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Building a National Database on Fatal and Non-Fatal Police Shootings in the US, 2015

Yuchen Hou, Criminal Justice

No single existing database can allow researchers to determine how often and under what circumstances civilians have died from or survived police shootings in the US. To help fill the gap, Yuchen Hou’s dissertation research will use open sources to build a national database on fatal and non-fatal police shootings (FNFPS) where on-duty officers intentionally discharge their service firearms in the US in 2015. 

Identifying as completely as possible the counts and the attributes of FNFPS will follow a three-step approach: (1) The universe of FNFPS occurring in 2015 will be extracted from the Gun Violence Archive database. (2) Additional open source documents for validating incidents will be located through searching LexisNexis, NewsLibrary, and the Google search engine using incident information. (3) A coding team of 8 undergraduates from John Jay College will code and examine relevant attributes of police shootings based on at least three different open source materials.

To make the findings available to broader audiences, such as minority communities, social and mass media, and other social organizations, this research aims to create a website that displays a searchable database on fatal and non-fatal police shootings in the US. This website will visualize the geographical distribution of FNFPS at national, regional, state, and city level, and present preliminary results from descriptive analyses. This website not only allows for information audit and exchange in the public to improve data accuracy and reliability, but also provides communities and social organizations with opportunities for external review of police legitimacy.