California DOJ Data Shows Drop in Police Uses of Force in 2018

Taylor Walker
Written by Taylor Walker

Police used force during encounters with civilians significantly fewer times in 2018 than in the previous two years, according to a new California Attorney General’s Office report released Tuesday.

The public data report is part of the CA Attorney General’s transparency initiative, OpenJustice. In 2015, then-Attorney General Kamala Harris launched the OpenJustice data portal website to bring transparency to the state’s justice system by publishing crime and policing statistics. In 2016, Governor Jerry Brown signed a bill that made the site a one-stop-shop for the electronic collection and public reporting of data on crime and officers uses-of-force, as well as data on incidents in which civilians shoot cops.

According to the latest report, there were 628 uses-of-force in 2018–54 fewer than two years ago, in 2016, when officers engaged in 782 force incidents, and 79 fewer than 2017’s 707 incidents. The third annual DOJ report on the issue define uses of force as instances in which police discharged weapons and/or used force that resulted in serious bodily injury or death of a civilian or officer.

Out of the 628 force events, 466 (74.2 percent) ended with an arrest.

Of the 677 civilians involved in incidents in which police discharged their weapons last year, 62.5 percent (423) were injured and 15.5 percent (105) were not injured.

A total of 146 civilians (21.6 percent) died during confrontations with the police. During the prior year, there were 26 more civilian fatalities.

Of the 677 civilians against whom officers used physical force in 2018, 316 (46.7 percent) were Hispanic, 193 (28.5 percent) were white, and 129 (19.1 percent) were black.

According to the report, three officers of the 1,552 officers involved in use-of-force incidents died in 2018, one more officer than in 2017, but a considerably lower number than the eight officer deaths that 2016 saw.

A total of 255 officers (16.4 percent) sustained injuries during these incidents, while 1,294 (83.4 percent) were physically unharmed.

Approximately 50.4 percent of officers who used force did not receive force from civilians, an increase over the 43.7 percent of incidents involving civilians using force in 2016, and the 39.3 percent in 2017.

The report was joined by four others offering 2018’s data on overall crime, homicides, hate crimes–all of which experienced decreased numbers–as well as juvenile justice.

According to the state’s data, the homicide rate across all counties dropped by 4.3 percent in 2018, over the previous year.

The statewide robbery rate fell at a similar rate, by 4.5 percent, last year.

California’s motor vehicle theft rate decreased by 8.3 percent in 2018.

Police arrested 17.9 percent fewer kids in 2018 than in 2017. Adult arrest rates experienced a marginal decrease of .1 percent.

There were 5.8 percent fewer felony drug arrests in 2018 than during the previous year. There were 6.1 percent fewer narcotics arrests last year, and 4.3 percent fewer arrests for crimes classified as “dangerous drug offenses.”

WitnessLA will dig more deeply into these statistics in the coming weeks. Stay tuned.

“Good policy is rooted in the facts,” said Attorney General Becerra. “With the reports released today, legislators, academics, journalists, and other members of the public will now have the most recent data on our criminal justice system to inform their work. At the California Department of Justice, we know that transparency is an important component to promoting accountability and enhancing trust between law enforcement agencies and the public they serve.”


  • WHAT? 75% of the significant uses of force were against WHITES and LATINOS? Everything I’ve seen in the media lead me to believe officers only beat up and shot black people.

    Taylor, used by civilians, “cop” can be considered derogatory. I’m not at all sensitive, but when the context is them being shot and the person using the term isn’t particularly “cop” friendly, it’s disrespectful.

  • Telling in so many ways.

    One thing the chart shows is that it appears the overwhelming number of force incidents are not due to police simply driving around down the street like an occupying force and looking to terrorize innocent people. This is totally opposite the picture groups like the ACLU, irresponsible members of the government, activist groups and the media like to portray. Apparently, the majority of force incidents are a result of the police responding to calls for service. It wasn’t due to the police looking for trouble, but trouble coming their way as a matter of simply doing the job they were hired to do.

    Maybe the legislature and ACLU should put forth a bill to prevent the police from responding to Calls for Service since those contacts lead to so many use of force incidents. Perhaps there could be a pre-screen by a non law enforcement entity of 911 calls to the police so they could prescreen, divert and route calls appropriately?

    We clearly need to limit the police going to calls for service for the safety of the people.

  • This data I trust, since it was a result of mandated changes on how police departments collect and report information relating to force incidents and the people they contacted. These statistics are a result of what activist groups, ACLU, state legislators and “transparency advocates” wanted. Now, if the data does not appear to support many of their claims, it is a shame since many laws and negative consequences came as a result of isolated incidents that were blown way out of proportion and used as a basis to tear down police departments, ruin careers and change/create laws that did not require it.

    Well, now here we are.

  • One glaring fact that was omitted was the total number of contacts versus the contacts that ended in a use of force. Huge statistic that is inconvenient for some people to acknowledge, because the numbers being tossed around all of a sudden lose their relative significance when it turns out we’re comparing a few hundred cases here or there against the backdrop of MILLIONS of contacts that do not result in a use of force. The medical profession could only wish to be as successful as law enforcement, as medical malpractice is known to kill upwards of 200,000 people across the USA every year.

Leave a Comment