Several states and localities have improved oversight and accountability by changing their practices regarding the collection and dissemination of policing data.

  • New Jersey Governor Phil Murphy and Attorney General Gurbir Grewal announced that the state will create a database to track police use of force and will require officers to obtain a license to “meet a baseline level of professionalism.”
  • New York City is advancing a range of measures to increase transparency, including a public database tracking police disciplinary cases and administrative records; the required disclosure of all body camera footage related to the use of force; and the proposed POST Act, which would require the New York Police Department to report the details of all surveillance technology it uses, along with mandatory evaluations and audits by the city.
  • The New York state legislature repealed part of the Civil Rights Law; Section 50-a had prevented public access to police officers’ disciplinary records.
  • Michigan created the Law Enforcement Transparency Collaborative, which will annually release all use-of-force data the state reports to the FBI.
  • In Maryland, the Baltimore County Police Department is constructing a public dashboard of all complaints made against officers, use-of-force incidents, and traffic stops, and will include demographic data.
  • The New Orleans City Council passed Resolution R-20-175, which will task the city’s Independent Police Monitor with creating a public database to provide “comprehensive data on the use of force and disciplinary action for law enforcement officers.” This database will include officer disciplinary information including sustained use of force complaints, past policy violations by accused officers, and the dates of review board hearings.

The actions taken so far are first steps in a few communities. More is urgently needed. Where efforts to divest from policing and invest in communities have not gained traction or are unambitious, grassroots campaigns that change the terms of the conversation will continue to offer a path forward. For example, the #DefundNYPD campaign called for divesting at least $1 billion from the New York City Police Department’s $6 billion budget. Several prominent city council members, including the speaker, announced their support for this demand. On July 1, the New York City Council passed a budget that moved $1 billion from the police department’s budget and discontinued plans to hire 1,000 new officers through a small hiring freeze, although advocates and some council members argued that the cuts were mostly cosmetic.

Although this result fell far short of the #DefundNYPD campaign’s goals, it is remarkable that the largest police department budget in the country was temporarily in limbo because of a political struggle over the fundamental scope of law enforcement. A community outcry for meaningful police reform held up negotiations, an important action that could be a sign of changes to come.