Uniform Crime Reporting: Still Vital After 90 Years (Part 2)

Editor’s note: This is the second of two articles exploring the FBI’s Uniform Crime Reporting (UCR) Program as it reaches its 90th year.

In the 1930s, American society experienced extreme hardships. The Great Depression caused the failure of countless businesses. This was also the decade of notorious criminals like Bonnie Parker, Clyde Barrow, John Dillinger, and Charles “Pretty Boy” Floyd. Pop culture and news media coverage dramatized shootouts that killed police. But there was no way to determine the frequency of those killings.

Law Enforcement Officers Killed and Assaulted

Starting in 1937, the FBI began to compile statistics on felonious killings of law enforcement officers. The results were first published in the 1938 edition of Uniform Crime Reports for the United States and Its Possessions. The data showed that 40 police officers were reported killed by criminals in 1937.

In 1960, the FBI added assaults on police officers to its data. That year, Crime in the United States reported 48 police officers killed and more than 9,000 assaulted. In 1971, law enforcement executives called for the FBI to do more to prevent officers’ deaths. In response, the UCR Program expanded its data collection to include more details about the incidents.

In 1973, the FBI launched two new annual publications, Law Enforcement Officers Killed Summary and Analysis of Assaults on Federal Officers. That year, the FBI reported 112 officers feloniously killed. The volume also included details about these incidents, such as geographic region, type of officer activity, type of weapon used, and hour of the day. In 1982, the two publications were combined to create Law Enforcement Officers Killed and Assaulted (LEOKA).

The FBI continues to publish LEOKA statistics each year. Law enforcement agencies and researchers use the data for training and study.

Hate Crime Statistics

In 1990, Congress passed the Hate Crime Statistics Act. The act requires the attorney general to gather data about crimes motivated by bias against race, religion, sexual orientation, or ethnicity. The attorney general directed the FBI to develop the new system of hate crime statistics.

In 1994, the FBI published the first volume of Hate Crime Statistics, using data from 1992. That publication outlined data from 7,466 incidents reported by about 6,200 law enforcement agencies.

The FBI publishes this data online in Hate Crime Statistics. The 2018 data included 7,120 hate crime incidents reported by 16,039 law enforcement agencies. The most common bias in reported hate crimes is against race, ethnicity, or ancestry. The FBI has since expanded the data collection to include bias against disability, gender, and gender identity.

National Use-of-Force Data Collection

In 2015, the FBI’s Criminal Justice Information Services Advisory Policy Board, with participation from major law enforcement organizations, proposed the development of a new data collection to gather national statistics on police use of force.

The resulting system became the National Use-of-Force Data Collection. In this collection, the FBI gathers data on incidents of law enforcement use of force that result in death or serious bodily injury or when a law enforcement officer discharges a firearm at or in the direction of a person. To ensure that data from all participating agencies is current and complete, the FBI collects zero reports for each month that agencies certify they have had no incidents of use of force. To test the new data collection, the FBI conducted a pilot study with volunteer agencies, then launched the live data collection in 2019.

By July 2020, the number of agencies submitting use-of-force data had grown to represent more than 40% of the officers in the U.S. At that point, the FBI released 2019 participation data. Following best practices for statistical data, the FBI will release more detailed information as law enforcement participation grows.

If at any time the data from agencies represents less than 40% of the total officer population, the FBI will not release use-of-force data. To achieve these levels of participation, the FBI urges all law enforcement agencies to participate—even small agencies with only a few officers. The Bureau also encourages various types of agencies other than police departments, such as port authorities or universities with sworn law enforcement officers, to participate.

Beyond 90 Years

Over the last 90 years, as historical trends and events have presented new challenges and opportunities, the FBI has expanded and refined the UCR Program to keep it modern and relevant. The UCR Program continues to evolve to serve law enforcement and meet society’s needs for reliable crime data. In partnership with law enforcement agencies and organizations, the FBI will ensure that the UCR Program will continue to serve the nation.