For today’s Daily Critical Issues Report, Chuck Wexler interviewed Chief Gina Hawkins of the Fayetteville, NC Police Department, who serves as chair of the National Use-of-Force Data Collection Task Force.

The Task Force has guided an FBI project that is encouraging law enforcement agencies nationwide to voluntarily report their officers’ use-of-force incidents, for the purpose of compiling national statistics.

The criteria for the national data collection include any incident that results in:

1. The death of a person due to law enforcement use of force;

2. The serious bodily injury of a person due to law enforcement use of force, or

3. The discharge of a firearm by law enforcement at or in the direction of a person not otherwise resulting in death or serious bodily injury.

A recent progress report indicates that more than 5,000 federal, state, local, and tribal law enforcement agencies were submitting use-of-force data to the FBI program. Those agencies represented 42% of all officers.

When participation reaches thresholds of 60% and 80%, the FBI will disseminate increasing levels of information about its findings.

The information being collected includes a range of circumstances about each incident, including the following:

Incident Information

  • Date, time, and location
  • Was a supervisor or senior officer consulted during the incident?
  • Reason for initial contact (routine patrol, traffic stop, etc.)
  • If the initial contact was due to unlawful activity, what was the most serious offense the individual was suspected of?

Subject Information

  • Age, sex, race, ethnicity, height, and weight
  • Injury/death of subject
  • Type of force used
  • Did the subject direct a threat to the officer or another person?
  • Did the subject resist?

Officer Information

  • Age, sex, race, ethnicity, height, and weight
  • Years of service in law enforcement
  • Was the officer on duty?
  • Did the officer discharge a firearm?
  • Was the officer injured?


Fayetteville, NC Police Chief Gina Hawkins

Wexler:  You are the chair of the National Use-of-Force Data Collection Task Force.

Chief Hawkins:  Yes, I’m the third chair. I started with the Task Force in 2016, so I’ve been on it since the beginning when we were hashing out how we could do this, why we’re doing it, and what’s the best way.

Wexler:  What is the mission?

Chief Hawkins:  This came about because of the lack of consistent data. You can be an accredited agency, an agency that follows best practices, and you want to do the right thing. But in the United States, there are no across-the-board policies on police use of force, and no consistent ways of measuring it. So back in 2015, organizations like the Washington Post were gathering data about use of force, but the policing profession was allowing other people to tell our story, because we weren’t telling it.

And speaking from the point of view of my own department, it’s not just about collecting data, it’s about what we can do with the information. How can we learn from it? It’s about minimizing the tragedies that are happening when police have to use force. This is something that we need to implement so we can ask, why are some agencies doing better?  We needed to have a baseline, so that’s how it got started.

Wexler:  When did the data collection process begin?

Chief Hawkins:  The official collection process began in 2018. It took a couple of years for us to figure out the best processes, what data specifically will be collected, and to make it consistent with proper definitions, so it will be apples to apples.

We also wanted to make it as easy as possible to provide the data, because ultimately, we want agencies to volunteer the information. You want agencies to volunteer in the interest of being transparent, not because it’s being mandated.

Wexler:  Does this include any type of force?

Chief Hawkins:  No.  Sometimes people assume that  every time an officer puts their hands on someone, you’re going to have to report it to the FBI.  That is not the situation at all.  It will not involve the specifics of the name of the officer. And we want to receive the data even when the numbers are zero, when there hasn’t been any officer-involved shooting, or any incident involving someone having a serious injury,  because that tells a story also.

Wexler:  So what’s in it for a police chief?  If they provide the information, what will they get out of it?

Chief Hawkins:  First, you get the ability to use your data to help our profession in the future. This information is going to help us determine our training needs, our policy needs, and whether we need to do things differently.

Second, you get your community to understand that you’re volunteering this in the interest of transparency, because this is the community’s data, it is their information.  So you get that trust when you say, “Unfortunately, policing can be very dangerous, and we want to move in a direction that will be as safe as possible for our officers and for our community. We’re submitting this data in hopes that we can use it to become more professional, and to ask, ’How can we do this better?’”

Wexler:  A chief may say, “This sounds like a lot of work.” Is it a lot of work to provide?

Chief Hawkins:  It is absolutely not a lot of work at all. In some states, the state Bureau of Investigation will upload the information automatically for you.  And the FBI will help you.

Wexler:  Why do you think some departments are hesitant? And what would you say to them to overcome their hesitancy in participating?

Chief Hawkins:  I think there may be some resistance if people think, “We’re going to be criticized even more than we are right now.” But I don’t think we can get more criticized than we are right now. We’re out there being engaged in lowering crime, and it’s dangerous. When we use force, we should be able to defend it.

And we have to be transparent. I don’t want anyone in my community asking me, “Why wouldn’t you want to volunteer this information? What are you hiding?” We have nothing to hide.

Wexler:   For a chief who wants to participate, what do they do?

Chief Hawkins:  There is a link with information about the program and how to contact the FBI about it.  And people should feel free to call me, or send me an email.  There’s also FBI Criminal Justice Information Services, who can help walk you through any questions or anything that you need.

It’s definitely worth it. We need this in our profession. And we’re doing this on our own; we didn’t need anyone to mandate a law to make us do this.

Wexler:   What would success look like in terms of participation? What kind of percentage are you trying to achieve?

Chief Hawkins:  We’re at 42% participation, and our next goal is 60%. If we can get there by this summer, that will be awesome.


On a related note, PERF next Tuesday and Thursday is hosting a series of three webinars focused on helping agencies collect and analyze use-of-force data, including how to report it to the FBI’s national program.

These webinars complement our recent report, What Police Chiefs and Sheriffs Need to Know about Collecting and Analyzing Use-of-Force Data.

For more information about the webinars and to register, visit the PERF website.


The PERF Critical Issues Report is part of the Critical Issues in Policing project, supported by the Motorola Solutions Foundation.


PERF also is grateful to the Howard G. Buffett Foundation for supporting this work.