DOJ Report on Public Experience with the Police:
The Department of Justice Bureau of Justice Statistics has just published a fascinating report on police-citizen interactions based on interviews with about 70,000 people in the year 2005. The report gives an extremely interesting look at how people view the police, as well as their experience with the police. None of the stats in the report were checked with actual police records, so some of the numbers may be a bit suspect. But it's still really interesting stuff. The report is only 14 pages long, so it's easy to read in its entirety. But here are the key findings:
An estimated 19% of U.S. residents age 16 or older had a face-to-face contact with a police officer in 2005, a decrease from 21% of residents who had contact with police in 2002. Contact between police and the public was more common among males, whites, and younger residents. Overall, about 9 out of 10 persons who had contact with police in 2005 felt the police acted properly. Of the 43.5 million persons who had face-to-face contact with police in 2005, 29% had more than one contact. The most common reason for contact with police in both 2002 and 2005 involved a driver in a traffic stop. Other frequent reasons for contact included a crime to police or being involved in a traffic accident.

Nearly 18 million persons — or 41% of all contacts in 2005 — indicated that their most recent contact with police was as a driver in a traffic stop. This represented about 8.8% of drivers in the United States, a percentage unchanged from 2002. Stopped drivers reported speeding as the most common reason for being pulled over in 2005. Approximately 86% of stopped drivers felt they were pulled over for a legitimate reason.

In both 2002 and 2005, white, black, and Hispanic drivers were stopped by police at similar rates, while blacks and Hispanics were more likely than whites to be searched by police. About 5% of all stopped drivers were searched by police during a traffic stop. Police found evidence of criminal wrong-doing (such as drugs, illegal weapons, or other evidence of a possible crime) in 11.6% of searches in 2005. Police issued tickets to more than half of all stopped drivers and arrested about 2.4% of drivers. Male drivers were 3 times more likely than female drivers to be arrested, and black drivers were twice as likely as white drivers to be arrested. Drivers stopped for speeding (71%) or for a seatbelt violation (74%) were more likely to be ticketed than drivers stopped for other reasons, such as an illegal turn or lane change (58%), a record check (34%), or a vehicle defect (32%).

Of the 43.5 million persons who had contact with police in 2005, an estimated 1.6% had force used or threatened against them during their most recent contact, a rate relatively unchanged from 2002 (1.5%). In both 2002 and 2005, blacks and Hispanics experienced police use of force at higher rates than whites. Of persons who had force used against them in 2005, an estimated 83% felt the force was excessive.