By Nathan Cummings
A month ago, I submitted a petition to the Worcester City Council, with a modest goal to increase transparency at the WPD by publishing their performance metrics and summary statistics on the WPD page of the City of Worcester website. Simultaneously, I submitted publicrecords requests to find as much of that data as I could. After analyzing the data, I shared a
presentation on social media, and via email with City Council members, the WPD, and othercommunity and media representatives. At the Public Safety Committee on August 17th, I spokeon my petition and raised multiple questions based on my analysis of the data. The chairperson of the committee, Councilor Toomey, invited me to provide a written list of my questions to the City Clerk, who would forward them directly to Chief Sargent for his consideration and reply.
This is that list:
● Is WPD Policy 02 section 3 out of date? Has the WPD produced comparable internal benchmarking reports since 2012?
○ WPD Policy 02 “Organizational Structure” section 3 describes a “BenchmarkingPublic Safety in Worcester” report produced in collaboration with the Worcester Regional Research Bureau. The copy of Policy 02 available on the City of Worcester website has an effective date of October 08, 2014, but the WRRB stopped producing the referenced report series after the 2012 edition.
● Is the WPD aware of any contributing factors that may explain the rise in the Use of Force category “Personal Weapons” that occurred after 2014?
○ Personal weapons are defined by the WPD Use of Force Policy 400 as “hands, feet, head, etc.“ From 2012-2014, this category of force never registered above 13 instances per year. In 2015, usage jumped to 94 instances, and nearly doubled in 2016 to 182 instances. In 2018 and 2019, the usage of Personal Weapons has leveled off at 110 and 108 instances per year, respectively.
● Is the WPD aware of any contributing factors that may explain the rise in the Use of Force category “Display of Electronic Control Device” that occurred after 2014?
○ The WPD Use of Force Policy 400 indicates this as an appropriate Use of Force for Level 3 (actively resistant subject) and higher. No uses were recorded until 2014, usage peaked at 60 instances for 2017, and has since leveled off, with 49 recorded uses in 2019.
● Is the WPD aware of any contributing factors that may explain the rise in the Use of Force category “Display of Firearm” that peaked in 2018?
○ The WPD Use of Force Policy 400 indicates that this is only recommended for Level 5 (assaultive subject, serious bodily harm or death). This category of Use of Force increased dramatically every year from 2014 (16 instances) to 2018 (204 instances) before leveling off in 2019 (159 instances)
● Is the WPD aware of any contributing factors that may explain the increasing trend and disproportionately high rate of BOPS complaints from Hispanic / Latinx residents in 2019?
○ The percentage of complaints received from residents identifying as Hispanic / Latinx increased from 2017 to 2018, and again in 2019. By 2019, 33.96% of citizen-generated complaints were from Hispanic / Latinx residents, while census data referenced by BOPS estimates that only 21% of Worcester’s population is Hispanic / Latinx.
● Is the WPD aware of any contributing factors that may explain the increasing prevalence of the “Exonerated” disposition for all complaints (including internally-generated complaints) since 2017?
○ From 2012 to 2017, no single disposition represented greater than 35% of the complaint allegations for a given year. In 2018, 52.54% of all allegations were dispositioned as “Exonerated,” and in 2019, it was 59.84%.
● Is the WPD aware of any contributing factors that may explain why greater than 97% of allegations from Black or African American residents from 2017 through 2019 were dispositioned as either Exceptionally Cleared, Exonerated, or Not Sustained, and not a single allegation from that group achieved a “Sustained” disposition during that time?
○ Complaint allegations generated from within WPD and those associated with lawsuits are not included in this calculation.
● How has the WPD utilized the data from these reports to inform and adapt their policy and practices?
○ The reports used as source material for the presentation and these questions typically report very high-level statistics without any deeper analysis or meaningful discussion as to why the numbers are what they are, or if those numbers represent positive or negative developments.
A presentation with charts and images related to these questions may be found here.
Raw data for all analysis is available here, here, and here.
To file your own petition to Worcester City Council, follow the instructions here.
To submit your own public records request, follow the instructions here.