Saint Paul Police Department releases use-of-force report

Officers used physical force in 0.15 percent of recorded incidents in 2016 and 2017  

The Saint Paul Police Department today released a report on 2016 and 2017 use-of-force incidents. The report marks the first time in the department’s history that a comprehensive accounting of incidents in which force was used has been made publicly available.

It includes information about the number of times physical force was used in recorded incidents, types of physical force used, demographics of those involved in the incidents, what behavior led to force being used, injuries as a result of force, firearm discharges, and excessive force complaints. It also includes data on firearms pointing, which is not a physical application of force but still considered a reportable use of force by the department.

According to Police Chief Todd Axtell, making the information publicly available is part of the department’s ongoing commitment to building community trust through transparency.

“We’re entrusted with protecting public safety and enforcing laws, and sometimes that requires the use of reasonable, necessary force,” he said. “It’s important for our community to understand how rare it is for our officers to use force and to know that we’re transparent, accountable and committed to de-escalation whenever possible.”

Saint Paul Mayor Melvin Carter credited Axtell and the police department for an unwavering commitment to transparency and a willingness to engage with the community.

“Trust requires transparency,” said Carter. “This full accounting of use of force incidents is consistent with our Community First Public Safety framework and advances our goal of protecting the critical trust that must flow between police officers and the residents they serve. I applaud Chief Axtell and police department leadership for releasing this report, and look forward to the necessary conversations it will undoubtedly generate.”

Key findings of the report include:

  • In 2016, officers recorded 269,799 incidents and used force 458 times;
  • In 2017, officers recorded 300,610 incidents and used force 423 times;
  • Force was used in 0.15 percent of the 570,409 calls for service in 2016 and 2017;
  • Weaponless, non-injury causing techniques such as takedowns and escort holds were the most common types of physical force used in both 2016 and 2017; and
  • There were seven excessive force complaints made in 2016 (one of which was sustained) and none in 2017—all were investigated by the department’s Internal Affairs Unit and presented to the city’s Police Civilian Internal Affairs Review Commission.

Axtell says the data in the report reflect the department’s culture, values and commitment to doing the job the right way.

“We view ourselves as Saint Paul’s guardians,” he said. “Yes, our officers are often put in dangerous and dynamic situations, and thankfully they have the mindset and training it takes to bring these incidents to safe conclusions using the least amount of force necessary.

“I’m proud of our officers, their restraint, and their commitment to delivering trusted service with respect—every day, without exception.”

Below is a link to a .pdf version of the complete report, which is also available on the department’s website.


A report on use-of-force incidents from 2018 will be released as soon as the data has been compiled, and Axtell says he intends to continue to make the reports available on an annual basis.