Baćak, V., Mausolf, J., & Schwarz, C. (2021). How comprehensive are media-based data on police officer-involved shootings? Journal of Interpersonal Violence, 36, 55-65.
In the absence of systematic data collection by the state and federal governments, efforts to collect information on officer-involved shootings (OIS) have been assumed by the public and news agencies. In a combination of journalistic reporting and what is known as crowdsourcing, media and masses of individuals volunteer their time to identify OIS incidents and enter them into online databases. These efforts are invaluable in describing interpersonal violence between citizens and law enforcement, but it is not well known to what extent the media-based datasets are comprehensive. In the present study, we compared data from three major media-based websites to official data from five police departments that made their data available-Dallas, Denver, Jacksonville, Orlando, and Knoxville. We found a higher rate of matches than discrepancies with regard to fatalities but a much lower rate with regard to non-fatal shootings. Systematically recording and reporting OIS incidents should be the function of the government. Before-and if-that happens, our findings add to the growing evidence that media-based efforts, combined with crowdsourcing, can be useful though limited alternatives.