There is no publicly-accessible database of shootings by US police officers.
Let those words sink in.
While you’re at it, consider that the words “Law Enforcement Officer” and “Peace Officer” are meant to refer to the same thing.
Which brings us to:
Now we’re asking for your help. Police shootings, particularly police shootings of unarmed black people, have gotten out of hand. Or, we think they have. We think they happen a lot more often than can possibly be justified. But we don’t know for sure.
Help us know for sure.
Kyle Wagner at Deadspin launched the call in a blog post last week, and in the few days since has had significant participation, making the data available to journalists and public alike.
No one is keeping track of how many American citizens are shot by their police. This is crazy. This is governmental malpractice on a national scale. We’d like your help in changing this.
Here, we’re going to take a cue from Jim Fisher, who as far as we can tell has compiled the most comprehensive set of data on police shootings in 2011. Fisher’s method was simple: He searched for any police-involved shooting every day for an entire year. By our lights, this is the best way to scrape this information—any time a police officer shoots and hits a citizen, it will almost certainly make a local news report, at least.
With his permission, we’re reprinting his guidelines for participation. Please share them to your networks, and direct them to Wagner’s own information-gathering form. If they’re worried about being traced through the form, tell them to use a VPN and TOR; either is good and will obscure your IP, both together are better, and both will run on a Mac, Windows, or Linux machine.
- Using Google’s search tools, isolate a single day (e.g. Jan. 1, 2011, to Jan. 1, 2011) and search for the term “police involved shooting” (don’t use quotation marks). Use Chrome’s Incognito mode when searching to ensure you aren’t getting local results.
- Read each link on the first 10 pages of results; for any instances of shootings involving a police officer, log them in the spreadsheet.
- We’re looking at 2011, 2012, and 2013, and tracking date, name, age, gender, race/ethnicity, injured/killed, armed/unarmed, city, county, state, agency, number of shots, a brief summary, and a link to a story about the incident are to be filled out as best as possible given the information in all stories about the incident.
- Before starting in, take a look at the submissions here and pick a day that no one has begun. Remember, we’re starting off looking at just the past three years.
- Often, the first day of reports will not have personal details, and a second search of subsequent days will fill in more of the story.
- A later death, after a person is hospitalized in a police-involved shooting, is considered a death for our purposes.
- We are looking for any incidence of a police officer shooting and hitting another person.
- We are not looking for incidences of police officers discharging their weapons and hitting no one. In a perfect world these would be tracked, since often the only difference is that the shot missed, but these incidents are not as thoroughly reported and would probably bias the data.
- Please keep the data as neat as possible. Work within specific months, make sure you’re in the correct year, keep the columns clean and add peripheral information in the Summary portion, etc.
Featured Image Police in Oakland by Thomas Hawk