Table of contents
A "battle at the frontiers of public information"
From David Simon's 2009 essay, "In Baltimore, No One Left to Press the Police"
In an American city, a police officer with the authority to take human life can now do so in the shadows, while his higher-ups can claim that this is necessary not to avoid public accountability, but to mitigate against a nonexistent wave of threats…
At one point last week, after the department spokesman denied me the face sheet of the shooting report, I tried doing what I used to do: I went to the Southeastern District and demanded the copy on file there. When the desk officer refused to give it to me, I tried calling the chief judge of the District Court. But Sweeney’s replacement no longer handles such business.
It’s been a while since any reporter asked, apparently. So I tried to explain the Maryland statutes to the shift commander, but so long had it been since a reporter had demanded a public document that he stared at me as if I were an emissary from some lost and utterly alien world.
"A shot in the dark"
From the Daily Show, Oct. 7, 2014
Synopsis: Samantha Bee attempts to uncover statistics about the excessive use of lethal force by the police, only to discover that this data is mysteriously nonexistent. (7:09)
Projects and investigations
Here's a short list of journalism projects and investigations into police-involved shootings, before Ferguson and after:
This classic of investigative data journalism was awarded the Pulitzer Prize for Public Service in 1999. A team of 15 reporters, editors, computer analysts, and graphic artists produced this five-part investigation into why the D.C. police force had “shot and killed more people per resident in the 1990s than any other large American city police force.”
Perhaps the first modern crowdsourced attempt to track police-involved homicides, the Fatal Encounters project was launched by a newspaper editor angry that “somebody somewhere decided Americans shouldn’t know how many people are killed by police and under what circumstances.”
The Counted is a project by the Guardian – and you – working to count the number of people killed by police and other law enforcement agencies in the United States throughout 2015, to monitor their demographics and to tell the stories of how they died.
The Washington Post’s database of police shootings is based on news reports, public records, Internet databases and original reporting.
Out of the 213 people killed by police in Washington from 2005 to 2014, the Seattle Times found that just one officer was ever charged.
Between Jan. 1, 2010 and Dec. 31, 2014, Los Angeles County district attorney records show at least 375 people were shot by on-duty officers.
A 2011 investigative series into Las Vegas police-involved shootings that found many of the deaths “could have been avoided”. The Review-Journal also published a database of local officer-involved shootings since 1990.
To examine the issue of deadly force, The Oklahoman reviewed Oklahoma City police shootings from 2004 through 2013.
A Daily News analysis of NYPD-involved deaths starts with the 1999 slaying of unarmed Amadou Diallo in a hail of bullets in the Bronx and ends with the November 2014 shooting death of Akai Gurley in a Brooklyn stairwell.
The StreetCred® Police Killings in Context (PKIC) database is an open-standard data set that includes incidents (other than traffic accidents) in which an unarmed civilian was killed during an encounter with American police who (whether on-, or off-duty) were acting in an official capacity, from the time of first contact through booking.
Reporters created a database of 256 police shootings in a 15 year span – 86 of them resulting in deaths – and found that many of the shootings “didn’t have to happen.” Among the incidents counted, only one deputy lost his job and no deputy had ever been criminally charged.
Reporters found that Metro Atlanta police officers have fatally shot at least 75 people since 2010.
A list of datasets of officer-involved shootings published by law enforcement agencies.
Originally started off as a Facebook group that collected “corporate news reports of people killed by U.S. law enforcement officers May 1, 2013”
This ongoing project to track all homicides includes a filter for deaths marked as officer-involved.
Data artist Josh Begley’s uses The Guardian’s database of police-involved shootings and creates geo-photographic montage using Google satellite and street maps.
Articles, essays, and stories
A brief selection of articles and essays about police shootings:
An in-depth story focused specifically on how police respond when confronting mentally unstable suspects.
An in-depth overview of the official and the independent crowdsourced efforts (and techniques) to count police-involved homicides.
The Justice Department attempts to analyze police shootings nationwide but finds that the data is flawed. Some large police forces, such as the NYPD and Detroit, could not or would not provide numbers.
This analysis came shortly after the death of Michael Brown as people searched for nationwide data.
A Post-Dispatch analysis of the data from 2005-12 shows more than 1,100 departments — or roughly 6 percent of the country’s law enforcement agencies — have reported a killing by an officer or private citizen that is considered justifiable.
A Guardian investigation reveals that many US police departments have struggled to regulate Tasers, despite dozens of deaths after their use this year – and researchers who argue the weapons can be lethal
A ProPublica analysis of federally collected data on fatal police shootings found that young black males, age 15 to 19, were killed by police at a rate of 31.17 per million, compared to 1.47 per million of white males in that age range.
We’re the Guardian reporters behind The Counted, a project to chronicle every person killed by police in the US. We’re here to answer your questions about police and social justice in America.
Gregory McDaniel was shot twice during a police drug raid on a South Carolina home where he was sleeping in 2012, but prosecutors have refused to release the officer’s name.
The Guardian explains why and how it intends to create a verified crowdsourced system of tracking killings by law enforcement.
An incident-by-incident critique of the data in The Guardian’s police-shootings database.
An analysis of what’s contained in the CDC’s Wide-ranging Online Data for Epidemiologic Research (WONDER) and National Violent Death Reporting System (NVDRS) databases.
A somewhat elaborate visualization based off of the Fatal Encounters data.
A 174-page Justice Department report details the use of deadly force by Philly police officers.
These are the datasets that I've been able to find so far. The list includes both the recent crowdsourced initiatives and anything else which has been organized enough to at least fit in a HTML table, though not all of these sources have direct links to downloadable data.
Documents, Memos, and Papers
Official memos and documents and academic research relating to the use of deadly force by law enforcement.
This 1996 report discusses existing research on police use of force. It describes how the BJS and the National Institute of Justice plan to collect data on police use of force.
A landing page that leads to a repository of data files that contain tallies of arrest-related deaths, including by state, over various time frames of study.
From the DOJ press release:
Through its 48 findings, the assessment identifies serious deficiencies in the department’s use of force policies and training, including a failure to maintain a certified field training program; deficient, inconsistent supervision and operational control of officer-involved shooting investigations and crime scenes; and oversight and accountability practices in need of improvement, the most notable being the need for the department to fully cooperate with the Police Advisory Commission.
This 2001 report was their last, due to an end of federal funding that year, according to the St. Louis Dispatch.
A memo dated 2005 that “outlines the rules and procedures to be followed in the conduct of all officer-involved shooting and discharge investigations.”
A memo outlining the philosophy and policy behind the justification of deadly use of force for Dallas law enforcement personnel.
This study explored the “emotional, psychological, and physical reactions of 80 officers and sheriff’s deputies during and after 113 incidents in which they shot someone, using a combination of questionnaires and personal interviews.”
via the Greensboro, N.C., an example of a report that contains aggregate data of a department’s use of force.