A National Survey of Police Officer-Involved Firearm Shootings

Overview

A national survey of law enforcement agencies will determine the number of police officer-involved shootings—both shootings by officers of civilians and instances of officers being shot at—over the last 20 years, and the factors associated with these shootings.

Grant Amount: $649,869.84

Organization: NORC at the University of Chicago

Investigators: Bruce Taylor, senior fellow, and Weiwei Liu, senior research scientist, NORC at the University of Chicago

Expected Completion Date: Mid-2021

Project Summary

Purpose

Expand the evidence base on police officer-involved shootings in the United States by answering three research questions:

  • During the past 10 years, how many civilians did police officers shoot and how many police offers were shot at?
  • How are law enforcement agency characteristics, culture, practices, and training related to the number and rate of officer-involved shootings?
  • Are community factors, such as local gun laws and restrictions and gun violence rates, related to law enforcement agency culture, policing practices, and required training and to the number and rate of officer-involved shootings?

Approach

  • Conduct a national organizational survey of law enforcement agencies to estimate the agency-aggregated numbers of the past 10 years of police officer-involved shootings and community factors associated with those shootings.
  • Use a stratified sample design to draw a nationally representative sample of 1,500 law enforcement agencies (estimated response rate of 70 percent).
  • Explore use of existing datasets to supplement sample.
  • Conduct in-depth interviews with a subset of 30 agencies.
  • Apply latent class analysis and regression analyses to examine factors associated with officer-involved shootings.

Significance

Despite widespread concern regarding officer use of deadly force and officer safety, most of what we know about officer-involved shootings is based on sporadic research involving a few cities or surveys of news accounts. To better guide policy and practices for protecting police and the public, this survey will provide the best current information on the number of officer-involved shootings, their circumstances, and organizational policies that may be associated with them.

Investigator Bios

  • Bruce Taylor is a senior fellow at NORC at the University of Chicago. Dr. Taylor’s research covers the intersecting areas of violence, health, and criminal justice. He has conducted research with law enforcement agencies for more than two decades, across 50 studies, on law enforcement officer safety and health, police officer use of force, and proactive policing strategies. He is currently a co-principal investigator on several U.S. Department of Justice (DOJ) projects evaluating problem-oriented policing in U.S. cities and longitudinally studying officer health issues with a national sample of officers.
  • Weiwei Liu is a senior research scientist at NORC at the University of Chicago. Dr. Liu has over 15 years of experience studying the developmental epidemiology of violent, criminal and problematic behavior and evaluating intervention trials to target these behaviors, using randomized control trials and quasi-experimental designs. She is currently co-leading several DOJ-funded studies evaluating problem-oriented and community-oriented policing initiatives across the United States and is studying law enforcement officer safety and wellness with a national sample of officers.