Research in Brief: Officer-Involved Shootings: Context Means Everything

Police use of deadly force is undeniably one of the most serious of all governmental acts. That said, this action is legally permissible in the United States in order to save a life, including that of an officer or innocent bystander. Until recently, it was not possible to determine the number of officer-involved shootings (OIS) that occur each year in the United States. Thanks to the Washington Post, three years of data now exist that show police fatally shoot approximately 1,000 people each year. Other data sets have recently come into existence, including the OIS Data Collection Initiative by the Police Foundation and the Major Cities Chiefs Association (featured in the May 2018 Police Chief), as well as those by other media outlets and crowdsourced websites (e.g., The Guardian, killedbypolice.net, and fatalencounters.org). These projects have generated data sets that suggest similar totals, with each data collection method having its particular strengths and limitations. While these data are critically important, they are limited to fatalities and provide no insight about “suicide-by-cop”; shootings that produce nonfatal injuries; misses; or situations in which officers could have fired a weapon but chose not to. Nevertheless, the data still provide a helpful numerator (total number of fatal police shootings) that was previously unknown. The challenge, then, is making sense of this numerator. In other words, what is the appropriate denominator?

Read More
Research in Brief
Share
Every day, law enforcement agencies rely upon detailed crime incident data to make tactical and operational decisions about how best to deploy resources and combat crime in their communities. These sa...
Research in Brief
Share
Prevention of the unintentional discharge (UD) of firearms is a goal that all law enforcement agencies strive toward. A UD is an “activation of the trigger mechanism that results in an unplanned dis...
Research in Brief
Share
Although the evidence-based policing movement has gained traction, many of the policies and practices U.S. law enforcement employ are still based on dogma and tradition, rather than research. As a res...
Research in Brief
Share
Although the exploitation of human beings is centuries old, the term “sex trafficking” has only recently received widespread attention. Scholars have probed the nature of these offenses in hopes o...
Research in Brief
Share
It is routinely acknowledged that first-line supervisors perform a variety of duties critical to the success of law enforcement organizations. Tasked with balancing the expectations of upper-level man...
Research in Brief
Share
The Federal Bureau of Investigation’s (FBI’s) Law Enforcement Officers Killed and Assaulted (LEOKA) Program publishes annual data on law enforcement fatalities in the United States based on submis...
Research in Brief
Share
Patrol officers are expected to fulfill a wide range of functions, including preventing crime, helping victims and others in danger, resolving conflicts between parties, managing the movement of peopl...
Research in Brief
Share
A number of high-profile deadly force encounters over the past couple of years have sent a shockwave of anti-police rhetoric across the United States. The resulting tension has caused some officers to...
Research in Brief
Share
Law enforcement agencies operate more effectively and efficiently when they are able to convince the public that officers aggressively arrest dangerous criminals while treating all members of the publ...
Research in Brief
Share
One of the most significant reforms in modern policing has been the push for law enforcement to be more proactive in reducing crime or building trust and confidence with their communities. While there...