Commissioner Evans Continues Efforts to Increase Transparency and Accountability of Policing Activities to the Public

Commissioner Evans announced today he is releasing Field Interrogation and Observation (FIO) data to the public and vows to continue to explore ways to provide frequent and comprehensive data on the Boston Police Department’s policing activities to the public on a routine basis. FIO reports provide officers with a mechanism to document up-to-date information regarding known criminals and their associates for law enforcement purposes and include situations ranging from observation without any interaction to consensual encounters with an individual to a stop and frisk or search. The data being released today includes citywide FIO reports completed from 2011 through April of 2015.  While the raw data provides some very simple statistics, Dr. Jeffrey Fagan from Columbia Law School and Dr. Anthony Braga from Rutgers School of Criminal Justice will be conducting a formal study of the data for the department and public. Contextualization is important to understand the nature of the FIO program and its outcomes and will consider relevant factors such as neighborhood crime statistics, subjects’ prior arrests, and subjects’ gang membership.

In October 2014, Commissioner Evans released a data analysis study of the 2007-2010 FIO program. This study was conducted by Dr. Fagan and Dr. Braga. Their report showed that while some racial disparities existed in the FIO program, those disparities diminished when contextual and individual factors were considered. In particular, their analysis showed that the amount of crime in a neighborhood was the most powerful predictor of the number of FIO reports completed and officers were repeatedly stopping or observing individuals with criminal records and/or gang affiliation (5% of the individuals FIO’ed account for more than 40% of the total FIO reports).

At this time, the Department has not fully analyzed the data being released today, but it is anticipated that when placed into context, there will be a decrease in disparity consistent with the prior study. In an effort to protect the privacy of identified individuals in the FIO reports, all personal identifying information has been redacted. “I am committed to being as transparent as possible while protecting the privacy of those we encounter,” said Commissioner Evans. “I recognize that there is always room for improvement and continue to look for ways to strengthen our community trust and relationships.”

Some highlights include:

  • The number of FIO reports made by our officers dropped 39.3% from years 2008-2014.  From 2011 through 2014, the number of FIO reports made remained consistently low.
  • 88.2 % of all FIO subjects were male.
  • 58.5% of all FIO subjects were black, 22.8% were white, 13.1% were Hispanic, .9% were Asian/Pacific Islander, .3% were Middle Eastern / East Indian, and less than 1% were Native American / Alaskan. These racial distributions remain fairly stable over each year.  A basic comparison between the racial composition of the City of Boston and racial composition of subjects in BPD FIO shows there were significant disparities in the data, but just this raw comparison is inappropriate.  While nearly 59% of the FIO subjects were black while only about 23% of Boston residents identify themselves as black, this comparison does not consider any contextual information such as neighborhoods, crime hot spot locations, or offending populations.
  • The average age of all FIO subjects was 26 years old. The age group stopped the most was between 18 and 24 years old (37.1%).
  • 74.3% of subjects FIO’d had prior records reported by the officers.
  • 64.6% of all FIOs did not involve a Frisk and/or Search..
  • Of the FIO interactions that did involve a Frisk and/or Search the raw data shows the percentages of Black (40.3%), White (24.3%), Hispanic (35.2%), and Asian/other (27.9%) subjects are frisked and/or searched during FIO encounters. The Department expects that further analysis will significantly reduce disparities in these interactions.
  • As expected, the unit that generated the most reports during this time period is the Youth Violence Strike Force, with approximately 30% of the reports.  Also as expected, of the top 50 police officers who generated FIO reports, 64% of the reports were written by Youth Violence Strike Force officers.

Click HERE for 2011-2015 FIO Data: