S.H.O.T Final Report

Christopher McClain

S.H.O.T

Statistics Help Officer Tactics

 On August 9, 2014, Michael Brown, 18, was shot “more than just a couple of times” by an officer in Ferguson, Missouri, as the teen stood in the street with his hands in the air. The next day, tensions in the community erupted from angry protests to violent riots and looting. Although use of force by law enforcement officers happens on rare occasions, it puts a great strain on police-community relations. It truly is shocking that such an influential event, one that can send shockwaves through a community, through a country, one that can change the way of life for millions is not tallied in any books, not collected to be analyzed by a committee, nor made public to the people who are effected most. Moreover, “the nation’s leading law enforcement agency collects vast amounts of information on crime nationwide, but missing from this clearinghouse are statistics on where, how often, and under what circumstances police use deadly force. In fact, no one anywhere comprehensively tracks the most significant act police can do in the line of duty: take a life” (Alan Maimon). In a world where everything seems to be digitized, quantified, and compartmentalized there lives a void in a our complete and comprehensive collection and analysis of law enforcement. One officer involved shooting effects thousands in many different ways, such as the way the kids in the community see the police as a whole, the way the family members can no longer see their relative, the stress it places on the upper-level members of that police department, the time and money spent on legal fees throughout the investigation of the incident, the dramatic effect it has on the officer involved, and even the effect it has on the officers family from death threats to possibly having a husband or wife now without a job.

The goal of this research is to create a complete and comprehensive database compiling officer involved shootings around the United States starting from the year 2001.  The database is called S.H.O.T or Statistics Help Officer Tactics. The SHOT project relies on the exploratory research method to analyze the police shootings from a gun violence perspective; thus, the project uses secondary research methods. Content analysis is the primary data collection method to gather more “officer-involved shooting” from open sources. Since the data to be collected is from open source documents, no human subjects will be involved. The data that will be obtained is from an assortment of newspaper sources obtained online from an archival newspaper site called NewsBank.com.  This primary source for this project will be archives of numerous newspaper sources for historical research and review.

There are possibly thousands of officer-involved shootings in the U.S. over the last decade and to collect and analyze each one for the course of ten years would be truly a mission impossible for summer time period.  If that were the course taken, my research would have greatly suffered leaving room for false information, insufficient information and incorrect or flawed analysis.  Thus, this summer, I chose to focus on a state with one of the top rates of officer-involved shootings, California.  Given California’s size, population, diversity, and varying geographic layout, it was a perfect sample to represent officer-involved shooting trends for the rest of the country.

There were some limitations during this research. Unfortunately, because of the secrecy and the opinions, from both parties, informational, nonbiased pieces on officer-involved shootings are hard to come by. Many articles and websites would be either too cut or dry, giving very little to zero information or be so clouded with opinions and quotes it became hard to see the facts from the lies.  There were times when I had to search through five to ten different articles to find one with sufficient and verified information.  This was of course greatly time consuming and difficult to do, but the right articles and correct facts were key to this collection of data.  So, I worked through this problem of information scarcity and learned to better scope my searches and sift through unreliable and uninformative articles quickly to speed up the data collect.  This project really helped my researching skills, which will be very useful for the rest of my career going forward.

The findings of the data collection revealed some interesting facts. Out of the 350 shooting incidents collected only 2.28% of victims were women leaving a staggering 97.72 % of victims as males.  In terms of average age of the victims, 5.02 % of victims were over the age of 50, 13.06 % were between the ages of 40-49, 20.45 % were between the ages of 30-35, 45.73 % were between the ages of 20-29,9.09 were under 20 years old, and finally 4.54 % of victims had an age that was unannounced in shooting reports. A big discussion with officer-involved shootings is always the factor of race, I found that 3.40% of victims were Asian, 18.75 % of victims were African American, 45.17 % were Hispanic, 19.03% were White, and then there were 14.20% of victims whose races were not disclosed.  A further look into the numbers also reveals many other trends and similarities; that only 32% of victims had some sort of mental state at the time of the shooting other than mentally stable (68% were mentally stable, while the 32% was comprised of depressed, intoxicated, or mentally ill).  Also in terms of victims’ weapon possession I have found that 44 % of victims were in possession of a firearm at the time of the shooting, 16 % were in possession of a bladed weapon, 8% had a bludgeoning weapon, 5 % were in possession of a replica of fake gun, and 27 % were unarmed.  In terms of deadly force truly earning its title, 77.14 % of shooting resulted in the death of the victim, with the rest ending in recoverable injuries.  Looking at officer injury and death, only 6.5% of officers were injured, .02% of officers were killed, and 93.48% of officers were unharmed.  There are other patterns that have started to develop as well throughout my research, but most of the other variables give an evenly dispersed picture with much of the data resting on the circumstances of the incident.  In terms of location, number of officers, number of shots, whether there was a car chase or a foot chase, or the type of law enforcement that was involved in the shooting largely rests on the various circumstances surrounding the event.

These findings are not supposed to change the world or the impact felt from officer-involved shootings. The data is only supposed to do what data does, education.  Education is the key to future success and understanding in all walks of life, and on this topic it is no different.  This database is not pointing a finger at anybody, but trying to inspire change and understanding through education.  SHOT is attempting to educate the police departments as to the ins and outs of events that escalade to officer-involved shootings. This hopefully will lead to better progress in trying to avoid these situations all together, because the first step to progress is collecting data and analyzing the problem.  SHOT is also trying to uncover the publics yes from information on the topic.  Officer-involved shootings echo throughout a community and the public deserve to get a factual account of the event without media distortion or community or officer opinions.  This factual account will hopefully lead to better understanding of the actions taken by both sides and how to avoid events rising to that level.

I have learned a lot this summer by working on this research project from factual information on officer-involved shootings to just learning how to become a better researcher. There is so much that I have discovered, which truly shocked and showed me how unknowledgeable I was on this topic before I started. This was a fun and interesting project to work on and I believe that it will help me very much in my field.  These skills and this knowledge I have learned will greatly help me in whatever path my future holds. I appreciate the opportunity to be able to carry out this research and analysis.

SHOT Database Blog:# 2

Christopher McClain

2014 Summer Research Project

8/14/2014

 

S.H.O.T Database

Blog # 2

 

Throughout the summer I have been continuing to collect and analyze various officer- involved shootings all throughout the state of California, from 2001-2010. As one might imagine with the immense number of officer-involved shootings during this process, various trends and patterns have started to arise and connect the numerous shootings.  My research is different from traditional scientific research because it analyzes a phenomenon that focuses around over 53 different variables, which means that the trends can be found throughout a wide range of circumstances.  Indeed, the SHOT database does not just look at time, date, place, and victim but multiple other small intricacies of each shooting to be able to find the smallest trends and similarities between the incidents.

My data collection thus far has not so much raised many questions, but led to interesting and shocking discoveries.  It has become clearer to me how little I truly knew about the topic before diving into my research.  That being stated, I have some questions such as, how the investigations into these officer-involved shooting are conducted, and what variables ideally are supposed to be taken into consideration when an officer must decide to use deadly force?

The findings of this research indicate several significant points for the law enforcement agencies in the state of California. Here are some of the discoveries made during this data collection: The number of officer-involved shootings has risen by 25% between the years of 2009 and 2010; out of the 350 incidents collected only 2.28% of victims were women leaving a staggering 97.72 % of victims as males.  A further look into the numbers also reveals many other trends and similarities; that only 32% of victims had some sort of mental state at the time of the shooting other than mentally stable (68% were mentally stable, while the 32% was comprised of depressed, intoxicated, or mentally ill).  Also in terms of victims’ weapon possession I have found that 44 % of victims were in possession of a firearm at the time of the shooting, 16 % were in possession of a bladed weapon, 8% had a bludgeoning weapon, 5 % were in possession of a replica of fake gun, and 27 % were unarmed.  In terms of deadly force truly earning its title, 77.14 % of shooting resulted in the death of the victim, with the rest ending in recoverable injuries.  Looking at officer injury and death, only 6.5% of officers were injured, .02% of officers were killed, and 93.48% of officers were unharmed.  There are other patterns that have started to develop as well throughout my research, but most of the other variables give an evenly dispersed picture with much of the data resting on the circumstances of the incident.  In terms of location, number of officers, number of shots, whether there was a car chase or a foot chase, or the type of law enforcement that was involved in the shooting largely rests on the various circumstances surrounding the event.

The main difficulty or challenge was to find detailed information about each shooting.  In fact, I have learned that when it comes to officer-involved shootings, information seems to get hidden from newspapers.  I have to really search through multiple sites and articles to find a comprehensive look into the facts of the case.  It is hard for many reasons because many of the articles get either clouded with opinions making the facts impossible to discover or the information is just not fully put out to the public.  I have searched through thousands of articles where maybe 29 of the 53 variables are detailed, and so I have to continue to look for a more comprehensive breakdown of a particular shooting incident.  However, despite this difficulty I have been able to continue to find complete and qualified articles and sources to collect data from and fill in as many variables on the collection sheet as I can.

One of the many things that I have learned from this research project is open source data collection method. Throughout the summer I have discovered more than I could have imagined on the topic of officer involved shootings, and not just learning the shocking numbers and trends in California, but also general information that would apply all around the United States. This topic continues to spark my interest and through out the rest of the summer I will be searching and discovering new information to help broaden my knowledge on it. This project has also taught me that more often than not the information is out there and available, it just might take some work to find.  The process has been so beneficial in helping tone and develops my researching skills, as well as my analyzing skills.  This project has really helped me practice on important tools I will need to succeed in my future career.  The project itself and the information collected will be informative to myself and anyone else who uses the database.  It is a great source of knowledge on a sometimes cloudy and hard to find topic, that also influences millions of lives each year.  It is a topic that hits home for most people in one way or another and having a truly comprehensive, easy to use database is something that will be greatly beneficial.

 

 

Statistics Help Officer Tactics (SHOT) – 1st Report

Christopher McClain

Summer Research Project

Officer Involved Shooting Database

First Report

June 27, 2014

 

Police Shootings in California between 2000 and 2010

           California has been a hot spot for controversy over the past decades, when it comes to officer-involved shootings.  Shootings by officers have led to millions of dollars in victim compensation, millions of dollars in legal fees, police officers being fired, police officers receiving death threats, has given the media countless news stories to run with, and even riots resulting in millions of dollars in damage.  However, despite the large-scale impact of these acts, no complete information base for these events has been compiled nationwide.  Therefore, Statistics Help Officer Tactics (SHOT) is a complete and comprehensive database, compiling incidents of officer-involved shootings. SHOT is destined to be easy to use, accurate, and designed to leave as little as possible to the imagination of the user. There are a total of 55 different variables that are being researched and analyzed using thousands of newspaper sources for all 50 states, giving the user almost an endless database to swift through.  The 55 variables are far beyond any other current database set up in this field, are key in giving the user a complete picture of the incident, and key in the comprehensive analysis of the shooting incident.

My responsibility as a student assistant for this project is to collect data on officer-involved shootings throughout the state of California. Working for this summer research project I will be assisting Dr. Arslan in his grand nationwide digital database-building project by collecting and analyzing all of California’s officer-involved shootings over a 10-year period, which the information will be easily available to the public.

The SHOT project will rely on the exploratory research method to analyze the police shootings from a gun violence perspective; thus, the project uses secondary research methods. Content analysis is the primary data collection method to gather more “officer-involved shooting” from open sources. Since the data to be collected is from open source documents, no human subjects will be involved. The data that will be obtained is from an assortment of newspaper sources obtained online from an archival newspaper site called NewsBank.com.  This primary source for this project will be archives of numerous newspaper sources for historical research and review. The data that will be collected for this project is from January 2000 to December 2015.

My data collection is California officer-involved shootings, ranging from 2000-2010, so far tallying over 350 incidents and collecting over 50 variables for each.  My research at this point in time has focused on the year of 2009 and flowing over into 2008 incidents.  There have been a lack of significant trends as of now, but that is not surprising given the limited time frame analyzed so far.  One discovery is the lack of information available from the actual police departments involved in the shootings, meaning the withholding of information on involved officers. However, there have been some discoveries made so far.  There has also been significantly less shootings in which the victim has had a gang affiliation in comparison to victims with a gang affiliation.  I found this trend surprising given that most shootings were around the LA area, notorious for gang activity.  In the total 42 incidents analyzed to data on victims weapon possession seems pretty spread out with 12 out of 41 being unarmed, 4 armed with a bladed weapon, 1 with a bludgeoning weapon, 2 with fake or replica guns, and 22 with a firearm.

California is a large and highly populated state with multiple officer-involved shootings every year.  I have only truly been analyzing two years as of now, but I will be continuing to collect and analyze throughout the summer and report back on my findings.  As the number of shootings collected increases, I am sure more patterns and trends will begin to take shape, which will lead to more comprehensive reporting.