The Bureau of Justice Statistics recently announced that the portion of U.S. residents age 16 or older who had experienced contact with the police in the preceding 12 months declined from 26 percent in 2011 to 21 percent in 2015. The number of residents who had experienced contact with police dropped by more than nine million people, from 62.9 million to 53.5 million during the period.
From 2011 to 2015, the number of persons who had contact which was police initiated fell by eight million and the number of persons who initiated contact with police fell by six million. Persons could have had both police initiated and resident initiated contact during the period.
In 2015, whites (23 percent) were more likely than blacks (20 percent) or Hispanics (17 percent) to have had contact with police in the prior 12 months. Police were equally likely to initiate contact with blacks and whites (11 percent each), but were less likely to initiate contact with Hispanics (nine percent). Police were more likely to initiate contact with males (12 percent) than with females (nine percent), while females (11 percent) were more likely to initiate contact with police than males (ten percent).
Among those who had contact with police, two percent experienced a nonfatal threat or use of force by police. The majority of those who experienced a threat of force (84 percent) perceived the action to be excessive, as did most of those who were pushed, grabbed, hit, or kicked (78 percent) or had a gun pointed at them (65 percent).
When police initiated the contact, blacks (5.2 percent) and Hispanics (5.1 percent) were more likely to experience the threat or use of physical force than whites (2.4 percent), and males (4.4 percent) were more likely to experience the threat or use of physical force than females (1.8 percent).
Being a driver in a traffic stop (8.6 percent) was the most common form of police-initiated contact. The primary reason police gave for pulling over a driver was speeding (41 percent). Most drivers who were stopped for speeding said the stop was legitimate (91 percent) and that police behaved properly (95 percent). A lower percentage of drivers believed that police behaved properly (56 percent) or that the stop was for a legitimate reason (37 percent) when police did not give a reason for the stop.
A copy of the report, Contacts Between Police and the Public, 2015 (NCJ 251145), can be found at https://tinyurl.com/yca2clv3. The findings are based on data from BJS’s 2015 Police-Public Contact Survey which is conducted about every three years as a supplement to the National Crime Victimization Survey.