A new study supported by data from state and federal databases and public record requests to local police departments ranked more than 16,000 municipal and county law enforcement agencies across the United States based on their policing practices.
The ranking system, called Police Scorecard, was built by Samuel Sinyangwe and a team of data scientists, designers and students from across the country who believe in the power of data as a tool for justice, accountability and measurable change. It’s the first nationwide evaluation of policing in the US.
The scores for each department range from 0-100% based on criteria like the number of arrests for low-level offenses, homicide clearance rates, number of civilian complaints upheld and deadly force. Cities with higher scores typically spend less on policing, use less force, are more likely to hold officers accountable and make fewer arrests for low-level offenses.
Some of the highest scored cities were in Minnesota and California, while Chicago, Fort Lauderdale, St. Louis City and Kansas City ranked the worst.
KANSAS CITY, MO SCORES 29% OVERALL
Kansas City, with a score of 29%, ranked as one of the worst departments – coming in as 495 out of 500 biggest cities.
From 2013 to 2020, there have been 36 killings by the Kansas City Police Department, which the study found is more killings by police than 98% of other departments. About 56% of the people killed were Black, yet only make up 28% of the Kansas City population.
Police Scorecard researchers say they found that there are many cities that are seeing increasing racial disparities when it comes killings by police.
Kansas City also receives more police funding than 85% of departments nationwide, yet out of the 854 homicides from 2013 to 2019, 399 remain unsolved. The study also found KCPD solved fewer homicides than 73% of departments nationwide.
Out of the 1,059 civilian complaints of police misconduct from 2016 to 2019, only 3% were ruled in favor of the civilians. The department also spent $3 million each year from 2012 to 2014 on misconduct settlements.
Currently, five KCPD officers face criminal charges. All of the victims in those incidents were Black.
From 2013 to 2019, more than half of KCPD’s arrests were for low-level offenses.
“We have consistently brought forward clear evidence that KCPD over-polices in the Black community, that they continue to employ broken window theory of policing, which is ineffective, that they consistently violate the civil rights of Black Kansas Citians,” said Urban League of Greater Kansas City President Gwen Grant in a statement in response to the results of the new study.
KCPD told the Pitch that they questioned the validity of the Police Scoreboard data. “We also understand that we will never arrive at perfection,” the KCPD statement said. “In that spirit, we are constantly looking for ways to innovate and improve. We are always open to feedback from our community about how we can be better.”
The Kansas City, Kansas Police Department, not much better than KCPD, ranked at 444 out of the 500 biggest cities, scoring 37% overall.
WICHITA, KS SCORES 43% OVERALL
Wichita, with a 43% score, ranked 328 out of the 500 biggest cities, a bit higher than both Kansas City, MO, and Kansas City, Kansas.
From 2013 to 2020, there have been 15 killings by police in Wichita, which is more killings by police than 86% of departments nationwide.
While African Americans only make up about 13% of Wichita’s population, they account for 32% of those arrested and 7% of those killed by police. About 45% of all arrests from 2013 to 2019 were for low-level, non-violent offenses.
Of the 545 civilian complaints from 2018 to 2019, 2% were ruled in favor of civilians.
A TROUBLING OVERALL PICTURE
Based on the study, most departments received a score lower than 50% and almost no departments scored higher than 70%, which researches say suggests the dire need to reimagine and transform the way the majority of cities approach public safety.
“These findings suggest the need for urgent investigations and interventions prioritizing the lowest-performing departments – especially smaller towns and big cities where racial disparities are most severe/increasing most rapidly,” researchers wrote about the Police Scoreboard findings. “This includes interventions from local policymakers and pattern/practice investigations by state and federal attorney generals.”