantial risk of death, unconsciousness, protracted and obvious disfigurement, or protracted loss or impairment of the function of a bodily member, organ, or mental faculty.”

2 When determining law enforcement participation in the National Use-of-Force Data Collection, the FBI uses a total count of 860,000 sworn police employees, as estimated by the Uniform Crime Reporting Program. This police employee count includes all known and reasonably presumed federal, local, state, tribal, and college and university sworn law enforcement personnel eligible to participate in the National Use-of-Force Data Collection.

BJS Releases Reports on Police-Protection Expenditures, Crime Levels in the US

Studies by the Department of Justice Bureau of Justice Statistics show:

· In 2018, the combined state and federal imprisonment rate (431 sentenced prisoners per 100,000 U.S. residents) was the lowest since 1996.

· The total imprisonment rate fell 15% from 2008 to 2018.

· From 2008 to 2018, the imprisonment rate dropped 28% among black residents, 21% among Hispanic residents, and 13% among white residents.

· In 2018, the imprisonment rate of black residents was the lowest since 1989.

 

The Department of Justice’s Bureau of Justice Statistics today released statistical tables on government expenditures on police protection from its Justice Expenditure and Employment Extracts series, and selected findings on violent and property crimes based on the FBI’s Uniform Crime Reporting Program.

The title of the reports are:

State and Local Government Expenditures on Police Protection in the U.S., 2000-2017 (NCJ 254856) by BJS Statisticians Emily Buehler and Kevin Scott” and

Selected Findings from the FBI’s Uniform Crime Reporting Program (NCJ 254862) by BJS Statistician Erica Smith

The reports can be found by visiting www.bjs.gov

The Bureau of Justice Statistics of the U.S. Department of Justice is the principal federal agency responsible for collecting, analyzing and disseminating reliable statistics on crime and criminal justice in the United States. Jeffrey H. Anderson is the director.        

NIJ Reports Explore Today’s Criminal Justice Issues

Our system of criminal justice faces many challenges, including persistent violent crime in urban areas, cybercrime and the addiction epidemic. And unlike many TV dramas, where crimes are solved and trials neatly concluded in the span of a mere 60 minutes, the process of handing down justice to the guilty and obtaining justice for victims is increasingly complex in today’s world.

“Our nation’s criminal justice system must deal with a constant barrage of threats, some old, some new and every one of them a test of our public safety professionals’ skills and expertise,” said Katharine T. Sullivan, Principal Deputy Assistant Attorney General for the Office of Justice Programs. “In today’s environment, when more demands than ever are being placed on police officers and prosecutors, they are under greater pressure to improve and innovate in their critical work.”

Publications released recently by the Office of Justice Programs’ National Institute of Justice aim to determine the top issues facing law enforcement and prosecutors nationwide, and to encourage evidence-based solutions. NIJ convened two separate workshops of experts in each field in 2018 to reach conclusions on the most pressing matters, as well as on priorities for innovation.

Based on the findings of each working group, known as the Chiefs’ Panel and Prosecutors’ Panel, the reports serve to inform the work of professionals in each field, policymakers, researchers, and data scientists, and increase awareness of the general public. Although the law enforcement community and prosecutors each have specific functions within criminal justice, they are partners in reducing crime. Not surprisingly, the reports show that the two professions share some similar areas of need.

Both working groups placed staff-related issues as their highest priority, which, for law enforcement, is supported by tragic statistics. At least 228 officers took their own lives in 2019, according to Blue H.E.L.P., a nonprofit organization that tracks law enforcement suicides. Not only is that higher than the number of line-of-duty deaths, it reflects a steady rise in officer suicides over the last four years. As a panelist noted, giving insight into the stress faced by police officers, “All we need to do is be perfect at all times in a constantly changing world.”

“The value of research in assisting police officers and prosecutors in the challenges they face cannot be overstated,” said NIJ Director David Muhlhausen. “If we can identify the most formidable obstacles—the most serious and persistent problems they encounter every day—we can design our research agenda to meet those needs and ensure that scientific findings are a potent tool in developing policy and improving community safety.”

The report “Fostering Innovation in Response to Top Challenges in Law Enforcement” looks closely at the challenges around officer wellness, homing in on the need for early identification of and intervention for mental health issues and the importance of discerning sources of stress. The report also includes the need to determine the skills, abilities and experiences most useful in hiring police officers. Similarly, the report “Prosecutor Priorities, Challenges and Solutions” includes the leading challenge of staff recruitment and retention.

“State and local prosecutors across the country continue to contend with very high caseloads and comparatively lower salaries than practicing attorneys in other settings,” states the report.

Both groups see the pressing need to effectively use today’s burgeoning technology. Social media and body cameras, for example, are increasing sources for evidence. The challenge, especially when faced by staffing and funding limits, is to use this information in a timely and effective manner. The groups share concern for improved community relations, which is valuable in preventing and solving crimes. They also cite the need for effective technology to deal with cybercrime. These are just some of the issues detailed in the reports.

“Addressing these challenges,” states the Chiefs’ Panel’s report, “will take concerted and collective effort across the criminal justice community. … Stakeholders must be willing to consider substantial and systemic improvements to public safety and criminal justice.”

Officer wellness, prosecutor retention, effective technology, positive community relations and other issues raised in the reports all contribute to greater public safety. These measures are critical because they assist officers and prosecutors in more effectively reducing crime and getting the guilty off the streets.

The Chiefs’ and Prosecutors’ Panels, and their resulting reports, were funded by OJP’s National Institute of Justice and produced in partnership with the RAND Corporation, RTI International, Police Executive Research Forum and the University of Denver.