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Statewide database To Track Police Use of Force

Sacramento, CA – A new tool went online in the state today to create better transparency and keep a record of when force is used by law enforcement and in what instance.

The law went into effect in January, but the online tool named URSUS, named for the bear on California’s flag was just launched Thursday. All 800 police departments in California must use the program to report every time an officer has caused serious injuries ranging from a broken bone to a fatal shooting.

Those critical of law enforcement call it a big step toward police accountability. California Attorney General Kamala Harris stated in a news release, “As a country, we must engage in an honest, transparent, and data-driven conversation about police use of force.”

The tool’s developers, a technology nonprofit called Bayes Impact, working with the California Department of Justice, developed the tool with ease in mind, for those entering the data and for the state to analyze. The company hails it as the first statewide dataset of its kind in the country and a model for other states. “It’s sort of like TurboTax for use-of-force incidents,” said Justin Erlich, a special assistant attorney general overseeing the data collection and analysis.

URSUS includes fields for the race of the injured person and the officers involved; how the interaction began and why force was deemed necessary.  California Highway Patrol Commissioner Joe Farrow commented, “URSUS will assist law enforcement in gathering critical data involving use of force by a peace office, or by a civilian against a peace officer…I am confident the introduction of URSUS and the collection of this data and information will improve the relationship between law enforcement and the communities that we serve.”

Departments must begin reporting the data starting in January under a new state law passed last November. Until now, California only tracked deaths in custody.