Photo: Noah K. Murray (AP Photo)

New Jersey cops haven’t been keeping up of how many folks they beat and batter, but to their chagrin, some intrepid reporters have.

NJ Advance Media for NJ.com published a stunning report on Thursday, in which the outlet displayed the results of a 16-month public records trawl through police reports in which officers reported themselves as having used physical force on citizens. The project came about when editors and reporters at NJ Advance Media started to notice that there existed little-to-no statewide communication or consistency among New Jersey police departments when it came to submitting and analyzing use-of-force reports.

So, through the course of filing 506 public records requests, the reporters sifted through 72,607 reports to see what they’d turn up. What turned up may not have been surprising, but it was illuminating to understanding how the issue of police brutality replicates and calcifies itself within departments. Here are just a couple of the highlights from the report:

  • Just 10 percent of all New Jersey officers are responsible for 38 percent of violent encounters.
  • While 296 officers used force at rates five time the state-wide average, 156 officers put at least one person in the hospital every year all five years the outlet reviewed.
  • Black people are three times more likely to have police use force against them—that’s just statewide though, as that ratio skyrocketed to as high as 21:1 in some counties and towns.

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Now, as galling as those numbers are, here’s the real stinger—nobody in New Jersey police departments or in state government had these statistics. That’s true not because the numbers were unavailable, but simply because apparently no one took the initiative to organize and categorize all the reports in a single database, at least not until the folks at NJ Advance Media dropped their ground-breaking feature on Thursday.

You should go read the full results for yourself. Not just to take in the stories and statistics offered by NJ Advance Media for the sheer mass of information, or to appreciate the fact that these numbers appearing today was a product of digging up countless reports of police brutality, but to wonder why the hell nobody in the police departments or state government did this before November 2018. Thank god for public records laws.